Tag Archives: Puerto Rico

Trump cannot stop needling Americans in need

I’m trying to imagine Donald J. Trump threatening to pull federal workers out of a disaster zone if it were in, say, Wyoming. Or Alabama. Or Oklahoma.

Residents of those states voted overwhelmingly for Trump in 2016. Do you think he’d treat them in the same disgraceful manner that he’s treating residents of Puerto Rico?

The president is playing a ridiculous game of political chicken, though, with Puerto Rico, which is suffering from a humanitarian disaster of epic proportions. He has fired Twitter barbs at the San Juan mayor, who has chided the president for the criticism he has leveled at her.

Now he’s delivering threats of a new kind. He says he could pull federal emergency workers out of Puerto Rico if the local government doesn’t start doing more on its own to recover from the savage beating delivered by Hurricane Maria.

Trump blames PR?

Politico reports: “Electric and all infrastructure was disaster before hurricanes,” Trump wrote on Twitter in a series of posts. “Congress to decide how much to spend. We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!”

He keeps appearing to blame Puerto Rico officials for their inability to maintain certain infrastructure. He went to the island territory and needled the Puerto Ricans because they had drained the nation’s Treasury. “But that’s all right,” Trump said, seeming to make light of the comment he had just made. I doubt any Puerto Rico officials were laughing along with him.

Of course he cannot keep the federal first responders there “forever.” But good grief, can’t he just keep his trap shut and stop chiding the 3.5 million Americans who are suffering through a disaster of unspeakable proportions?

For the umpteenth time, Mr. President: Puerto Ricans are American citizens, too. They need — and deserve — the nation’s unqualified support and assistance.

‘New low’ for Trump? Yes, but only for now

James Fallows, a journalist of some renown, says Donald J. Trump’s tweet tirades relating to the criticism he’s taking over the government’s response to Hurricane Maria have taken the president to a “new low.”

I agree. I’ll add this caveat, though. It’s a bad news/worse news scenario. The bad news is that Trump’s criticism of local Puerto Rico officials does constitute a “new low” for the president; the worse news is that he quite likely is capable of taking this presidential petulance to an even lower level.

Fallows wrote this in The Atlantic: But his Twitter outburst this morning — as he has left Washington on another trip to one of his golf courses, as millions of U.S. citizens are without water or electricity after the historic devastation of Hurricane Maria, as by chance it is also Yom Kippur — deserves note. It is a significant step downward for him, and perhaps the first thing he has done in office that, in its coarseness, has actually surprised me.

Donald Trump has taken his presidency to a level none of us has ever seen. He’s dragged it to a point that absolutely nothing this guy says or does publicly henceforth would surprise me. Nothing.

He once boasted that he could “shoot someone” and his voters would still support him. I don’t believe he actually would do such a thing, but he’s demonstrating an astonishing knack for doing anything short of that while still engendering support among his Republican voter “base.”

Hurricane Maria has all but destroyed Puerto Rico. San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz criticized the president and the federal government’s response to the island’s pleas for help. What does Trump do? He fires off tweets over the weekend — while hobnobbing at his posh New Jersey resort. Let that sink in for a moment: 3.5 million U.S. citizens are without food, potable water and other supplies and the president criticizes Puerto Ricans for wanting the feds “to do everything for them.”

His Twitter tirades have become a virtual staple of the president’s daily activities.

As Fallows writes: I can think of no other example of a president publicly demeaning American officials in the middle of coping with disaster. There were nasty “God’s punishment!” remarks about New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina, but they did not come from the White House or George W. Bush.

I wish I could believe that there’s no way this president can drag his conduct any farther downward. I am left to wait for the next “new low” to slap us in the face.

How can Trump blunder this part of his job?

The president of the United States takes an oath of office that implies a lot of unwritten responsibilities in addition to those that are explicitly laid out.

One of those tasks the president assumes is to lend aid, comfort, empathy and understanding to Americans in trouble. The president at this moment has a huge undertaking on his hands. It rests on island territories not terribly far from the east coast of the United States.

Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have been decimated by Hurricane Maria. Local officials there are pleading for more help. Yes, they are critical of the president’s public response to their pleas. So, what does Donald John Trump do in response? He fires off tweets that place much of the blame for the islands’ troubles … on the islands themselves.

Such as this one: “They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort. 10,000 Federal workers now on Island doing a fantastic job.”

It doesn’t stop there. The president takes public note of Puerto Rico’s debt problems that existed prior to Maria’s violent arrival and wonders aloud just how the federal government is going to be able to provide all the assistance that local authorities are seeking.

Trump ignites Twitter tirade

As The Hill reports: “San Juan mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz held an emotional press conference Friday ripping the Trump administration’s efforts to assist the island.

“I will do what I never thought I was going to do. I am begging, begging anyone who can hear us to save us from dying. If anybody out there is listening to us, we are dying, and you are killing us with the inefficiency,” she said.

Trump responds to that with more criticism of the mayor. Empathy? Compassion? They appear to be MIA. He’s effectively making himself — big surprise, eh? — the center of this story.

The president’s team keeps telling us he’s “a fighter,” that he doesn’t like getting hit. So, when someone throws a rhetorical punch at him, he’s going to punch back. Does it matter to Trump that the person in this instance who’s throwing punches is desperate for federal aid to save the island where she lives and the city she governs? Quite obviously no.

I’ll reiterate yet again that the president is failing to fulfill the unwritten part of his job description. He’s not lending aid and comfort to his constituents who need help. He’s inflaming an already-critical situation with heartless rhetoric.

Shameful.

No ‘good news’ to be found in Puerto Rico

The acting head of the Homeland Security Department has stepped in it … bigly.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke sought to put a positive spin on the Trump administration’s response to the Puerto Rico tragedy caused by Hurricane Maria. The she said the magic words.

“I know that it is really a good news story in terms of our ability to reach people and the limited number of deaths that have taken place in such a devastating hurricane,” Duke said.

The magic words are contained in that sentence: good news story.

No ‘good news’ to be found

That ignited San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, who’s been battling against a growing humanitarian crisis in her city and throughout the island. “Well, maybe from where she’s standing it’s a good news story,” she said. “When you’re drinking from a creek it’s not a good news story. When you don’t have food for a baby it’s not a good news story. When you have to pull people down from their buildings, because — I’m sorry, but that really upsets me and frustrates me.”

Cruz went on: “Dammit, this is not a good news story. This is a people-are-dying story. This is a life-or-death story. This is there’s-a-truckload-of-stuff-that-cannot-be-taken-to-people story. This is a story of devastation that continues to worsen because people are not getting food and water — if I could scream it a lot more louder. It is not a good news story when people are dying, when they don’t have dialysis, when their generators aren’t working and their generators aren’t providing for them. Where is there good news here?”

I’m not going to call for Duke’s head on a platter, although her remarks do have a “heck of a job, Brownie” feel to them, alluding to President Bush’s ill-considered compliment to then-FEMA director Michael Brown’s response to the Hurricane Katrina tragedy in New Orleans in 2005.

I just wish Duke hadn’t used the “good news story” phrase. She does seem to mirror the self-congratulatory tone being struck by Donald J. Trump, who keeps alluding to the “fantastic job” his emergency response team is doing, along with the local first responders in Puerto Rico.

What the citizens who live in Puerto Rico want to hear is that their country — the United States of America — is committed fully to helping them. They don’t want to hear about “good news,” or that the president’s team is doing a “fantastic” job.

They want relief. They want to know the president is focused exclusively on helping an island comprising 3.5 million U.S. citizens who are stricken. They are suffering.

They are Americans in trouble.

Mission accomplished! Trump waives Jones Act

I’ll take all the credit I deserve for this one.

Donald Trump has waived an obsolete and arcane rule that inhibited the free flow of relief supplies to a stricken U.S. territory. The president acted less than a day after an obscure blogger out here in Flyover Country — that would be yours truly — urged him to do so.

He did. Good job, Mr. President.

The Jones Act, enacted in 1920 during the Woodrow Wilson administration, restricts shipping between U.S. ports. It requires ships to be U.S.-owned and that they must comprise crews that are American citizens.

Puerto Rico is in desperate straits. It is without power, potable water, food and other supplies because of the savagery brought to the island by Hurricane Maria. It comprises 3.5 million U.S. citizens who need help — immediately!

The president had signaled an initial reluctance to waive the Jones Act, citing concerns among shipping interests that contended it helps preserve American jobs.

The president, of course, has vowed to “put America first.”

Fine. Then let’s remember that Puerto Ricans are Americans, too. They need the nation’s help. Now. Lifting the Jones Act is a needed boost to a piece of this country in the midst of a serious humanitarian crisis.

Lift the Jones Act and help Puerto Rico

The United States has a humanitarian disaster unfolding and 3.5 million U.S. citizens are being put in mortal peril.

That peril is potentially being exacerbated by an arcane law that needs to be wiped off the books.

Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Maria. It requires supplies — food, potable water, clothing and goods that fulfill basic human needs — shipped there from the United States of America. But the Jones Act restricts shipping between U.S. ports by requiring shipping to be built by Americans and to have U.S. citizens as its owners and crew members.

Critics of the 1920 Merchant Marine Act suggest that it is inhibiting relief supplies from being shipped to Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory and whose residents are U.S. citizens.

NBC News reports: Signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson two years after World War I ended, the Jones Act was passed as a protective measure against foreign competition, particularly Germany. By restricting domestic trade to U.S.-flagged vessels with U.S. crews, America would always have a robust fleet of boats and sailors on hand in the event German submarines attacked the U.S.

The law has since found backers in the American maritime industry, which says it supports American jobs. Recent presidents from both parties, including George W. Bush and Barack Obama, have touted it as crucial to national security because it reduces America’s dependency on foreign-owned vessels.

Except that it’s now seemingly getting in the way of expediting the shipments of supplies to a stricken piece of this country.

Donald J. Trump is resisting the pleas to lift the law, saying that shipping interests are still strongly in support of it.

Good grief, man! The president has executive authority to act. Lift it, if only temporarily. We’ve got some Americans in serious trouble.

They need help from anyone who can provide it, regardless of their citizenship. Now!

Puerto Rico ‘in the middle of the ocean’?

Donald Trump today referred to Puerto Rico as “an island in the middle of the ocean.”

I won’t spend a lick of time criticizing the president of the United States over his lack of understanding of where this U.S. territory is located. I do, though, want to call attention to the map I’ve posted here.

Puerto Rico is inside the red circle. It sits on the edge of the Caribbean Sea. To its west is Hispaniola, which comprises the Dominican Republic and Haiti; to its east are the U.S. and British Virgin Islands.

The president’s description of Puerto Rico’s location is meant to highlight the difficulty, apparently, of getting relief supplies to that stricken island. Hurricane Maria battered the island savagely two weeks ago. The entire island is without electricity. It lacks potable water. Its 3.5 million residents — all of whom are U.S. citizens — are suffering terribly.

It’s not in the “middle of the ocean.”

Stick to matters of state, Mr. President

I won’t spend a lot of blog space commenting on this, so here goes.

Mr. President, stop tweeting about the National Football League, its ratings, the players who are protesting peacefully about what they perceive to be problems with policing in African-American communities.

You’ve spent far too much time commenting on these matters and far too little time concentrating on issues of much more vital importance.

Focus, for once, Mr. President.

There’s North Korea. You’ve got tax reform. Oh, and there’s hurricane relief for our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico.

You’ve instead decided to devote many of your waking hours via Twitter blasting those so-called “SOBs” who have decided to “take a knee” while listening to the “Star Spangled Banner” before pro football games.

Get off it, Mr. President. You’ve got much, much more important matters to occupy your time, not to mention your Twitter finger.

Where’s the national angst over Puerto Rico?

David Axelrod, the man known around the country as Barack H. Obama’s political guru, posted a fascinating tweet today.

He writes: Why isn’t this huge and growing humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico commanding more attention and action? Too busy on anthems and epithets.

I feel ashamed.

An island with 3.5 million U.S.-citizen inhabitants is without electricity. It is lacking potable water. A major dam is being threatened with complete failure; it might collapse under the weight of the water backing up behind it. Residents are homeless. They are desperate. They are hurting.

And what in the name of humanitarian response are we talking about in the United States of America?

Whether professional athletes should stand while they play the National Anthem. The president of the United States is launching endless Twitter tirades against those athletes, calling them SOBs.

Where, indeed, is the national anxiety over the misery that’s befallen our territorial neighbors in the Caribbean?