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.
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.