President Donald Trump took to Twitter Sunday, Oct. 1 to announce, “Results of recovery efforts will speak much louder than complaints by San Juan Mayor. Doing everything we can to help great people of PR!”
What have Trump and his administration accomplished in terms of aid in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria? After implying that the citizens of Puerto Rico and San Juan mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz wanted “everything to be done for them,” the president has set significant expectations for himself in terms of aid.
News coverage of the hurricane aftermath continues to report devastation and despair. As of last Tuesday, 55 percent of people in Puerto Rico have no clean drinking water, and about 93 percent of the island’s 1.57 million electricity customers remain without power, including many hospitals, according to the Weather Channel and the New York Times. Most recently, video coverage has surfaced of Trump tossing rolls of paper towels into the crowd in an attempt to pass out resources using tactics both seemingly ineffectual and tone-deaf.
For an island struggling to regain power and amenities nearly two weeks after a natural disaster, effective and immediate leadership is badly needed. While the hurricane would have certainly been a disaster under any president, Trump’s slow and ineffective response has surely exacerbated the crisis. After visiting Puerto Rico, retired Army lieutenant general Russel L. Honoré, who led the military response to Hurricane Katrina, told the New York Times that the administration’s sluggishness caused the force to “lose about a good six or seven days.”
For a full four days following the storm, Trump seemed disengaged from the escalating emergency. Rather than mobilizing the government on Puerto Rico’s behalf, he spent his time picking fights with the NFL and the mayor of San Juan herself. Throughout the crisis, Trump has focused more on maintaining his ego than effective humanitarian aid. According to his Twitter, the administration has “done a great job with the almost impossible situation in Puerto Rico. Outside of the Fake News or politically motivated ingrates, people are now starting to recognize the amazing work that has been done by FEMA and our great military.” In addition, in a recent controversial statement, Trump blamed Puerto Rico for running up his budget, saying that the hurricane “threw [the federal budget] out of whack,” a statement which could and has been recently misconstrued, seeming as though Trump was blaming Puerto Ricans for their predicament. Adding to the confusing, muddled response, last week at a press conference in San Juan, Governor Ricardo Rossello dismissed Trump’s remarks that the government is planning to bail out San Juan, saying that Puerto Rico must resolve its debt through the bankruptcy process.
By focusing on issues like “fake news” outlets and making brash, often unsupported claims, Trump’s response to the situation in Puerto Rico foreshadows bad situations for all American citizens. If our president is not able to set aside his personal motivations and efficiently handle one disaster, it is unlikely that he will be able to handle future disasters. Time after time in his response, Trump has failed to take accountability and set aside his personal agenda to produce effective results. Despite what he may claim regarding facts being skewed, it is imperative that Americans hold our president accountable and remind him of the standards we expect for a solid response in a time of crisis.