While our always insecure egomaniacal Twitter-troll-in-chief has been busy this past week race-baiting professional athletes to shore up his white nationalist base, Trump’s N.F.L. Critique a Calculated Attempt to Shore Up His Base, or tweeting taunts threatening to “totally destroy” North Korea bringing us closer to war, or blaming Sen. John McCain for his own failure to follow through on his campaign promise to repeal “Obamacare,” Donald Trump has largely been silent about the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
It was not until Monday night, after taking a beating on the cable news networks all day for his lack of empathy and attention to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, Trump finally must have realized that residents of these islands are U.S. Citizens. Trump declares Puerto Rico is in ‘deep trouble’ as questions mount about his commitment:
President Trump, facing mounting questions about his commitment to Puerto Rico’s recovery, took to Twitter on Monday night, saying the U.S. territory is “in deep trouble,” in part because of problems that predated Hurricane Maria.
Monday night’s tweets were the first from Trump about Puerto Rico since Wednesday, when the hurricane made landfall and Trump declared “we are with you.”
You can bet that this revelaton had something to do with his favorite foil, Hillary Clinton, having criticized him for his lack of attention to the humanitarian disaster in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
“At the same time that he was doing all of that, we had American citizens in Puerto Rico who are in a desperate condition,” Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee Trump defeated last year, said in a radio interview on Monday. “He has not said one word about them, about other American citizens in the U.S. Virgin Islands. I’m not sure he knows that Puerto Ricans are American citizens.”
And some Republicans chimed in as well.
“There are millions of our fellow Americans on Puerto Rico facing great danger and suffering,” GOP strategist Steve Schmidt, a frequent Trump critic, said on Twitter on Monday. “Trump silence and inaction is appalling.”
According to a count by CNN, Trump tweeted about the NFL 24 times and Puerto Rico only four times between last Thursday and Tuesday.
UPDATE: Philip Bump of the Washington Post breaks down the Twitter-troll-in-chief’s tweets. It’s not complicated: Trump is more interested in NFL protests than the storm in Puerto Rico.
Trump’s lack of public attention to Puerto Rico has been striking in part because of the major focus he put on helping Texas and Florida recover from earlier hurricanes, a factor many analysts have cited in explaining Trump’s recent uptick in his job approval numbers.
There is a cynical but obvious reason for this: Texas and Florida are states with large electoral votes that went for Trump. The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands have no representation in Congress, and thus no electoral votes in presidential elections. The residents are also largely Hispanic, and we know how Trump feels about Hispanics.
UPDATE: Dana Milbank of the Washington Post makes this same point. The sad suspicion about Trump’s shameful treatment of Puerto Rico:
No question the logistics are harder in Puerto Rico. But the 3.4 million U.S. citizens there have long endured second-class status: no voting members of Congress, no presidential vote, unequal benefits and high poverty. Now, the Trump administration’s failure to help Americans in Puerto Rico with the same urgency it gave those in Texas and Florida furthers a sad suspicion that the disparate treatment has less to do with logistics than language and skin color.
Today President Trump held a news conference with visiting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain, in which he had his own G.W. Bush you’re doing a heckuva job Brownie moment. Trump touts administration’s ‘amazing job’ in Puerto Rico:
Trump, who has faced mounting questions about his commitment to addressing the island’s plight, announced that he would visit Puerto Rico next week to get a firsthand look at the “devastated” island, which remains without power and where residents are facing food shortages.
“We’re doing a great job,” Trump said during a Rose Garden news conference with visiting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain. “Everybody has said it’s amazing the job we have done in Puerto Rico. This was a place that was destroyed. I think we’ve done a very good job.”
Trump just made himself “Brownie” (former FEMA director Michael Brown) with his egotistical self congratulations, eliminating the possibility of blaming a fall guy.
Trump’s assessment was at odds with many reports on the ground and ran counter to a growing chorus of critics, including lawmakers in both parties.
Let’s be clear: this is a humanitarian crisis and the federal response in Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands has not been as robust as it has been in Texas and Florida. No gas. No food. No power. Puerto Ricans fear their future:
Power is out. Food is short. There’s not enough water to drink, let alone wash. A week after Hurricane Maria smashed Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm, the situation is not much better. In many ways, it’s getting worse.
Hospitals that should be saving people are instead unable to provide care.
At the Canovanas Medical Center, doctors face a lack of supplies. Dr. Norbert Seda said they were running out of fuel for the generator and had only two or three days of medicine and supplies left.
While residents were prepared for the storm’s arrival and mercifully few were killed directly by the hurricane, the need for medical treatment is getting greater.
“We’ve seen a lot of trauma,” Dr. Seda said. “We need medication, antibiotics, tetanus shots, we’ve seen a lot of trauma basically, (we need) antibiotics and medication for hypertension.”
He’s not encountered people dying because of a lack of power and supplies … yet.
“It’s coming. When there’s a shortage of water and sanitation issues, it will come out. We are expecting something like that to happen.”
Lack of fuel is the key problem at San Jorge Children’s Hospital in San Juan, according to its executive director, Domingo Cruz Vivaldi.
“We are dealing with a crisis right now. The hospital is needing diesel every day — 2,000 gallons a day.
Yesterday, we ran out of diesel at 6 a.m. and we were without electricity at the hospital from 6 a.m. through 2 p.m. 8 hours without electricity.”
Without power, life-saving machines like ventilators have to run on emergency backup power.
Fears for the future are playing out across Puerto Rico.
Misery is stalking each and every one of the more than 3 million Americans there.
San Juan’s Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz sees a growing need for help for increasingly desperate people.
“We are finding dialysis patients that have not been able to contact their providers. We are having to transport them in near death conditions,” the mayor said. “We are finding people whose oxygen tanks are running out because our small generators now don’t have any diesel.”
Cruz and her teams are out on the streets trying to find the neediest people. But in the mountains south of her city, help is less likely to come.
* * *
Mayor Javier Garcia, believes help will come from the mainland and the federal government.
The question is when, and whether it will be too late[.]
The main airport in San Juan is crippled, barely functioning. Those there are hoping to escape a crowded terminal with no air conditioning. On Tuesday, only ten flights are scheduled.
Check-in desks are packed with people waiting in line, hoping for a flight off the island. Fans are running, but keeping no one cool. Hopeful travelers sit in chairs on line and others lie nearby, using their suitcases as pillows. A mother rocks a stroller back and forth to try to calm a child.
* * *
Until aid arrives, Garcia and his fellows in Aguas Buenas are reverting to an older way of life — hacking coconuts to eat and collecting water from mountain streams. But that can only sustain so many for so long.
Twenty-first century help is needed for many like Miguel Olivera who rely on medication. And the situation can so easily get worse — mosquito-borne diseases like Zika and Dengue fever are very real fears here.
* * *
Puerto Rico’s power grid was a mess well before the storm and it will be months — several months — before electricity is restored across the island.
Generators are now essential — and essential to them is gasoline. Gas stations around San Juan do have some supply, but the demand is overwhelming.
Long lines of vehicles queue up at the pumps and men with red plastic gas cans wait for up to six hours, hoping to get a few precious gallons. Similar lines grow outside any open grocery store and anywhere that has ice.
* * *
Puerto Rico’s leaders and many of its people say they are resilient, they will survive, they will rebuild.
But signs of desperation are beginning to show.
A reporter climbing out of a helicopter is grabbed in a bear hug by a weeping woman in Quebradillas, a cut-off town. The woman doesn’t know who the reporter is, but she is a person from the outside, perhaps someone with news of supplies, who can take a message to family, who can offer something.
From the air, you can see people walking along highways, reaching up, searching for a cellphone signal. Floods, storm debris and the ever-present lack of power mean a fleeting phone conversation may be their only link to the rest of the island for some time.
The same struggle evident in Quebradillas is playing out across Puerto Rico.
* * *
Every single part of Puerto Rico took a hit. From the air it looks brown, not the verdant green of the tropical island it is.
Nothing is normal and there is little sign of when any sense of normality will return — from schools opening, to hospitals being able to care for the sick. Millions don’t know when they’ll be able to turn on a tap and get water, or flick the switch and have light or cooler air.
Gov. Ricardo A. Rosselló of Puerto Rico said on Monday that the island was on the brink of a “humanitarian crisis” nearly a week after Hurricane Maria. In Battered Puerto Rico, Governor Warns of a Humanitarian Crisis:
Stressing that Puerto Rico, a United States commonwealth, deserved the same treatment as hurricane-ravaged states, the governor urged Republican leaders and the federal government to move swiftly to send more money, supplies and relief workers. It was a plea echoed by Puerto Rico’s allies in Congress, who are pushing for quick movement on a new relief bill and a loosening of financial debt obligations for the island, which is still reeling from a corrosive economic crisis.
“Puerto Rico, which is part of the United States, can turn into a humanitarian crisis,” Governor Rosselló said. “To avoid that, recognize that we Puerto Ricans are American citizens; when we speak of a catastrophe, everyone must be treated equally.”
And Mr. Rosselló did not mince words about the potential impact on the mainland, where Puerto Ricans are expected to arrive in droves to escape the post-Maria hardships they will face on the island, including a shortage of already hard-to-find jobs.
“If we want to prevent, for example, a mass exodus, we have to take action. Congress, take note: Take action, permit Puerto Rico to have the necessary resources,” Mr. Rosselló said.
Well, that should get Trump’s attention. The population of Puerto Rico is over 3.6 million. The population of the U.S. Virgin Islands is another 100,000 plus citizens. They are all American citizens who have the right to travel freely to the U.S. mainland as U.S. citizens. They just need a means to leave the islands.
UPDATE: How eff’ed up is this country? This much: Nearly Half of Americans Don’t Know Puerto Ricans Are Fellow Citizens:
A new poll of 2,200 adults by Morning Consult found that only 54 percent of Americans know that people born in Puerto Rico, a commonwealth of the United States, are U.S. citizens. (Because Puerto Rico is not a state, they do not vote in presidential elections, but they send one nonvoting representative to Congress.)
This finding varied significantly by age and education. Only 37 percent of people ages 18 to 29 know people born in Puerto Rico are citizens, compared with 64 percent of those 65 or older. Similarly, 47 percent of Americans without a college degree know Puerto Ricans are Americans, compared with 72 percent of those with a bachelor’s degree and 66 percent of those with a postgraduate education.
Inaccurate beliefs on this question matter, because Americans often supportcuts to foreign aid when asked to evaluate spending priorities. In our poll, support for additional aid was strongly associated with knowledge of the citizenship status of Puerto Ricans. More than 8 in 10 Americans who know Puerto Ricans are citizens support aid, compared with only 4 in 10 of those who do not.
Being informed about the citizenship status of Puerto Ricans also modestly increases support for aid. Over all, 64 percent of Americans in the poll who were given no additional information said that Puerto Rico should receive additional government aid to help rebuild the territory, while 14 percent said it was not necessary and 20 percent said they did not know or had no opinion.
But when a random sample of participants was informed that Puerto Ricans were U.S. citizens before answering this question, support for aid increased four percentage points, to 68 percent. These effects were especially large for Republicans (+9 percentage points), Trump voters (+10 percentage points) and Hispanic respondents (+12 percentage points). For example, 67 percent of Trump voters who saw a prompt informing them that Puerto Ricans were U.S. citizens supported additional aid, compared with 57 percent who did not see the prompt.