U.S. President Donald Trump tosses rolls of paper towels to people at a hurricane relief distribution center at Calvary Chapel in San Juan, Puerto Rico,...
JONATHAN ERNST

Trump forgets to bring human empathy with him to Puerto Rico

Updated

Soon after Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, Donald Trump announced a presidential visit. As public-relations stunts go, it was pretty vacuous: Trump didn’t “meet a single storm victim, see an inch of rain or get near a flooded street.” He marveled at the size of the “turnout” of people he met in Corpus Christi, and he lied about having seen devastation “first hand,” but the president steered clear of those who’d actually suffered.

The Rachel Maddow Show, 10/3/17, 9:49 PM ET

San Juan mayor: Trump was insulting to the people of Puerto Rico

Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz of San Juan, Puerto Rico, reacts to Donald Trump’s visit to the storm ravaged island, calling Trump’s remarks insulting, and describing him as the “miscommunicator-in-chief,” but also finding hope in interactions with White…
Exactly five weeks later, we saw an eerily similar scene. The Washington Post reports that Trump made a brief visit to Puerto Rico yesterday, where he toured a wealthy suburb, steering clear of locals facing dire straits nearby.

The Puerto Rico that President Trump saw during his four-hour visit on Tuesday afternoon was that of Angel Pérez Otero, the mayor of Guaynabo, a wealthy San Juan suburb known for its amenity-driven gated communities that was largely spared when Hurricane Maria hit nearly two weeks ago.

Pérez Otero led Trump and his entourage on a walking tour of a neighborhood, where high-speed winds had blown out some second-story windows and knocked over a few trees — but where life seemed to be returning to normal, thanks to assistance from the government. Neighbors stood outside their homes ready to warmly greet the president, their phones powered up and ready to snap photos.

One homeowner told Trump that he lost a couple windows and still hasn’t regained electricity, but he was never worried about his family’s safety.

Trump told the local resident that he’s glad his house is in good shape, adding, “Have a good time.”

He did not visit nearby areas where homes were ripped from their foundations or hear from desperate families. Trump boasted on Twitter this morning that it was “a great day in Puerto Rico yesterday,” leading to an inevitable follow-up question the president will never answer: a great day for whom?

By all appearances, Trump meant it was a great day for him, of course. And why not? From the president’s perspective, the brief trip to Puerto Rico went exactly as he wanted it to go.

Trump got to host an event where people took turns praising him.

Trump avoided the mayor of San Juan and congratulated himself on an “incredible” job well done.

Trump chided Puerto Rico for interfering with the U.S. budget – a comment he apparently found amusing – before telling locals they didn’t suffer a “real catastrophe.”

And Trump lobbed paper towels at people as if he were having fun shooting free throws.

I sometimes wonder what kind of presidency Trump would have if he were able to show basic human empathy.

Donald Trump, Natural Disaster and Puerto Rico

Trump forgets to bring human empathy with him to Puerto Rico

Updated