It’s against this backdrop that Donald Trump has focused his attention elsewhere. The president published a brief tweet last week, but was far more engaged over the weekend with athletes engaged in civil rights protests than the crisis on the U.S. territory.
As the Washington Post reported, Trump finally addressed developments on the island last night, though he did so in the most Trump-like fashion possible.
President Trump, facing mounting questions about his commitment to Puerto Rico’s recovery, took to Twitter Monday night, saying the U.S. territory is “in deep trouble,” in part because of problems that predated Hurricane Maria.
Trump said Puerto Rico was already suffering from “broken infrastructure,” including an old electrical grid, which he said was “devastated” by Hurricane Maria, as well as “massive debt.”
“Food, water and medical are top priorities — and doing well,” Trump said in his series of tweets, which credited the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The president added that Puerto Rico is “billions of dollars in debt to Wall Street and the banks which, sadly, must be dealt with.”
Oh. So more than half of the Americans on the island don’t have safe drinking water, and after prolonged silence, Trump decided this would be a good time to emphasize to Puerto Ricans the money they owe to Wall Street.
Can’t you just feel the populism?
Philip Carter wrote in Slate yesterday, “So far, the Trump administration has dispatched an anemic Federal Emergency Management Agency mission and sundry military units to assess the situation and provide support. But in some cases it took the federal government days to even contact local leaders in Puerto Rico’s major cities, let alone deploy aid. Only the most rudimentary military support is now on the ground. This is inadequate and calls to mind the lethargic response by the Bush administration to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.”
For much of the last eight years, Republicans and assorted pundits seemed desperate to find “Obama’s Katrina,” which was foolish, and ultimately, pointless. Given developments in Puerto Rico, will those same political observers be equally quick to reference “Trump’s Katrina”?
Postscript: Despite a few tweets on Puerto Rico last night, Trump was back to thinking about football again this morning.