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On Puerto Rico, Trump pretends Biden's the incumbent president

Today, Trump suggested Biden's responsible for Puerto Rican devastation - as if the Delaware Democrat, and not Trump, has been in office the last few years
Image: Donald Trump Joe Biden
Evan Vucci; Gerry Broome / AP file

Donald Trump's antagonism toward Puerto Rico has been unsubtle. After the island struggled in the wake of Hurricane Maria, the president fought against increased aid, with a senior administration official saying of the Republican's position, “He doesn’t want another single dollar going to the island.”

In 2018, a top former Department of Homeland Security said Trump asked him whether the U.S. could swap Greenland for Puerto Rico because, in Trump's words, "Puerto Rico was dirty and the people were poor." A year later, the president nearly derailed a disaster-relief package because he didn't want the island to receive aid.

But as Election Day draws closer, and the GOP incumbent fears losing Florida, Trump announced today that he's generously sending a multi-billion-dollar aid package to Puerto Rico -- three years after Hurricane Maria struck the island. Apparently counting on Americans to have very short memories, he added, “I’m the best thing that’s ever happened to Puerto Rico."

But then Trump went on to deliver the predictable, albeit ridiculous, electoral point.

After announcing the aid, Trump quickly pivoted to attacking his election opponent, Joe Biden. “Biden’s devastated the island of Puerto Rico,” Trump said.

Obviously, no one could possibly take such nonsense seriously, but it's become a reflexive point the president makes at every available moment. No matter what he's discussing, no matter whom he's speaking to, the bottom line is the same: that rascally Joe Biden has been horrible for [fill in the blank].

But what made today's comments funny was the suggestion that Biden is somehow already president. Trump didn't say that the Delaware Democrat would devastate Puerto Rico; he said Biden has already devastated Puerto Rico -- as if the former vice president has been in charge the last few years.

For much of his term, Trump and his allies had an odd habit of acting as if Hillary Clinton had actually won in 2016. Increasingly, the president and his allies have a new habit: acting as if Biden has already won in 2020.

This came up a few days ago, when Trump criticized Biden for failing to implement a coronavirus mask policy -- despite the fact the Democratic nominee is a private citizen who still needs to get elected before trying to govern.

A few days earlier, Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel blasted Biden's "disastrous record responding to the coronavirus," overlooking the inconvenient fact that Biden hasn't been in office during the pandemic.

Today, Trump suggested Biden's also responsible for Puerto Rican devastation. Reality suggests the island's troubles can more easily be attributed to the person who's already in the Oval Office, not the person who hopes to get there.