Donald Trump took to twitter this morning to unsurprisingly toot his own horn:
Before going into detail about this, I would like to preface this by reminding everyone that the people of Puerto Rico are American citizens. This is not about people from a foreign country, a misconception that is unfortunately far too prevalent even today. The people of Puerto Rico are Americans.
Okay, back to Trump’s tweet: he claimed they did a “great job” dealing with the hurricane that hit Puerto Rico? Really? And this is not the only thing he has said within the last couple days about his response to Hurricane Maria that hit Puerto Rico last year.
A day earlier, the president praised the response to the series of storms. “I think Puerto Rico was an incredible, unsung success.”
I mean, really, a “success”?
Hurricane Maria is responsible for more deaths in Puerto Rico than Hurricane Katrina when it hit New Orleans, which is widely seen as a horrible stain on the presidency of George W Bush:
The report, produced by the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health at the request of the government of Puerto Rico, estimated that there were 2,975 additional deaths in the six months following the category-five storm that barreled into the island last September.
As a result of the study, Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rosselló revised the official death count for the storm from 64 to the study’s count of 2,975.
The new toll, which puts the figure significantly higher than the 1,883 deaths after Hurricane Katrina, is likely to further fuel the long simmering debate about exactly how many people were killed by Hurricane Maria.
How on earth could that be seen as a success? Nearly 3000 people died.
It is quite possible that Donald Trump does not even know about the real death toll in Puerto Rico. Or, quite possibly, he was told and simply doesn’t care, or simply forgot.
UPDATE: Someone apparently informed Trump of the death toll in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria, so he is now disputing the death toll:
The death toll number was calculated at the request of the Governor of Puerto Rico, who Trump repeatedly praised. Democrats were not in any way involved. This is depraved lunacy to claim that it was faked.
Puerto Rico’s governor on Tuesday raised the official death toll from Hurricane Maria from 64 to 2,975, in response to a new study that found the initial numbers reported were undercounted.
The study, an independent investigation ordered by the local government, found that nearly 3,000 people died in the hurricane, which hit the island in September 2017.
Gov. Ricardo Rossello responded to the study by the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University by officially raising the toll.
Remember, this was what Trump initially said about the disaster in Puerto Rico:
President Donald Trump has told Puerto Rico officials they should be “proud” they did not lose thousands of lives as in “a real catastrophe like Katrina”.
In fact, what happened in Puerto Rico was way worse than Katrina.
And he also said this:
President Donald Trump during a visit to Puerto Rico on Tuesday said the humanitarian-aid response in the Caribbean island and US territory had “thrown our budget a little out of whack.”
“I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you’ve thrown our budget a little out of whack, because we’ve spent a lot of money on Puerto Rico,” Trump said.
He quickly added: “That’s fine — we’ve saved a lot of lives.”
3,000 people died and he had the audacity to tell them that they threw the budget out of whack. Wow. Not to mention that this was right after he signed a tax cut that drained a trillion dollars from the budget. It’s quite telling when Donald Trump decides to be concerned about the budget.
But, that was not all. He also famously decided to throw rolls of paper towels to people in Puerto Rico as if it were all a fun game:
President Donald Trump defended throwing paper towels into a crowd of Puerto Ricans at a relief center in the hurricane-ravaged territory earlier this week and lauded federal relief efforts.
“They had these beautiful, soft towels. Very good towels,” Trump told Mike Huckabee during an interview Saturday with Christian network Trinity Broadcasting.
“And I came in and there was a crowd of a lot of people. And they were screaming and they were loving everything. I was having fun, they were having fun,” he added. “They said, ‘Throw ’em to me! Throw ’em to me Mr. President!”
While he was having fun, people were dying.
An international human rights group, Refugees International, has issued a scathing report on the U.S. response in Puerto Rico to Hurricane Maria. The group says “poor coordination and logistics on the ground” by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Puerto Rican government “seriously undermined the effectiveness of the aid delivery process.”
When its team arrived in Puerto Rico, more than two months after the storm, Refugees International says it was surprised that the relief effort was “uncoordinated and poorly implemented.” The group says the poor response was “prolonging the humanitarian emergency on the ground.”
Comparing it with past natural disasters, such as the 2010 Haitian earthquake, the group found the U.S. response lacking. In Haiti, the group says 8,000 U.S. troops were deployed to the island within two days of the disaster. In Puerto Rico, it took 10 days for 4,500 U.S. troops to arrive. Central to FEMA’s problematic response, Refugees International says, is that the federal agency is designed to supplement local and state disaster response efforts. But in Puerto Rico, the group found, municipalities and the Commonwealth had “limited capacity and ability to respond.”
And people were dying in part because of decisions Trump made.
Speaking with reporters on Wednesday afternoon, the president cited business interests as the reason for refusing calls from lawmakers and activists to allow international organizations and governments to ship aid to the island.
Trump said he was initially considering whether to implement a temporary waiver of the Jones Act to allow it, but decided against doing so as “a lot of people that work in the shipping industry…don’t want the Jones Act lifted.”
The refusal to work with intergovernmental networks eager to supply aid to the devastated island was then echoed by Trump’s Department of Homeland Security. “Based on consultation with other federal agencies,” spokesman David Lapan said Wednesday, “DHS’s current assessment is that there is sufficient numbers of U.S.-flagged vessels to move commodities to Puerto Rico.”
And decisions Trump made too late.
The Comfort’s mission has ended, but it leaves behind questions about whether it was adequately used during a time of desperate medical need. The ship was prepared to support 250 hospital beds, but over its 53-day deployment, which included travel to and from the island, it admitted an average of only six patients a day, or 290 in total. An additional 1,625 people were treated aboard the ship as outpatients, all at no cost.
Following public debate over the Trump administration’s initial reluctance to deploy it, the Comfort arrived two weeks into the disaster, after some of the medical urgency had abated. Its mission and capabilities were opaque to many doctors on the island. It lacked the ability to treat some important areas of need, and the complex referral procedures made little sense on a battered island with scant power or telephone service.
And corruption involved with rebuilding.
The Trump administration scrambled Friday to distance itself from the decision to award a $300 million contract to help restore Puerto Rico’s power grid to a tiny Montana company from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s hometown.
Which had horrible results.
Today, on the nine-month anniversary of the storm, there are still thousands of Americans who don’t have electricity in remote parts of Puerto Rico. It’s the largest blackout in US history. It’s the second-largest power outage in the world on record.
And led to thousands of deaths.