Frustrated by the justifiably high marks President Trump received for the federal government’s response to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, portions of the left are attacking Trump for allegedly not being sufficiently concerned about Hurricane Maria, which pounded Puerto Rico. Hillary Clinton is doing her part. She slammed the president for his near silence about the situation in Puerto Rico. Ever the snob, Clinton stated, with no apparent basis, “I’m not sure he knows that Puerto Ricans are American citizens.”
Clinton’s vicious former spokesman Brian Fallon made explicit what the left is really alleging. He tweeted: “Trump’s racist neglect of Puerto Rico is threatening lives. It’s time to start caring about the crisis there.”
The rush baselessly to label people “racists” and “deplorables” is one the reasons Hillary Clinton did not become president and, thus, Brian Fallon did not become White House press secretary. Viewed in this context, I suppose we should be grateful that they are so quick to play the race card.
But is there any merit to the claim that the Trump administration has been insufficiently attentive to the crisis in Puerto Rico? Charlie Cook at NRO argues, persuasively, that there isn’t. He notes that “the critique seems [mainly] to be that Trump isn’t tweeting about Puerto Rico,” choosing instead, as Hillary moans, to attack NFL players who don’t stand during the National Anthem.
But Trump’s tweeting propensities tell us nothing about whether he is responding properly to the natural disaster in Puerto Rico. As Cook points out, those closest to the situation and with the most political skin in the game say that the federal response has been laudable. He cites the transcript of an interview with the Governor:
JOHN YANG: Governor, are you getting all the aid you need or getting it fast enough from the states?
GOV. RICARDO ROSSELLO: First of all, we are very grateful for the administration. They have responded quickly.
The president has been very attentive to the situation, personally calling me several times. FEMA and the FEMA director have been here in Puerto Rico twice. As a matter of fact, they were here with us today, making sure that all the resources in FEMA were working in conjunction with the central government. We have been working together. We have been getting results. The magnitude of this catastrophe is enormous. This is going to take a lot of help, a lot of collaboration. So, my call is to congressmen and congresswomen to take action quickly and conclusively with an aid package for Puerto Rico.
The mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz, concurs. According to NBC, she called CNN to share “harrowing details of rescue efforts in her city,” and to “[praise] the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s ‘great job’ and ‘logistics help.’”
As with the recent hurricanes in Florida and Texas, FEMA’s strong response was the result, in large part, of advance planning significantly greater than that which has occurred in prior administrations. According to Politico:
Rossello and other officials praised the federal government for planning its response in detail before the storm hit, a contrast with what Puerto Rico has long seen as the neglect of 3.4 million Americans living in a territory without a vote in Congress or the electoral college.
“This is the first time we get this type of federal coordination,” said Resident Commission Jenniffer Gonzalez, Puerto Rico’s non-voting representative in Washington.
When the hurricane hit, the federal response was robust. That response, as documented by FEMA, included:
10k+ federal staff are on the ground in PR/USVI assisting with search & rescue, restoring power, & moving commodities”; “86 generators in PR & St. Thomas with 186+”; “@USCG continues hurricane #Maria response with 13 cutters, 10 aircraft, partners @fema @USNavy @prffa”; “today, 2,500+ National Guard members are responding in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico to support relief efforts.
Those criticizing Trump’s response are thus purveying fake news. And Hillary Clinton — bitter, pathetic Hillary — is leading the charge.