He frequently brags about how he is personally compelled to “punch back” whenever anyone takes him on. No matter how gentle the criticism, it spurs an all-out verbal assault from him. It also doesn’t matter how desperate the critic is, if those crying out, for instance, are in mortal danger; if they cross Donald Trump, they can expect a nuclear Twitter barrage.
So it is with the 3 million or so U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico who are struggling to survive the devastation of Hurricane Maria. They are coping with the elimination of their entire infrastructure — the infrastructure that sustains their lives, that provides basics like food, water, electricity, communication and medical care. All that has been pretty much wiped out, and the government response to its massive collapse has been, to put it charitably, insufficient.
Trump insists that it’s actually beyond sufficient, that his administration is doing an “amazing job.” His acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke said the federal response has been “good news.”
Her words set off the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz, who is fighting a losing battle with this calamity and its overwhelming aftermath: “Damn it, this is not a good news story,” she emotionally retorted, “This is a ‘people are dying’ story. This is a life or death story. … This is a story of a devastation that continues to worsen because people are not getting food and water.”
That was enough to push the buttons of the Trumpster Tweeter, who launched an all-out barrage aimed at “such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan and others in Puerto Rico.” After all, he continued, “They want everything to be done for them.”
As for the mayor, his tirade continued that she’s just a tool of the Democrats who are “ingrates” and ignore the difficulties of a rescue effort on “an ISLAND, surrounded by water. Big water. Ocean water.” I know I speak for all of us when I express my appreciation for that geography lesson, but it’s missing the big picture: Citizens of the United States have been crushed by another storm, like the citizens of Houston and much of Florida were.
In fairness, there are differences: The logistics do make an emergency response more difficult. Another is that the island’s facilities, particularly the electric utility, were already in pathetic shape because of years of corruption, ineptitude and mismanagement. All of that makes the obstacles to an effective rescue more formidable. But this is a catastrophe for our fellow Americans, even though the dominant language in Puerto Rico is Spanish, which his harshest critics say might have contributed to Trump’s lethargic response. But there was nothing lethargic about his reaction to the complaints. There never is.
His attack on the leaders on the ground in Puerto Rico caused a storm of counterattacks. Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator and original star of the Broadway show “Hamilton,” predicted that Trump will be going “straight to hell.” What more is there to say? I wonder if they have Twitter there.