President Trump paid a visit to Puerto Rico today to talk to local officials and to take a look at the damage. These are the highlights.
Meeting with local officials.
— Dan Scavino Jr. (@Scavino45) October 3, 2017
Mr. Trump, seated around tables with leaders from Puerto Rico and the federal government, praised the federal response to the storm and Puerto Rico’s congresswoman.
He thanked Puerto Rico’s governor, Ricardo Rossello, for praising him and the federal response to the storm.
“He didn’t play politics,” Mr. Trump said. “He told it like it was, gave us the highest marks.”
The president expressed how impressed he has been with the response of disaster relief workers to the storm.
“I mean, I’ve never seen people working so hard in my life,” Mr. Trump said.
But, of course, controversy can be ginned up of virtually anything so long as Trump is involved.
“Mick Mulvaney is here – uh, right there,” Mr. Trump said, pointing to Mulvaney. “And Mick is in charge of a thing called budget. Now, 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, and that’s fine.”
From the context, it is clear that this is an attempt at humor. But this is how it is being reported:
Trump just castigated Puerto Rico for “throwing our budget out of whack”
— Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) October 3, 2017
From there we go on to the next controversy:
“We’ve saved a lot of lives,” Mr. Trump said. “If you look at the – every death is a horror – but if you look at a real catastrophe like Katrina, and you look at the tremendous – hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people that died. And you look at what happened here with really a storm that was just totally overpowering. Nobody’s ever seen anything like this. What is your death count? Sixteen people certified. Sixteen people versus in the thousands. You can be very proud. Sixteen versus literally thousands of people. Everybody around this table and everybody watching can really be proud of what’s taken place.”
But this is how it is being reported:
I now understand why the WH seemed so reluctant to send Trump to make an on-the-ground speech in Puerto Rico. https://t.co/5jwdE1gWwe
— Ezra Klein (@ezraklein) October 3, 2017
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) October 3, 2017
This is obviously not what Trump was saying, because he describes Hurricane Maria as “And you look at what happened here with really a storm that was just totally overpowering. Nobody’s ever seen anything like this.”
Or, if you prefered a “unified field theory” of this:
Trump blamed Puerto Rico for messing up the U.S. budget and said at least it's not "a real catastrophe like Katrina." pic.twitter.com/zJyUzAIC8x
— Adrienne Mahsa Varkiani (@AdrienneMahsa) October 3, 2017
The point of this is that, taken in context, nothing Trump said was insulting. Taken out of context, it dovetails very neatly with the Donald-Trump-hates-Puerto-Ricans narrative that the media and Trump’s opponents are trying to construct. Trump owed himself and his administration better that to throw phrases around carelessly. It is too bad that it happened, and it is not fair, but this is a self-inflicted wound.
Meeting the San Juan mayor.
Last week the showboating mayor of San Juan was running about wearing a “Help Us, We Are Dying” tee-shirt. What she was not doing was cooperating in any way with the federal emergency relief effort. The reason for that was pretty simple, she has her eyes set on being governor of Puerto Rico and making the administration look bad was an easy way of raising her profile.
In a heated exchange with angry Democrat operative Maria Cardona on CNN Sunday, Fuentes pointed out that Fuentes was praising the Trump administration’s Hurricane Maria relief efforts just days ago but had a change of heart after meeting with leftist Democrat Congressman Luis Gutierrez (Commie – IL), who convinced her that if she really wanted to be the next governor or Puerto Rico, she’d better get busy Trump-bashing.
“The mayor of San Juan is a political hack,” Fuentes said on CNN’s “New Day.” “She is singing the praises of the president until her political adviser, [Rep.] Luis Gutiérrez from Chicago, got there and brought her the t-shirts and said, ‘Hey you want to run for governor, if she wants to run,” he continued until the anchor cut him off, citing audio technical difficulties.
There was some doubt that she would be invited to the meeting with Trump but she was.
Mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz, confirms she's accepted Trump's invitation to attend a briefing with him today in Puerto Rico
— Jason K. Morrell (@CNNJason) October 3, 2017
And the outcome was pretty much what one would expect:
Cruz attended the briefing, but sat far away from the president. Trump did not mention her during his remarks, even as he cast praise widely on other federal and territory officials for their work, including the island’s representative in Congress, Jennifer González-Colón (R).
The two leaders did shake hands upon Trump’s arrival in Puerto Rico.
Speaking at the White House earlier Tuesday, Trump signaled he wanted to move past the spat.
“I think she’s come back a long way. I think it’s now acknowledged what a great job we’ve done, and people are looking at that,” he told reporters.
Trump went to Puerto Rico and brought his vindictive streak with him. He engaged with all the local leaders except @CarmenYulinCruz, even though she greeted him and said,"it's not about politics."
— David Corn (@DavidCornDC) October 3, 2017
Right now the administration is losing control of what should be a very favorable narrative and allowing organizations like Oxfam to blatantly lie about what is happening in Puerto Rico. This trip failed to do what it needed to do on just about every level. In addition to what Trump said, yesterday the administration leaked there would be as many as eight cabinet officials on the trip. As far as I can tell, Mick Mulvaney was the only other VIP.
On the whole a very poorly stage-managed trip that created none of the great visuals Trump’s team was able to create in Houston.