When for-real, it’s-not-a-joke President Donald Trump came to Houston following the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, the worst we could really say was that his wife wore heels and he was slow to meet with actual people affected by the storm. His FEMA head, Brock Long, seemed like an okay enough dude and definitely one of the bright spots in Trump’s questionable appointment history. I’m sure the fact that Texas — if certainly not Houston — went for the president in the 2016 didn’t hurt, nor the fact that we were the first of the thus far three deadly storms hitting America this hurricane season.
But then there was Irma in Florida, and now there is Maria in Puerto Rico, which I apparently have to remind people, is in America. The island has been a part of the United States since the last century, and if were a full-fledged state it would be the 30th most populous state in the union. It’s also been completely bum-rushed by Maria. The island is 100 percent without power, and the latest death toll is 34 people.
This is not a “real catastrophe like Katrina” according to the gibbering pile of misery in an ill-fitting suit that is our president, who finally managed to take time out of his busy golf schedule to visit the territory this week. Now, he’s doing the Technical Idiot thing here of trying to make a point while utterly and completely missing the point. No, the death toll in Puerto Rico is not as bad as it was from Katrina, where over 1,800 people died.
However, the thing he is quite clearly trying to imply is that Maria is not Katrina, and therefore his response is better than George W. Bush’s despite the media calling this catastrophe his Katrina moment. And you know something, media? That’s completely unfair — to George W. Bush.
Trump’s response has been so completely late and awful they had time to write a parody sketch on Saturday Night Live in the time it took, and it’s only gotten worse. When the lack of federal response to this tragedy seemed stalled, and the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulín Cruz, begged for help saying that people were dying, President Trump responded that she was a “nasty” woman, and followed it up with calling the Puerto Rican people lazy after his eventual visit. He did this on Twitter, of course, because we now live in that alternative Biff timeline from Back to the Future 2. Calling Puerto Ricans lazy is rich considering Cruz could be spotted wading through waist-deep water to help and Trump has already tripled the leisure days the last president had by this point in office.
That was the beginning. A sane president would have gotten her some advice and gone to work. Not this one. He actually went down and somehow made things worse. (This article is taking forever to write because I have to keep going in the other room to check the news to make sure he didn’t do something else.)
He landed on the island and met Cruz. She called him “sir,” and told him this wasn’t about politics. He then promptly turned and walked away. Later, he went to a photo op at Calvary Chapel, told the people there that they loved him, and then started throwing paper towels at them like they were a cargo cult and he had the world’s lamest t-shirt cannon.
Look, I hate it when I run out of paper towels too, but it wasn’t high on my list during Harvey. When I went to the store for my bottled water and storm bread, the paper towel aisle was not picked over. Trump was like the guy at a BYOB party that brings napkins. Not useless, but also not what anyone wanted.
It got worse.
As if Puerto Rico didn’t already have enough to deal with, Trump sank the price of their bonds with a single statement. In an interview on Fox News he said, “You know they owe a lot of money to your friends on Wall Street. We’re gonna have to wipe that out … You can say goodbye to that. I don’t know if it’s Goldman Sachs, but whoever it is, you can wave goodbye to that.”
This caused the general-obligation bond due in 2035 to sink to a record-low of 34 cents on the dollar. Basically, Trump went to a crisis and brought another one, and I’m mad at myself that I already used the BYOB party analogy because I should have saved it for here.
Mayor Cruz found the federal response initially unsatisfactory. By initial, I mean the part where the president was present. Once he was off somewhere doing whatever sad, racist old men do and she could talk to actual adults in the executive branch, things began to get done.
Better late than never, I guess, but I want to be very clear about something — a week ago Pitbull sent his private plane to help with relief efforts. Pitbull is better at being president than our actual president, and Puerto Rico needed its president.
Damn shame they didn’t get the one they voted for.