Trump Rates His Hurricane Relief: ‘Great.’ ‘Amazing.’ ‘Tremendous.’ – New York Times

“We have been really treated very, very nicely by the governor,” Mr. Trump said of Mr. Rosselló, whose island is without power, water or fuel — putting it, the governor said on Monday, on the brink of a humanitarian crisis.

The busy hurricane season of 2017 has given fresh purpose to a president who, until now, made most of his own weather inside the West Wing. On Tuesday, he said he would visit Puerto Rico and the storm-ravaged Virgin Islands next week. The White House issued photos of a grave-looking Mr. Trump being briefed in the Situation Room.

But the hurricanes are yet another reminder of this president’s rare capacity for self-congratulation — a trait that seems particularly ill-suited to the aftermath of deadly disasters, when the plight of people who lost homes or even family members would seem to take precedence over testimonials to FEMA.

From the start, Mr. Trump has had trouble separating himself from the story. On his first visit to Texas after Hurricane Harvey swamped Houston, the president went to a firehouse in Corpus Christi, nearly 220 miles away, for a briefing with federal, state and local officials that stopped just short of being a pep rally. “We’ll congratulate each other when it’s all finished,” he told the group.

Outside, he greeted a crowd of about 1,000 who had gathered by saying, “What a crowd! What a turnout!”

Four days later, Mr. Trump returned to the state — this time, to meet actual victims of the storm. He handed out cardboard boxes with hot dogs and potato chips to residents in Houston, and talked about the love he had seen in the NRG Center, a convention center converted into a shelter for nearly 1,200 people. But he could not resist a victory lap.

“They’re really happy with what’s going on,” he told reporters traveling with him. “It’s something that’s been very well received. Even by you guys, it’s been very well received.”

In Florida, after Hurricane Irma roared up the Gulf Coast, Mr. Trump seemed more at ease in his role as a consoler. At a ruined mobile home park in Naples, he handed out encouragement along with hoagies. But when one man yelled, “Where was Obama during the last hurricane? On a golf course,” Mr. Trump stopped and asked whether he had voted for him.

“Best vote of your life?” the president said, with a grin.

Puerto Rico, unlike Texas and Florida, is not Trump country. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida trounced him in the Republican primary there in March 2016. And Mr. Trump has been noticeably less vocal about the damage from Hurricane Maria. Over the weekend, as Puerto Ricans ran perilously low on food, water and fuel, he posted nothing about the crisis.

Yet he posted 17 tweets about sports — from the dispute he single-handedly revived over the N.F.L. and the national anthem to his withdrawal of an invitation for Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors to visit the White House. On Tuesday, Mr. Trump denied that he had neglected Puerto Rico in favor of his feud with professional athletes.

“I’ve heard that before: ‘Was I preoccupied?’” he said. “Not at all, not at all. I have plenty of time on my hands. All I do is work.”

Some residents of the Virgin Islands, parts of which were leveled by Irma, feel similarly overlooked by Washington. Kenneth E. Mapp, the governor, assured them that Mr. Trump had told him he “loves the Virgin Islands.”

When the president finally did get around to addressing Puerto Rico, on Monday, he led off with some unsympathetic observations about the territory’s well-publicized fiscal problems.

“Texas & Florida are doing great but Puerto Rico, which was already suffering from broken infrastructure & massive debt, is in deep trouble,” he said in a series of tweets. “It’s old electrical grid, which was in terrible shape, was devastated. Much of the Island was destroyed, with billions of dollars owed to Wall Street and the banks which, sadly, must be dealt with. Food, water and medical are top priorities – and doing well.”

On Tuesday, Mr. Trump said he had deployed Navy ships to Puerto Rico. His homeland security adviser, Thomas P. Bossert, and the FEMA administrator, Brock Long, traveled there to meet with officials. But even then, Mr. Trump said less about the resilience of the people than about the territory’s problems. The federal government, he said, had to take over some security because police officers, having lost their homes, had gone off duty.

After his news conference, Mr. Trump tweeted, “America’s hearts & prayers are with the people of #PuertoRico & the #USVI. We will get through this — and we will get through this TOGETHER!”

To the extent that Mr. Trump lauded Puerto Rican officials, however, it was for their praise and gratitude for his administration’s efforts.

“We have had tremendous reviews from government officials, as we have in Texas and Louisiana, and as we have in Florida,” Mr. Trump said, singling out Greg Abbott of Texas and Rick Scott of Florida as “great governors.”

For a moment, it looked like he would pay a similar tribute to the governor of Puerto Rico, Mr. Rosselló.

“The governor has been so incredible in his,” Mr. Trump said, pausing a beat, “in his statements about the job we’re doing.”


Continue reading the main story

Comments

Write a Reply or Comment:

Your email address will not be published.*