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On The Late Show, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz thanks all Americans, save one

The Late Show With Stephen Colbert (Screenshot: CBS)

It’s been two months since Hurricane Maria all but destroyed much of Puerto Rico. And it’s been more than a month or so since most late-night comics ran out of material about Donald Trump blaming these American citizens for their own misfortune, whipping paper towels at them like he was trying to win a stuffed animal at the fair, and his administration awarding a sweetheart deal to a tiny energy firm with no experience and two full-time employees that just so happened to be from the hometown of Trump’s Interior Secretary and financed by a major Trump donor to fix the island’s power grid. (Spoiler: They didn’t.) To be fair, doing nightly political comedy in the age of Trump means playing constant, maddening catch-up with each day’s Twitter dump of racism, buffoonery, and incompetence (alone or in combination). Still, however, Stephen Colbert took some time on Wednesday’s Late Show to let San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz both thank the American people for their continued help and goodwill in the disaster’s aftermath, and to use her time there to continue her criticism of Trump’s characteristic lack of both.

“Maybe this is not the place to say it,” started Cruz, before continuing, “But President Trump has not been up to the standards that this country deserves.” Without saying so, Colbert showed that his show is, indeed, the perfect place for such sentiment, as he turned the show over to Cruz for an eye-openingly harrowing status report. To sum up: Two months after one of the most powerful storms in Puerto Rico’s history, about half of the inhabitants (again, all U.S. citizens) are without power, there are intermittent, island-wide blackouts, the elderly are stuck in their apartment’s like “human cages,” where no water can be pumped up to them, and even though most people have running water restored, everyone remains under a boil water advisory. Which many can’t do because they have no power. “It is not going as fast as it should,” explained Cruz, with admirable restraint, while Colbert produced two pictures—one of Cruz wading through sewage to bring aid to San Juan residents, the other of Trump’s tweet petulantly blaming Cruz for daring to complain about the sluggish government response—that pointed up the starkly contrasting ideas of leadership involved.

As Cruz thanked mainland Americans for their continued generosity, even though the media has largely moved onto whatever Trump bullshit is trending next, Colbert urged viewers to head to the show’s webpage to find out how best to pick up the slack that Donald Trump’s government seems content to let dangle uselessly in the ocean. “You have never left us alone, and I hope you never forget us,” said an effusive Cruz in parting to everyone in the country who continues to care about their fellow Americans still in dire need. As for Trump and the Republicans (whose comically venal tax proposal, Cruz revealed, includes a 20 per cent increase in excise taxes on imports from Puerto Rico, presumably just as an added “fuck you”), well, at the charitable foundation set up to aid in reconstruction, you can get a version of the “Nasty” t-shirt Cruz wore in response to Trump’s petty attacks. They make great holiday gifts for the GOP lawmaker on your list who thinks repealing the estate tax is more important than making sure American citizens have clean drinking water.o


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Dennis Perkins

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.