Every time it looks like Donald Trump has actually performed one of his presidential duties well, he races to restore an image of incompetence and/or indifference. Now, even the positive actions are usually the result of some previous blunder—that was the case with Charlottesville, where Trump simply couldn’t bear to suggest that white supremacists are anything but “fine people,” presumably because he doesn’t like to talk to friends that way.
But when Hurricane Maria was poised to wreak destruction on Puerto Rico, Trump kind-of, sort-of did his job and pledged to help the U.S. territory. That avowal was quickly followed with some unseemly comments about debt, as well as some bullshit “I.O.U.” arrangement for the besieged island to repay FEMA. Things just got worse from there, as Trump struggled with maritime law (the Jones Act) and basic geography (it seemed to be the first time he’d heard of the Atlantic Ocean).
There were obviously some logistical issues to be worked out, given that Puerto Rico’s power grid is down. But the Trump administration acted like this was the most insurmountable of problems while San Juan mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz waded through flooded streets in search of her stranded constituents. And when the desperate mayor conveyed just how dire things are, Trump snapped at her and the other U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico from his umpteenth golf trip, calling them “lazy” for not being able to restore their power grid and battle a hurricane while he literally puttered around.
Despite all that, Trump still planned a trip to survey the damage in Puerto Rico. The president arrived today, looking chastened, and sat through a press conference where he laid out a reconstruction plan for the ravaged island. Just kidding—he dropped in just to let them know what a strain all the death and destruction is putting on the U.S. budget, which has to set aside money for the military branches in which many Puerto Ricans have served. “You’ve thrown our budget out of whack,” Trump said. “We’ve spent a lot of money in Puerto Rico.”
Actually, Trump was underwhelmed by the number of deaths, which “only” number 16 so far (and those are “certified” deaths, not the unofficial kind). Yes, this simple, two-digit number is nowhere near as “tremendous” as the number of fatalities caused by Hurricane Katrina, which racked up a death toll of 1,833.
You see, Katrina was a “real catastrophe,” and until more people succumb to injuries or the currently abysmal living conditions on the devastated island, Puerto Rico needs to suck it up. Also, try a little harder next time, climate change (that almost certainly doesn’t exist).