Look at Puerto Rico today.
Hurricane Maria ravaged the island territory with a direct hit on September 20, destroying property, shutting down the power grid, and making food and fresh water scarce to come by.
Approximately 80 percent of the island is without power, and some are predicting a 6 month struggle before it is restored.
A year ago, I went through a 3-day stretch with no power after Hurricane Matthew passed through North Carolina and I thought I would lose my mind before it was restored.
Never have I been more convinced that I’m not cut out for the rustic life.
With that in mind, my heart goes out to the people of Puerto Rico, as they struggle to survive with very limited supplies and help on the ground.
Also with that in mind, I can’t hold it against San Juan’s Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, who lashed out, after acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke called the situation in Puerto Rico a “good news story.”
“Maybe from where she’s standing, it’s a good news story,” Cruz said. “When you’re drinking from a creek, it’s not a good news story. When you don’t have food for a baby, it’s not a good news story.”
“Damnit, this is not a good news story,” she continued. “This is a people-are-dying story.”
She also held an emotionally charged press conference.
“I will do what I never thought I was going to do. I am begging, begging anyone who can hear us to save us from dying. If anybody out there is listening to us, we are dying, and you are killing us with the inefficiency,” she said.
President Trump has plans to visit the area on Tuesday. On Friday, however, he touted the “incredible job” being done with relief efforts.
“We have done an incredible job, considering there’s absolutely nothing to work with,” Trump told reporters at the White House.
He also pointed out how little help Puerto Ricans were able to offer, themselves.
“They’re taking care of their families and largely unable to get involved, largely unable to help,” he said. “Therefore, we’re forced to bring in truck drivers, security and many, many other personnel by the thousands. And we’re bringing them onto the island as we speak. We’ve never seen a situation like this.”
And he is right. Everyone does what they can, but the amount of help Puerto Rico needs right now from volunteers and first responders is overwhelming.
This is a humanitarian crisis on a grand scale.
Knowing all this is what makes Trump’s Saturday morning Twitter rant all the more despicable.
Upset at Mayor Cruz’s frustrated criticism, the president turned on her, and the people of Puerto Rico.
This was absolutely the wrong response. It sends a very bad message, but also reveals a petty, vindictive man with no capacity for compassion for the millions of American citizens (Yes, Puerto Rico is a U.S. commonwealth) suffering, right now.
Mr. President, I don’t know what you thought the job would consist of when you decided to run, but this is part of it. It is not an easy job. You’re not going to be showered in praise for every decision. If your immediate response to criticism, especially in light of these circumstances, is to rage like a child at people who are desperate and afraid, then you are emotionally and intellectually unfit to lead.
Perhaps it would do President Trump some good to read over this account given by Dana Perino, regarding how an actual president reacts to turmoil and even direct criticism.
When confronted by a grieving mother at the bedside of her dying son, injured while fighting in the Middle East, former President George W. Bush showed extreme self-control and grace:
And that was just the first patient we saw. For the rest of the visit to the hospital that day, almost every family had the same reaction of joy when they saw the president. But there were exceptions. One mom and dad of a dying soldier from the Caribbean were devastated, the mom beside herself with grief. She yelled at the president, wanting to know why it was her child and not his who lay in that hospital bed. Her husband tried to calm her, and I noticed the president wasn’t in a hurry to leave — he tried offering comfort but then just stood and took it, like he expected and needed to hear the anguish, to try to soak up some of her suffering if he could.
Later, as we rode back on Marine One to the White House, no one spoke.
But as the helicopter took off, the president looked at me and said, “That mama sure was mad at me.” Then he turned to look out the window of the helicopter. “And I don’t blame her a bit.”
One tear slipped out the side of his eye and down his face. He didn’t wipe it away, and we flew back to the White House.
That is the job of the president. You don’t lash out at those who are hurting. You take it, and you present yourself as a leader, not a spoiled, rich brat.
It’s the job you signed up for, so suck it up, Mr. Trump, and put away your phone.