In his own mind, Donald Trump has somehow made the devastation in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria all about himself. Despite the fact that the US territory, home to three and a half million people, has been struggling for two weeks with near-total destruction, no electricity, extreme shortages of clean water, food, medical supplies, fuel, and just about anything else you care to mention. Trump seems unable to grasp these larger perspectives, and continues to lash out personally against those who have criticized his administration’s response to the disaster, instead of directly addressing the issues.
Saturday, Trump tweeted that Carmen Yulin Cruz, the Mayor of San Juan, has been “told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump.” He also said that people in Puerto Rico “want everything to be done for them.” These suggestions that the people of Puerto Rico are lazy, and Cruz is focusing on some kind of political crusade––while those people are engaged in very serious matters of survival––are absurd and borderline laughable at best, and at worst indications of some kind of serious and ongoing disconnection from reality.
Saturday’s news included images of Mayor Cruz wading through waist-deep floodwaters in Puerto Rico, and reports that Donald Trump was playing golf somewhere in New Jersey. An imbalance not lost on Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, who tweeted the following message to the Donald: “She has been working 24/7. You have been GOLFING. You’re going straight to hell. Fastest golf cart you ever took.” Miranda then directed readers to hispanicfederation.org , a group heavily involved in relief efforts for Puerto Rico.
The tit-for-tat with Cruz began last week, when Trump first addressed the situation in Puerto Rico by inappropriately bringing up Puerto Rico’s “massive debt…with millions of dollars…owed to Wall Street,” then boasting that relief efforts were “doing well.” He further gloated that the efforts were “amazing”, “tremendous” and “incredible.” Trump’s Secretary of Homeland Security, Elaine Duke, commented that the efforts were “a good news story,” to which Mayor Cruz replied, “Damn it, this is not a good news story. This is a people-are-dying story. This is a life-or-death story.”
It’s obviously nothing new for Trump to personalize situations, or self-aggrandize, or spew school-boyish resentment and anger. But these suggestions that the Puerto Rican victims of Maria are somehow doing Trump wrong are a whole new level of Trump’s depiction of himself as Victim-in-Chief.
These last few weeks we’ve seen an impressive barrage of such personal bickering and pettiness. Trump disinvited NBA player Steph Curry and the rest of the Golden State Warriors from a previous invitation to the White House, after Curry expressed some concerns about meeting this president. Then came the speech in Alabama, where Trump called NFL athletes who kneel during the national anthem “sons of bitches”, and suggested these young men be fired for expressing their political opinions. (Trump’s statements were denounced by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, a vast majority of pro athletes from all sports, and most NFL owners, including longtime Trump supporter and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who took a knee on the field with his team last Sunday.)
Athletes are just the latest category of American citizens to denounce Trump, whose cowardly equivocations about Charlottesville were condemned by most CEOs of major American corporations, who walked off Trump’s business council in protest, to the heads of all branches of the US military. Which begs the question: who exactly is supporting this guy at this point, outside some creeps wearing white hoods and swastikas?
But I digress. This last week also saw North Korea’s foreign minister responding to Trump’s personalized insults aimed at Kim Jong-un (Trump called him “Little Rocket Man” and stated that Korea “won’t be around much longer”). North Korea declared that these tweets amounted to a declaration of war; more responsible agents of US diplomacy and our military hustled to clean up the mess.
Trump also boasted how his aimless attempts to overturn Obamacare were on track, days before the effort died in the Senate. Then came reports that several members of Trump’s inner circle have been using their personal email accounts to conduct official White House business, which of course was one of Trump’s main criticisms of Hillary Clinton during the presidential campaign.
The wheels are coming off. And our sitting president seems to sum everything up with the notion that some mean folks out there are being “nasty to Trump.” The fair question is, are Trump’s histrionics strategic attempts to misdirect us from paying attention to how badly things are really going, or is our Victim-in-Chief really as clueless, emotionally immature and utterly unstable as he appears?