Donald Trump turned his meeting with Puerto Rican officials into an embarrassing solicitation of praise for his poor response to the storm, while also slamming the island for the costs that it has incurred.
Donald Trump used his meeting with Puerto Rican officials to solicit praise for his administration's response to the storm, while also complaining about the money spent on recovery.
Trump held court in a hangar on the ground on the island, and almost immediately began to insist that his team be praised. He singled out officials, like Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Jenniffer Gonzalez, a conservative and chair of the Republican Party of Puerto Rico, to speak up and tell the media what a great job his team has done thus far.
The situation on the ground tells a different tale, and Trump has been criticized for a slow and inadequate response.
Trump then groused that the United States has "spent a lot of money on Puerto Rico."
TRUMP: Now, I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you're throwing our budget a little out of whack because we've spent a lot of money on Puerto Rico, and that's fine, we've saved a lot of lives. If you look at the — every death is a horror.
But if you look at a real catastrophe like Katrina, and you look at the tremendous hundreds and hundreds of people that died, and you look at what happened here with really a storm that was just totally overpowering — nobody has ever seen anything like this. What is your death count as of this moment? Seventeen? Sixteen people certified.
Sixteen people versus in the thousands. Uh, you can be very proud of all of your people, all of our people working together. Sixteen versus literally thousands of people. You can be very proud. Everybody around this table. And everybody watching can really be very proud of what's taken place in Puerto Rico.
His comments about the cost of helping American citizens rebuild their lives comes just days after his Health and Human Services secretary, Tom Price, was forced to resign in shame after flying in luxury accommodations at taxpayer expense. Price is so far, the only one of several Cabinet officials living high on the hog to leave his post.
The comments also come after Trump effectively took the weekend off to relax at his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey, where he was transported and protected thanks to American taxpayers. Even his trip to the Presidents Cup golf tournament cost America money.
Trump had also complained last week about the cost of rebuilding, suggesting that he will decide whether it's worth it to rebuild the devastated island.
...The fact is that Puerto Rico has been destroyed by two hurricanes. Big decisions will have to be made as to the cost of its rebuilding!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 29, 2017
Touting death tolls, as if it was a score at a sporting event, just shows how much Trump is desperate to make Puerto Rico's troubles about himself and a comparison with previous presidents. We have yet to see what the long-term effects of Trump's botched response will be on the Puerto Rican population, or how his administration will handle the massive effort that will be required for rebuilding.
Puerto Ricans deserve help from their fellow Americans, and their cause is far worthier of aid than Trump and his luxury Cabinet. His attacks and petty scorekeeping, searching for praise to stroke his ego, continues to reveal how frail and inadequate his leadership has been.