They say perception is everything. It can sometimes be a matter of life and death. Just ask Puerto Rico.
According to CNBC, “It has been more than a week since Hurricane Maria wreaked devastation on Puerto Rico, destroying the power grid and leaving millions without access to necessities. Emergency supplies of food, water and gas have begun to arrive at ports, but trucks cannot deliver these needed supplies across the island. Many roads are wrecked or blocked off, and the island faces fuel shortages. There has been intense criticism of the Trump administration’s response to the growing humanitarian crisis.”
Meanwhile, the Trump Administration praised FEMA’s relief efforts as video and interviews streaming out of Puerto Rico showed a very different story. The Trump team’s reality disagreed with the victims’ reality.
According to vox.com, “Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke claimed that a ‘limited number of deaths that have taken place,’ and overall, Puerto Rico was ‘a good news story.’ San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz had a very different take on the disaster. ‘This is a ‘people are dying’ story,’ she told CNN.” On Friday, President Trump boasted about his fantastic record in Puerto Rico: “It’s been incredible. The results that we’ve had with respect to loss of life. People can’t believe how successful that has been, relatively speaking.” Not according to Mayor Cruz. “If anybody out there is listening to us, we are dying, and you are killing us with the inefficiency,” she exclaimed. She later told NBC, “I’m mad as hell!” Trump followed with a storm of tweets Saturday, blaming Cruz for “poor leadership” and claiming the island’s leaders “want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort.”
The gap between the administration’s statements and Puerto Rico’s reality was wide, and Trump’s war of words with San Juan’s mayor effectively overshadowed any opportunity to, at a minimum, create the perception of empathy. Ultimately, even if relief efforts improve, FEMA and the president are sure to be roundly denounced for providing help–and caring–too little and too late. Your thoughts?