EDITORIAL: York shows up; Trump shows off
York residents turned out Saturday to offer a little of what Puerto Rico can’t get enough of in the wake of devastating Hurricane Maria: aid.
The York Spanish American Center held a relief drive at its East Princess Street location, gathering everything from canned food to bottled water to toiletries. The supplies will be forwarded not only to Puerto Rico, which was all but leveled by the Category 4 storm on Sept. 20, but also to Mexico, which is still recovering from a Sept. 19 earthquake that left some 340 dead.
Saturday’s collection drive was not the first example of York’s big-heartedness and generosity in the wake of a string of natural disasters. Many individuals have already responded to earlier calls for help, donating aid — financial and otherwise — not only to Mexico and Puerto Rico, but to areas in and around Texas and Florida, which were slammed by earlier storms during 2017’s relentless hurricane season.
Yorkers on Saturday were certainly doing more to salve the wounds — physical, spiritual and emotional — in Puerto Rico than was their president.
Already facing criticism for the administration’s tepid response to the disaster, President Donald Trump added (what else?) insult to injury by disparaging Puerto Rico’s biggest advocate for aid.
San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz has been tireless in rallying support for her nation’s beleaguered population over the past two weeks — both in the streets and in the media. She had been thankful for what assistance had arrived on the island nation — until she heard an interview Thursday in which acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke called the federal response a “good news story.”
Not so fast, Cruz responded. Puerto Ricans are dying. The island’s entire infrastructure has been knocked out. People are drinking from creeks, and food and medical supplies are all but nonexistent on much of the island. And this was eight days after the hurricane struck.
The nation desperately needed — and continues to need — more assistance than the Trump administration has thus far provided, Cruz maintained in a series of interviews, some of them emotional.
The sight of a brave leader standing up for hundreds of thousands of destitute American citizens would move most leaders to respond with concern, conviction and considerable haste. But Trump isn’t most leaders. In fact, he isn’t any leader.
His response was to belittle Cruz in a series of weekend Twitter dispatches from the comfort of his New Jersey golf resort. He said the problems stem from her “poor leadership ability,” and that the news media and Democrats are to blame for mischaracterizing his administration’s successful response.
Sorry, Mr. President. It’s not the media or political opponents who are screaming about the lax response; it’s those on the ground in Puerto Rico.
And they’re right.
After initial indications the government was on top of the situation, Trump became distracted by other matters — Twitter sniping at North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and the NFL, primarily.
It wasn’t until five days after landfall that the first senior administration officials arrived in Puerto Rico to assess the damage — itself a difficult task given the destruction of communications and other infrastructure. Also, it took the president more than a week to waive a rule allowing ships flying foreign flags to deliver aid to the island.
Meanwhile, the president has responded to questions, criticisms and calls for a more urgency with characteristic defensiveness and boasts that the relief effort is going well. “We have it under really great control,” he said Sunday evening.
Heckuva job, Trumpy.
The president was scheduled to visit Puerto Rico this week. Perhaps seeing firsthand the devastation sustained by the U.S. territory of some 3.5 million people will open his eyes to the extent of the need.
But there’s no excuse for picking fights with local leaders in the midst of a national catastrophe.
The silver lining is that, in an apparent response to Trump’s online digs at Cruz and anyone else questioning the federal response (“politically motivated ingrates,” he called them), donations toward relief efforts hit new highs Sunday.
Like Yorkers, Americans across the nation are demonstrating their concern for fellow citizens left displaced, pummeled and — literally — powerless in Puerto Rico.
It would be nice if the president would set aside his pettiness and join them.