Kicking off the 2018 hurricane season, President Donald Trump visited the headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to congratulate administrator Brock Long on the exemplary job he did handling last year’s hurricanes – only most would argue that FEMA’s response to Puerto Rico’s devastation was far less than adequate, let alone exemplary.
And now we have learned that the death toll far exceeds the official government count, climbing into the thousands.
The Guardian’s Richard Wolffe would like to see the Trump administration held to account.
“We really appreciate the job you’ve done,” Trump said in front of the TV cameras. “It’s been amazing, and you really have kept quite busy, I would say, unfortunately. We had no choice. We were hit hard. But you’ve done a fantastic job.”
A fantastic job of watching thousands of Americans die. Not in the high winds and floods, but in the disastrous aftermath, when Fema and the federal government were the most powerful people in Puerto Rico. A heckuva job, as George W Bush would say.
No one in the administration, Wolffe said, is willing to look at what went wrong and learn from their mistakes – not the least of which being the president himself.
“Disaster response and recovery is best achieved when it’s federally supported, state-managed and locally executed,” Trump said, reading someone else’s words. “You agree with that, I think, Brock, right? This is really the great model that we’ve built, and there’s no better model anywhere in the world.”
Trump and his Fema leadership are deluding themselves if they really believe a great model is one that leaves thousands of Americans dead.
Wolffe also lamented the lack of media attention in covering Puerto Rico’s continuing struggles – a media instead content to float from sensational story to sensational story as the weeks tick by:
The news media abandoned the island after a few days, when the Las Vegas massacre took place, and barely returned. Even though the real disaster in Puerto Rico took place over the many weeks that followed the hurricane.
When the Harvard study emerged last week, it was quickly buried under the mountain of coverage about Roseanne’s tweets. Because what could be more important than a prime-time sitcom?
Neither is Congress stepping up to the plate and asking the hard questions, looking to hold responsible those who failed their fellow Americans:
Republicans on the House oversight committee refuse to subpoena Fema to understand how so many huge contracts failed. Long has only testified once before Congress about the response to Maria. It’s hard to fathom how Republicans who were so fascinated by Benghazi can barely muster any interest about Puerto Rico.
Even more important than the election of 2016 is the government of 2017. It’s time we reclaimed our sanity. It’s time we focused on saving American lives, and honoring those who died so needlessly just six months ago.