By Nicolas Nerli
Since the start of the academic year Lewis & Clark, the world has seen wildfires ravage the Rocky Mountains and American west, hurricanes disrupt infrastructure and lives in the Gulf of Mexico and volcanic eruptions causing the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people in Bali and Vanuatu. As the world changes, so it seems, does the frequency of events.
Following the domestic devastation caused by hurricanes Harvey and Irma, President Trump and Vice President Pence received significant positive coverage for their swift and engaged responses. News sources considered left-leaning, including the Washington Post, the New York Times, and MSNBC all ran stories that supported the White House’s response. Briefly, it seemed that the president had promptly filled the shoes of commander in chief.
However, the Trump administration has faced blistering criticism over its response to hurricane Maria’s devastation in Puerto Rico. On Sept. 25, Trump acknowledged the Puerto Rican condition through a series of inappropriate tweets, calling out the territory’s “billions of dollars owed to Wall Street and the banks which, sadly, must be dealt with.” The island’s supposed “broken infrastructure (and) massive debt”, as Trump described it, further illustrates the President’s lack of interest and commiseration through these unprofessional words.
Then, on Sept. 28, a full eight days after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, the White House temporarily lifted the Jones Act, a law that requires all goods carried between two points in the U.S. to be transported on vessels built and operated by American citizens. For 10 days, foreign vessels would be able to assist in Puerto Rico’s recovery effort. The lifting of the Jones Act was a necessary and sorely belated action on the part of the President.
To add insult to injury, Trump attacked Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Twitter. He described Cruz as having “poor leadership ability” and claimed she was “told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump.” The President’s apparent paranoia surrounding perceived slights from other politicians has made his response to hurricane Maria a disastrous, insulting effort that rivals George W. Bush’s inhumane reaction to Hurricane Katrina.
Trump’s address of the Puerto Rican crisis, or lack thereof, will be a major mark in his historic presidency. While the island territory is not an immediate member of the continental U.S., a strong, calculated response to any mass emergency is always required from the White House. In fact, after the Sept. 19 earthquake in Mexico, President Trump’s tweet read “God bless the people of Mexico City.” Even with the border conflict, the President appeared to favor our southern neighbor’s well-being over that of U.S. citizens.
Attending college in Portland comes with its own risk of a natural disaster. The city lies along the Cascade Volcanic Arc and annual wildfires, another disaster President Trump has yet to adequately acknowledge, also damage the region. The Cascadia fault will imminently cause a massive earthquake and accompanying tsunami, possibly decimating a region of over 10 million inhabitants. With a disaster in Portland being a timely certainty, one must speculate the extent of Trump’s interest in the Rose City’s wellness since his current behavior has proven lacking in compassion and graceless.
It is apparent that the President, on behalf of the U.S., has failed to address and assist in natural disaster recovery, both domestic and foreign. As the world grieves the recent Vegas mass shooting, the President failed again to address the issue with sensitivity. It is constantly apparent that Trump is incapable of responding to disasters with any sense of decorum or leadership. If only he cared as much about disaster victims as he did NFL players kneeling during the anthem.
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