“We have done a great job with the almost impossible situation in Puerto Rico. Outside of the Fake News or politically-motivated ingrates,” President Trump ranted on Twitter. “People are now starting to recognize the amazing work that has been done by FEMA and our great Military.”
Cut to the Trump administration’s talking points, leaked to Axios.
A leaked internal memo from President Trump’s homeland security adviser Tom Bossert sent his West Wing colleagues dictates daily “themes” for how to spin Puerto Rico response, including the “bright future” that lies ahead, with high hopes that “planned hits, tweets, tv bookings and other work will limit the need for reactionary efforts.”
Axios was slipped this memo, which begins with a list of successful efforts that are not congruent with reports. The memo reads in part (my bold):
“I hope to turn the corner on our public communications and want to thank Hope and Jessica Ditto and Mercy and Sarah Sanders for all that they and their team are doing. Jessica is working today with DHS to put together a multi-department external affairs plan, with multiple Secretaries, me, Brock, and Mick with coordinated general and specific Puerto Rico themes and department level details. I recommend that today and tomorrow we use the general theme of supporting the governor and standing with the people of Puerto Rico to get them food, water, shelter and emergency medical care. Monday and Tuesday we can pivot hopefully to a theme of stabilizing as we address temporary housing and sustaining the flow of commodities and basic government services, including temporary power. After that we focus on restoration of basic services throughout next week and next weekend. Then we start a theme of recovery planning for the bright future that lies ahead for Puerto Rico. Planned hits, tweets, tv bookings and other work will limit the need for reactionary efforts.
The storm caused these problems, not our response to it. We have pushed about as much stuff and people through a tiny hole in as short a timeframe as possible.”
A lot to unpack here, even in just this short bit I’ve included.
1. No, it’s not the “storm’s fault”; if that were true, we wouldn’t have been able to help Texas and Florida, let alone Haiti. We quickly got help to Haiti due to President Obama and his team prioritizing it.
2. While all politicians and administrations seek to control the narrative and spin reality, this is leaning more toward propaganda and is offensive in the way the concern seems to be on the perception of how they are doing, rather than the Puerto Ricans and their worried families and friends.
3. President Trump waited for days to lift the Jones Act for Puerto Rico, which had been lifted for Texas, Florida, and under President Obama, hurricane Sandy.
4. More than half of Puerto Rico’s 3.4 million people still lack access to drinking water 11 days after Hurricane Maria hit and 95 percent remain without power, according to the U.S. Defense Department.
5. In the rural towns of Salinas and Fajardo, the vast majority of locals reported having no cell service on Friday and Saturday according to Reuters, and said they had not seen local or federal officials in the area.
6. The memo seems aimed at not just altering public perception, but also attempting to mitigate the President’s out of control twitter rants.
7. The bright future of Puerto Rico? Some Puerto Ricans are expected to be without power for months, according to reporting by Nick Brown and Robin Respaut for Reuters. The rebuidling will take years.
The old and vulnerable have suffered the most, “Few people in Puerto Rico have suffered more from the devastation of Hurricane Maria than the elderly and the infirm. Isolated from their families due to phone blackouts, short of fuel and water and at the mercy of nationwide power cuts, the old and those in need of care have seen their problems multiply since Maria shattered basic infrastructure across the U.S. island.”
Here is a little piece of reality. This is the Mayor of San Juan in the water helping her people as their President tweets rabid attacks on the people, the mayor, the NFL players, the media, and Democrats.
Cruz has been living in a shelter.
The Trump administration is treating a humanitarian crisis as a publicity problem, which reflects Trump’s personal approach to the crisis as shown on Twitter, where he whines about how he is being attacked while people are dying in Puerto Rico.
Here are pictures from Puerto Rico:
Ms. Jones is the editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.