Legendary newsman Dan Rather slammed President Trump’s “tantrum tweet storm” attacking Puerto Rico officials Saturday morning, saying the president’s attacks on “the mayor of San Juan, a fellow American citizen dealing with a real-time life and death struggle for hundreds of thousands of her constituents on an island of millions in crisis, is not only far below the dignity of the office you hold. It fails even the most basic test of humanity.”
The president took to Twitter on Saturday to accuse San Juan, Puerto Rico mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz of being “nasty” to him and attacking her “poor leadership ability” a day after Cruz begged his administration for more help “to save us from dying.
“The mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump,” Trump tweeted from his golf club in Bedminster, N.J. “Such poor leadership ability by the mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help.”
“They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort,” he continued. “10,000 Federal workers now on Island doing a fantastic job.”
Did she have harsh words for your Administration’s response to the aftermath of Hurricane Maria? Yes. It’s called a reality check, and one that conforms to every firsthand account coming out of Puerto Rico no matter how much you try to deflect with your “Fake News” epithets. To take this personally is to put ego before country. And you also blame the Puerto Ricans themselves? That they want “everything done for them”? No. They just expect to be treated as any other American would.
I have seen more than my share of wretched desperation over the course of my career. I have reported from crisis zones where matters of life and death hang moment to moment in the balance between action and inaction, where communication is limited, and the sense of panic is building. I have seen the most steadfast of leaders feel the crushing weight of responsibility as they survey a landscape of almost incomprehensible need.
It does not take a saintly amount of compassion or empathy to feel for those who are struggling to stay alive, who are worried for the fate of family and friends, and who have seen so much that they have known and loved blown and washed away. You swore to “faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States” and that means a responsibility to look out for all Americans, even if they live on an island in the ocean, or look different or even speak a different language than what you think is America.
I worry that whoever has your ear has not adequately impressed upon you the gravity of this situation, or even the political price you are likely to pay (although that can be no where near the top concern at the moment). Or perhaps you have been told and haven’t listened.
Regardless, what Puerto Rico needs now is not rhetoric but help, not a bumbling response, but the precision and competence we expect of our government. I do not believe “blame the victim” is what Americans expect of their president.
The Trump administration placed Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan in charge of the military relief operations Thursday, but even he acknowledged on Friday that the Defense Department has not sent enough troops and vehicles to the island.
Democratic lawmakers also slammed Trump’s tweets attacking the mayor.
“Is your ego so fragile & your heart so cold that you’d attack a leader in the midst of a humanitarian crisis because she needs your help?” Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) tweeted at Trump on Saturday.
“You watch TV & tweet insults at their leaders from your golf club,” Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) tweeted.