When it comes to President Donald Trump fulfilling his role as leader of the federal government, nothing he has said has been as awful as his Thursday remarks on Twitter that the United States might soon stop helping Puerto Rico — a part of our nation since 1898 — recover from Hurricane Maria.
“Electric and all infrastructure (in Puerto Rico) was disaster before hurricanes,” he tweeted. “We cannot keep FEMA, the Military &the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!”
The comments came as authorities announced that just 9 percent of the U.S. territory’s 3.4 million people had electricity, down from 17 percent, after problems at a San Juan power plant. More than three weeks after the hurricane hit, one-third of residents still don’t have access to safe water. Some are so desperate they’re drinking water from toxic Superfund sites. Complicating matters, the recovery effort became more costly when the federal government didn’t renew a Jones Act waiver for Puerto Rico, which means no foreign-flagged vessels can bring goods to the island from U.S. ports, only U.S. vessels with mostly American crews, thanks to an antiquated 1920 law that Congress should consider scrapping.
While the end to the waiver may be dubious, there is no indication that the federal government will abandon Puerto Rico at its moment of need. Trump’s follow-up comments Friday about helping Puerto Rico struck a note of straightforward solidarity, so Thursday’s tweets are likely inconsequential. But they remain appalling. Puerto Ricans deserve better. So do their fellow Americans.