WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 27:  US President Donald Trump speaks to the media after arriving back at the White House on Marine One September 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. President Trump traveled to Indianapolis, Indiana to unveil his administration
PHOTO: Mark Wilson/Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 27: US President Donald Trump speaks to the media after arriving back at the White House on Marine One September 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. President Trump traveled to Indianapolis, Indiana to unveil his administration's tax reform plan. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Now playing
00:53
Trump: Poor leadership by San Juan mayor
Stacks upon stacks of bottled water sit near a runway in Ceiba, Puerto Rico, on September 12, 2018.
PHOTO: Julian Quiñones/CNN
Stacks upon stacks of bottled water sit near a runway in Ceiba, Puerto Rico, on September 12, 2018.
Now playing
02:42
See untouched water bottles in Puerto Rico
SAN ISIDRO, PUERTO RICO - OCTOBER 15:  Uncollected debris stand near damaged homes in an area without electricity on October 15, 2017 in San Isidro, Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is suffering shortages of food and water in many areas and only 15 percent of grid electricity has been restored. Puerto Rico experienced widespread damage including most of the electrical, gas and water grid as well as agriculture after Hurricane Maria, a category 4 hurricane, swept through.  (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Mario Tama/Getty Images South America/Getty Images
SAN ISIDRO, PUERTO RICO - OCTOBER 15: Uncollected debris stand near damaged homes in an area without electricity on October 15, 2017 in San Isidro, Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is suffering shortages of food and water in many areas and only 15 percent of grid electricity has been restored. Puerto Rico experienced widespread damage including most of the electrical, gas and water grid as well as agriculture after Hurricane Maria, a category 4 hurricane, swept through. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:39
Puerto Rico revises Hurricane Maria death toll
title:  duration: 00:00:00 site:  author:  published:  intervention: yes description: Radio Isla had access to vans that contained water, food, medicine and hundreds of open boxes, many of them with reptile waste and in a state of decomposition. According to sources, the supplies were for the victims of the hurricanes.
PHOTO: Radio Isla
title: duration: 00:00:00 site: author: published: intervention: yes description: Radio Isla had access to vans that contained water, food, medicine and hundreds of open boxes, many of them with reptile waste and in a state of decomposition. According to sources, the supplies were for the victims of the hurricanes.
Now playing
01:24
Supplies sent to Puerto Rico found abandoned
MOROVIS, PUERTO RICO - DECEMBER 20:  A resident, whose home remains without electricity, watches as debris is removed on December 20, 2017 in Morovis, Puerto Rico. Barely three months after Hurricane Maria made landfall, approximately one-third of the devastated island is still without electricity and 14 percent lack running water. While the official death toll from the massive storm remains at 64, The New York Times recently reported the actual toll for the storm and its aftermath likely stands at more than 1,000. Puerto Rico
PHOTO: Mario Tama/Getty Images/File
MOROVIS, PUERTO RICO - DECEMBER 20: A resident, whose home remains without electricity, watches as debris is removed on December 20, 2017 in Morovis, Puerto Rico. Barely three months after Hurricane Maria made landfall, approximately one-third of the devastated island is still without electricity and 14 percent lack running water. While the official death toll from the massive storm remains at 64, The New York Times recently reported the actual toll for the storm and its aftermath likely stands at more than 1,000. Puerto Rico's governor has ordered a review and recount as the holiday season approaches. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:47
Possible epidemic in Puerto Rico after Maria hit
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
02:04
Suspected deadly bacteria cases in Puerto Rico (2017)
With hurricane season starting June 1, CNN returns to Puerto Rico to see if the island is ready for another storm. Nine months after Maria, 20,000 homes are still without power- and going into the season, many mayors are worried that even a small storm will plunge them back into darkness and repeat the crisis all over again. We witness desperate Puerto Ricans illegally and dangerously turning on their own power, and press officials for answers on what will change this time around.
PHOTO: CNN
With hurricane season starting June 1, CNN returns to Puerto Rico to see if the island is ready for another storm. Nine months after Maria, 20,000 homes are still without power- and going into the season, many mayors are worried that even a small storm will plunge them back into darkness and repeat the crisis all over again. We witness desperate Puerto Ricans illegally and dangerously turning on their own power, and press officials for answers on what will change this time around.
Now playing
01:05
Questions surround Hurricane Maria death toll
Guest: Mayor Carmen Cruz from San Juan, PR (Facetime) Anderson in Studio 73 / Control 71 (channel 67)   Please record CTL 7100 Switched Please record CTL 7103 Clean Switched Please record CTL 7138 AC ISO Please record CTL 7139 Splits Please record CTL 7140 Big Smalls Please record GFX 905 Cruz ISO
PHOTO: CNN
Guest: Mayor Carmen Cruz from San Juan, PR (Facetime) Anderson in Studio 73 / Control 71 (channel 67) Please record CTL 7100 Switched Please record CTL 7103 Clean Switched Please record CTL 7138 AC ISO Please record CTL 7139 Splits Please record CTL 7140 Big Smalls Please record GFX 905 Cruz ISO
Now playing
01:59
San Juan mayor: Trump showed terrible neglect
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
01:58
CNN anchor presses PR governor on death count
SAN ISIDRO, PUERTO RICO - OCTOBER 05:  Kids bike in an area without grid power or running water about two weeks after Hurricane Maria swept through the island on October 5, 2017 in San Isidro, Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico experienced widespread damage including most of the electrical, gas and water grid as well as agriculture after Hurricane Maria, a category 4 hurricane, swept through.  (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Mario Tama/Getty Images
SAN ISIDRO, PUERTO RICO - OCTOBER 05: Kids bike in an area without grid power or running water about two weeks after Hurricane Maria swept through the island on October 5, 2017 in San Isidro, Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico experienced widespread damage including most of the electrical, gas and water grid as well as agriculture after Hurricane Maria, a category 4 hurricane, swept through. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Now playing
03:36
Puerto Ricans repair power lines themselves
ricardo rossello
PHOTO: CNN
ricardo rossello
Now playing
02:13
Rossello: Hell to pay if data not available
MOROVIS, PUERTO RICO - DECEMBER 20:  A resident, whose home remains without electricity, watches as debris is removed on December 20, 2017 in Morovis, Puerto Rico. Barely three months after Hurricane Maria made landfall, approximately one-third of the devastated island is still without electricity and 14 percent lack running water. While the official death toll from the massive storm remains at 64, The New York Times recently reported the actual toll for the storm and its aftermath likely stands at more than 1,000. Puerto Rico
PHOTO: Mario Tama/Getty Images/File
MOROVIS, PUERTO RICO - DECEMBER 20: A resident, whose home remains without electricity, watches as debris is removed on December 20, 2017 in Morovis, Puerto Rico. Barely three months after Hurricane Maria made landfall, approximately one-third of the devastated island is still without electricity and 14 percent lack running water. While the official death toll from the massive storm remains at 64, The New York Times recently reported the actual toll for the storm and its aftermath likely stands at more than 1,000. Puerto Rico's governor has ordered a review and recount as the holiday season approaches. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:20
Study: Puerto Rico hurricane death toll near 5,000
A Puerto Rico Electric and Power Authority brigade work in a remote off-road location to repair a downed power transmission line in Ponce, Puerto Rico on November 29, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Ricardo ARDUENGO / TO GO WITH AFP STORY By Leila MACOR, US-PuertoRico-power-weather-reconstruction-hurricane        (Photo credit should read RICARDO ARDUENGO/AFP/Getty Images)
PHOTO: RICARDO ARDUENGO/AFP/Getty Images/FILE
A Puerto Rico Electric and Power Authority brigade work in a remote off-road location to repair a downed power transmission line in Ponce, Puerto Rico on November 29, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Ricardo ARDUENGO / TO GO WITH AFP STORY By Leila MACOR, US-PuertoRico-power-weather-reconstruction-hurricane (Photo credit should read RICARDO ARDUENGO/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:20
Puerto Rico suffers island-wide power outage
Blue tarps are still the only roofs for some homes in Corozal.
PHOTO: Leyla Santiago/CNN
Blue tarps are still the only roofs for some homes in Corozal.
Now playing
02:46
Puerto Rico 6 months after Hurricane Maria
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
03:47
Deaths in PR still attributed to Maria
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
03:45
Hurricane Maria evacuees living in FL motels

Story highlights

Juliette Kayyem: President Trump's response to the island will be what future presidents will try to avoid during crisis

Instead of people wondering if a tragedy will be the next Hurricane Katrina, they'll wonder if it's the next Puerto Rico, she writes

Editor’s Note: CNN analyst Juliette Kayyem is the author of the best-seller, “Security Mom: An Unclassified Guide to Protecting Our Homeland and Your Home.” She is a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School, a former assistant secretary of the Department of Homeland Security in the Obama administration, host of the national security podcast, “The SCIF,” and founder of Kayyem Solutions, a security consulting firm. The opinions expressed in this commentary are hers.

(CNN) —  

It is a difficult task to turn the memory of Hurricane Katrina into a quaint story of well-meaning government actors unable to save a city from destruction. President Donald Trump managed to do that on Saturday morning when he essentially blamed Puerto Rico and the mayor of San Juan, in a series of tweets, for the devastation they are facing. From his own golf club, Trump attacked rather than reflected and helped.

I am a homeland and national security analyst for CNN and for this op-ed page. I keep my emotions in check. Indeed, having been in the field for some time, having worked on many disasters, I kept my criticisms to a minimum, as I know how hard disaster management is. I saw the disturbing images from Puerto Rico, but knowing the dedication and expertise of the professionals working the disaster I believed there had to be an explanation.

For example, I understood that the challenges of moving commodities quickly on a devastated island is arduous – that the proverbial “last mile” to distribution is the greatest challenge of any mass mobilization. I had worked within the confines of the antiquated Jones Act, the law that prohibits foreign vessels from shipping to American ports, but understood that waivers, like the one that Trump issued, were readily available and the Act itself was likely not the cause of a slow response.

I, like everyone else, had seen the tremendous work of Trump’s homeland security team in hurricanes in Houston and Miami just weeks before. In some ways, I had convinced myself that Trump was a bit player in this tragedy.

No longer. A good man who has empathy, or even knows how to pretend to have it, would not make the unfolding tragedy about himself. A confident President would not accuse Puerto Ricans of wanting “everything done for them.” A self-reflective leader able to critically assess would question and push his team to send more resources and get the federal response moving. A strong Commander-in-Chief would know that his main duty is not to praise himself or lash back because of a bruised ego, but to use his global platform to provide two key needs: numbers (responders, commodities, ships, food, water, debris removal, etc) and hope.

Hope. It’s the easiest thing to do, to let Puerto Ricans, our own citizens, know that we understand their frustration and fear and we will not accept anything short of resolution.

And if it isn’t bad enough for the Puerto Ricans, an additional casualty of Trump’s defensiveness and vitriol are the first responders working the hurricane response. While his tweets Saturday morning pretend to defend FEMA and the troops – and White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders would later clearly try to suggest that the critics of Trump were being misinformed about the President’s support of the island – they do the exact opposite. In the field, federal and local workers are toiling day in and day out to get the job done; there may be disagreements, but in every tragedy, those divisions fall away and everyone works together to harness their collective expertise, save lives and rebuild.

Get our free weekly newsletter

Trump just built a big wall between them. He is good at that, even in a tragedy. He has managed to divide rather than unite. By calling out the party affiliation of a mayor – a Latina leader – he has put politics right at the door of tragedy.

It is dangerous, and it is historic. Not even President George W. Bush went down that path during Hurricane Katrina, a crisis that will no longer serve as THE metric for future presidents’ failures. In the years ahead, we will stop asking “is this the President’s Hurricane Katrina?” Instead, it will be “is this the President’s Puerto Rico?” Trump has moved the goal post. That wasn’t easy to do. Mission accomplished.