In an 11-hour period beginning at 7:19 a.m. and ending at 6:46 p.m. Saturday, the President of the United States ripped off 18 – yes, 18! – tweets dealing with the dire situation in Puerto Rico following the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria.
What’s more remarkable than Donald Trump – aka the commander in chief, aka the most most powerful person in the country – tapping out 18 tweets on a single subject in less than 12 hours is the tone of those tweets: Negative, defensive and dark.
It all began with Trump’s slashing attack on San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, who has become the face of the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico – thanks in no small part to her interview Friday on CNN’s “New Day” in which she angrily denounced attempts by the Trump White House to present the situation in Puerto Rico as a “good news story.”
Trump, already worried about the perception that he and his administration have responded inadequately to the situation, responded to Yulín Cruz the only way he knows how: Viciously.
“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 began just after 7 a.m. ET. “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,” he added. “They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort. 10,000 Federal workers now on Island doing a fantastic job.”
At a time of crisis for more than 3 million Americans living in Puerto Rico, their President decided to pick a fight with a local official due to her frustration with the recovery efforts. Rather than send a tweet urging patience (or maybe not tweeting at all!), Trump decided the best course of action was to go after Yulín Cruz and “others in Puerto Rico” for their allegedly poor job in dealing with Hurricane Maria.
The words Trump used are telling. “They want everything to be done for them,” he tweeted. “They”? You mean the millions of American citizens in Puerto Rico? And the not-so-subtle suggestion of laziness in Trump’s tweets is just more of the same racially coded language that the President has trafficked in since the day he announced his campaign.
Had Trump sent only those three tweets hitting Yulín Cruz, it would have been a bad – but not atypical – day for him. But, he didn’t stop there. Not even close.
Trump spent the next eight(!) hours tweeting a series of attacks against the so-called “fake news” media for allegedly misrepresenting the actions of his administration in Puerto Rico.
“Fake News CNN and NBC are going out of their way to disparage our great First Responders as a way to ‘get Trump,’” he tweeted in one. “Not fair to FR or effort!”
“The Fake News Networks are working overtime in Puerto Rico doing their best to take the spirit away from our soldiers and first R’s. Shame!,” went another.
Trump provided no evidence for his claims. Or, really, explained what he meant by them. CNN, for its part, has provided significant coverage of the recovery efforts – highlighting both stories of inspiration and the real struggles of many on the island to cope with the lack of electricity and increasing shortages of water and food. A number of correspondents are on the ground in Puerto Rico – including Anderson Cooper and Bill Weir – documenting the situation firsthand.
None of that comes even close to Trump’s claim that the news networks are working to “disparage our great First Responders” or that the media is “doing their best to take the spirit away from our soldiers.”
What Trump is doing – in his attacks on Yulín Cruz and the media – is trying to divide the country as a way to deflect blame for his administration’s performance.
“They” are lazy and want everything done for them. “They” are being nasty because Democrats told them to. “They” aren’t rooting for our first responders. “They” are trying to convince people that our soldiers aren’t doing a good job.
Trump’s willingness to divide, to turn every situation in which he is questioned or criticized into an “us” vs “them” is well documented by now. The 2016 election was an 18-month master class in how to divide the country for your own political gain. Trump’s handling of the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, and his deliberate decision to pick a fight with (mostly black) NFL players over the national anthem illustrate that same perpetual need to divide.
That default divisiveness makes Trump different than every person who has held the office before him. For the 43 previous presidents, their ultimate goal was to find ways to remind people in the country of our common humanity, to take the high road, to appeal to our better angels. Many of them missed that mark – often badly – but it was always their North Star.
It is not for Trump. Not close. For Trump, the lone goal is winning at all costs. If that means attacking the mayor of San Juan even as Puerto Rico faces a historic recovery challenge, so be it. If it means blaming Puerto Rico’s debt and infrastructure issues even as people are desperately searching for their loved ones, well, that’s just how it goes. If it means trying to build the media up as a scapegoat to cover up a slower-than-ideal response to Maria’s aftermath? Consider it done!
18 tweets. 11 hours. Full of blame, anger and victimhood. Totally devoid of hope, inspiration or unity.
This is Trumpism.