President Trump leapt into action Monday after more than 20 people were killed in Alabama in the deadliest outbreak of tornadoes in years.
“FEMA has been told directly by me to give the A Plus treatment to the Great State of Alabama and the wonderful people who have been so devastated by the Tornadoes,” Trump tweeted Monday. “@GovernorKayIvey, one of the best in our Country, has been so informed. She is working closely with FEMA (and me!).”
According to the Washington Post, this was not presidential leadership at its finest – responding quickly to a disaster with all the government’s available resources. This was politics, pure and simple.
“After the deadliest outbreak of tornadoes in years swept through the South, killing more than 20 people and wreaking devastation in Alabama, President Trump promised on Twitter that the disaster relief would be swift, the best his administration could muster – “A Plus treatment” for a state in dire need,” wrote Reis Thebault in “Trump vowed ‘A Plus’ relief for Alabama. That’s not what California and Puerto Rico heard.”
“But elsewhere – in corners of the country also hard-hit by natural catastrophes – some leaders may have privately wondered: What about us?”
Why would Trump offer his “enthusiastic assurance that Alabama would get top-flight help” when he trafficked in “barbed rhetoric following horrific wildfires in California and Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico” and “repeatedly threatened to cut off federal aid and picked fights with local politicians, in one instance calling the mayor of San Juan ‘totally incompetent’”?
“The difference … the president’s critics say, is obvious,” Thebault wrote.
He then quotes not a politician from California and Puerto Rico, whose seething is supposedly the basis for this story, but a rhetoric professor at Texas Tech University who has authored a book entitled: “The Twitter Presidency: Donald J. Trump and the Politics of White Rage,” saying: “’The president really treats differently those people who have supported him in the past and those who haven’t. Not all lives are equal in the eyes of the president … The lives of red states matter and the lives of blue states don’t.”
Trump lost California by 30 points and lose the primary in Puerto Rico to Marco Rubio, but he won Alabama by 28 points, so he is taking care of Alabama in a way he would not take care of California or Puerto Rico, the story says.
The piece then quotes an Obama administration official of the Federal Emergency Management Agency saying, “The president has politicized recovery efforts in a way we’ve never seen before. FEMA needs to be as much of an apolitical agency as possible. It shouldn’t matter whether you live in a red state or a blue state.”
Trump did call San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz “incompetent,” but that was only after stories emerged that the city and territory had no hurricane recovery plan or assets in place itself and sought to rely solely on federal assistance and that huge stockpiles of bottled water and food and other donations were found rotting, in some cases outside in the elements, because the local government never bothered to distribute them.
This is not mentioned in any account of Trump’s ongoing Twitter wars with the mayor.
A story in the New York Times on Nov. 22 credited the Trump administration with both “quietly helping California respond to and recover from the wildfires across the state, including the deadliest in the state’s recorded history,” and even pointed out that, in the case of Puerto Rico, the agency had “to assume more responsibility, like delivering supplies, a job typically left to the states.”
As for California, the Times reported Trump approved more than $12.7 million in federal assistance for victims in three counties, helped the state set up a disaster recovery center – “a one-stop shop where residents affected by the fires can file insurance claims, obtain grants for food and shelter and register for other federal aid” – and ordered the Department of Defense to provide pilots to help the state assess the damage.