Hurricane Dorian continues to bear down on the United States, and President Donald Trump has found himself again in the position of dealing with potentially catastrophic effects of a natural disaster. Talking on CNN this Friday, Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) denounced Trump’s differing responses to the hurricane’s threats to Puerto Rico and Florida as racist. When the storm was looming over Puerto Rico — which of course is populated mostly by people of color — Trump complained about potential needs for federal response. In Florida’s case, he got on social media and in front of a camera right away to tout federal readiness in light of the dangers from the storm.
Beyer told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, when asked about the president’s markedly differing responses to the threats:
‘Well, part of it’s that Florida could be a swing state in 2020 and part of it is Florida is not an island full of people of color. We have seen him again and again pick on anyone where color is involved. I don’t really criticize his sticking up and trying to modify the impacts of the hurricane on Florida. I just wish that he would be even-handed when it comes to the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.’
Beyer added that he’s unsure if Trump has ever even acknowledged that the people of Puerto Rico are citizens of the United States, and he also denounced Trump’s plan to divert more than $270 million from federal disaster response programs to “border security” as potentially demonstrably illegal.
Democratic Rep. Don Beyer on the President’s differing tone on the hurricane threat to Puerto Rico versus Florida and Georgia: “Part of it’s that Florida could be a swing state in 2020. And part of it is Florida is not an island full of people of color.” pic.twitter.com/vJPI2ffoEF
— CNN (@CNN) August 29, 2019
This time around, Puerto Rico missed most of the most utterly catastrophic possibilities from the storm, but in the recent past, they’ve not been so lucky. They bore most of the brunt of 2017’s Hurricane Maria, which knocked out power over essentially the entire island for a time — and it took months and months on end for progress in getting that back on. In the ensuing tumult, the initial death toll from the storm’s effects went from under 100 to some 3,000.
Trump offered no systematic help to the island. He visited there for a short while, during which time he downplayed the severity of the storm and was caught on camera throwing paper towels to residents like it was a t-shirt giveaway at a sports game. While federal agencies did mobilize, they were marked by issues like staffing and supply shortages and mismanagement that left victims with sparse resources and incidents like millions of bottles of water getting left on a runway to rot.
This time around, Trump whined on Twitter:
‘We are tracking closely tropical storm Dorian as it heads, as usual, to Puerto Rico. FEMA and all others are ready, and will do a great job. When they do, let them know it, and give them a big Thank You – Not like last time. That includes from the incompetent Mayor of San Juan!’
Following Puerto Rico missing catastrophic effects, Dorian is headed to Florida, where it’s expected to make landfall as an at least Category 4 hurricane, if not higher. That means winds in the range of 140 mph or higher, two to three feet of rain in some locations, storm surges meaning walls of water coming in off the ocean of ten feet — or much higher — and more.
Featured Image via screenshot