Trump is not the problem in Puerto Rico

Steve and I have written about the efforts of Democrats and the media to convince the public that Hurricane Maria is “Trump’s Katrina.” Actually, it’s doubtful that Hurricane Katrina was “Bush’s Katrina.” In any event, there is no merit to the left’s attempt to treat President Trump’s response to Hurricane Maria as wanting, much less scandalous.

Glenn Reynolds explains why in his column for USA Today. He begins with this quote from former Navy Captain and disaster-relief expert Jerry Hendrix:

Puerto Rico is an island that suffers from its position in the middle of the Caribbean and its physical separation from the U.S. Its roads were in disrepair and its electrical grid was antiquated prior to the hurricane. The island has also suffered for years from ineffective local government and rising local territorial debt.

The Navy used to operate a large Navy base there, Naval Station Roosevelt Roads. I spent six months on the island in 1993, but when the island’s population protested the presence of the training range at nearby Vieques Island, the Navy shuttered the base, taking $300 million a year out of the Puerto Rican economy.

The absence of a base from which to provide hurricane relief is the result, I assume, of Puerto Rican nationalism. It certainly is not the fault of Donald Trump.

Citing Hendrix, Reynolds goes on to describe the substantial efforts of the Trump administration to prepare for Hurricane Maria. Large ships were dispatched. They carried large amounts of water, food, and other supplies.

But because Puerto Rico is an island and because its roads are in such disrepair, there were limits to how much could be supplied quickly, especially given the damage the storm inflicted on the island’s ports and airports. The problem was compounded by the fact that most truck drivers, about 80 percent of them, were unable to get to work. Thus, there were ships full of supplies backed up in the ports, waiting to have a vehicle in which to unload.

In addition, as Tevi Troy notes in an article for the Wall Street Journal, it was harder for the residents of Puerto Rico themselves to evacuate when planes and boats were the only means of escape. There could be no escape via long lines of cars, such as those we saw on Interstate 95 headed north from Florida before Hurricane Irma.

Reynolds also points out that Maria was the second hurricane to hit Puerto Rico and the third to hit the United States in the space of a few weeks. Therefore, many U.S. government assets were already committed elsewhere.

A final problem, not discussed by Reynolds, is the failure of San Juan’s mayor to work with FEMA. During an appearance on Fox and Friends, FEMA Deputy Administrator Dr. Daniel Kaniewski complimented Governor Ricardo Rosselló and many of Puerto Rico’s mayors. As for Yulin Cruz, mayor of the island’s most important city, this was his comment:

I can just say that the mayor of San Juan has not participated substantially in any efforts of the joint field office. That’s where all three levels — federal, commonwealth and the locals — work together to develop plans, to execute those plans, and to deliver aid to those in need. Other mayors have been participating. They’re connected to us either by satellite phone in far-off areas all around Puerto Rico, as well as being on site. . .in San Juan where this joint field office is.

Apparently, Cruz didn’t make it to emergency planning meetings in her own city.

The mayor of a neighboring town confirmed Yulin Cruz’s non-participation. And Debra Heine of PJ Media reports that a female police officer called a New York radio station in tears last week, complaining that Yulen Cruz was not allowing anyone to distribute supplies while Puerto Ricans were “dying of hunger.”

Instead of cooperating with the relief effort, Cruz has opted to become, in the words of another mayor, “the new face of the island in the media with her sharp criticism of the administration’s efforts.” She has the American left and the mainstream media behind her, but not the facts on the ground.

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