Another Trump Problem: Hurricanes
Almost a week after Hurricane Florence made landfall, President Trump visited North Carolina to meet with survivors and to survey the damage. Florence has caused billions of dollars in damages and killed forty two people, with more record flooding on the way. North Carolina alone harbored thirty one of those deaths, and access to certain cities is still limited.
On Wednesday, Trump walked through North Carolina’s streets and witnessed the destruction firsthand. One can’t imagine what it must have been like to see the aftermath, let alone from a position of power, from a position of wealth and control and hope. It seems to be a lot to bear, especially if your approval rating is wobbling at 38 percent.
Perhaps extending some sympathy toward Trump’s position may explain his public reactions and interactions during his visit. On Wednesday, Trump told two survivors to “have a good time” as they accepted warm meals. He also spoke with an older man whose home was damaged after a large yacht shipwrecked against his porch. When Trump found out the yacht does not belong to the man, he quipped, “At least you got a nice boat out of the deal.”
His observation has caused outrage. Many people think Trump is out of touch with reality. Some think he was being outrageously insensitive. Perhaps his comments were jokes–attempts at light humor to brighten someone’s outlook, to make someone feel better as they looked at the destruction of their house– that have been blown out of proportion.
Whether the remarks were meant to be light jokes or not is only known by the President. Unfortunately, his history with commenting about hurricanes is not helping the current situation. On September 13, the day that Florence made landfall, Trump tweeted a claim denying that 3,000 Puerto Ricans died due to Hurricane Maria, which hit the territory a year ago. The tweets referred to an independent report which found that an estimated 2,975 people died in Puerto Rico in the five months after Maria. Trump claimed that Democrats manipulated the numbers.
The impact of Trump’s remarks on Maria have devastated and outraged many people, especially those who were directly affected by the hurricane or who have loved ones among the 2,975 who died. While the death toll number may be controversial, it can’t be denied that the hurricane changed Puerto Rico, as hundreds of people were still without power as of this summer, and the storm has led to the creation of “The Maria Generation,” a generation of children and teenagers who have struggled mentally and emotionally to help their families recover, and to recover themselves.
Trump’s denial of the numbers is an insult. In light of this, many people are taking his remarks on Wednesday to be an insult, as well. Can our President take things seriously and recognize the weight of his words? Maybe his recommendation to have a nice day and to be grateful for a new boat were indeed jokes–but denying the facts surrounding the death of U.S. citizens isn’t. For now, we have to wait to see how Trump regards Florence. A year from now, he may be making more denials if the death toll for this September’s hurricane continues to climb.
Laura Myers is a lead contributor for The Daily Lead.