Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.
“The job that’s been done here is really nothing short of a miracle,” Donald Trump said early Tuesday during his trip to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico. Coming from someone else, those words might have meant something. But from this president, it was just more empty babble meant to distract the world from noticing how poorly his administration has handled a crisis. (Trump is just haphazardly throwing around the word “miracle” these days, a word he also used to describe the Las Vegas mass shooting. Someone should tell him that “miracle” doesn’t mean what he thinks it means.)
Trump’s primary goal in Puerto Rico has been to zing San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, whose pleas for help shined an unblinking light on this White House’s ineptitude. Oxfam America is now stepping in to fill the gaps in Trump’s woefully “inadequate” response. A German company is sending renewable power storage systems, citing “a mission to support humanity during a climate disaster.” Trump, for his part, rage-tweeted and golfed.
Then on Tuesday, Trump flew to Puerto Rico to spend as few hours as possible pretending to care about those afflicted by the hurricane. In that short time, he behaved in ways that, while now familiar, are still horrifying.
Here are the seven most unhinged moments from Trump’s Puerto Rico trip.
1. Reaffirmed neediness and narcissism by making the situation about himself.
Trump praised and thanked Puerto Rican politicians, not for how they handled the storm, but for how much they were willing to polish the turd that was his terrible relief efforts.
“He’s not even from my party and he started right at the beginning appreciating what we did,” Trump said about Ricardo Rosselló, Puerto Rico’s governor. “He was giving us the highest grades, and on behalf of the country I want to thank you.”
While meeting with Jenniffer González-Colón, Puerto Rico’s sole representative in Congress, Trump brought up all the “nice things” he claimed she’d said off-camera, and then nudged her to repeat them for the press. The goal was clearly to get González-Colón on the record to counter the overwhelmingly negative reviews of the Trump administration’s performance in times of crisis (and every other second, really).
“It’s not about me,” Trump said, being sure to snub Mayor Cruz in his acknowledgments. “It’s about these incredible people from the military, to FEMA, the first responders.”
2. Fabricated lies about Puerto Rico’s truck drivers not doing their jobs.
CNN reports that roads on the island are covered in refuse from the storm as well as downed power lines, and that there remains a shortage of diesel fuel. The news outlet also notes that cellphone service is down across most of the region. In addition, many of the truck drivers on the island are dealing with the same suffering and loss afflicting most of Puerto Rico’s residents. Those factors have resulted in just 20 percent of drivers returning to work, according to Governor Rosselló.
Right-wing media sites including the Conservative Treehouse and Gateway Pundit seized on the issue—though not the contributing problems—and created fake news stories about lazy, greedy Puerto Rican truck drivers going on strike instead of delivering critical supplies. And since Trump collects his misinformation from these extreme right corners of the internet, he regurgitated the alternative facts as exculpatory evidence.
“Now the roads are cleared. Communication’s starting to come back,” Trump said, casually tossing off two lies. “We need their truck drivers. Their drivers have to start driving trucks. We have to do that. At a local level they have to give us more help.”
3. Tried to make survivors feel like he was doing them a favor by sending aid dollars.
Here’s what Trump said in a speech Tuesday morning, according to the Washington Post. If there is an award for World’s Most Charmless and Contemptible Person, this guy gets it. Hands down.
“Now, I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you’ve thrown our budget a little out of whack, because we’ve spent a lot of money on Puerto Rico,” Trump said.
The Post reports that Trump, noting the lack of laughter at his crappy joke, added, “Which is fine.”
4. Told Puerto Ricans they should be happier more people aren’t dead.
Trump rightly compared his own incompetent response to Hurricane Maria to George W. Bush’s godawful efforts during 2005’s Hurricane Katrina. If the president were smarter, he probably wouldn’t have mentioned what we’re all thinking out loud—thus making his failure all the more vivid—but we’ve hit dumdum level infinity.
“If you look at a real catastrophe like Katrina, and you look at the tremendous—hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people that died—and you look at what happened here, with really a storm that was just totally overpowering, nobody’s ever seen anything like this,” Trump said, as if Maria were some kind of “fake” catastrophe.
“What is your death count as of this moment?” he asked a local official. “Seventeen? Sixteen people certified, 16 people versus in the thousands.”
Aside from the offensiveness of death comparison shopping, the figure Trump cites has remained fixed for five days. Vox reports that the Center for Investigative Journalism conducted an unofficial survey of island hospitals. There are “now an estimated 60 confirmed deaths linked to the hurricane and possibly hundreds more to come.”
5. Fabricated more lies about the state of health care on the island, just like on the mainland.
“The power grid, honestly, was devastated before the hurricanes even hit,” Trump said, pettily sneaking in one more dig at the island. “Most of the hospitals are open—or at least partially open.”
The U.S. Naval Institute reports that as of Tuesday afternoon “only 10 of the island’s 69 hospitals were fully reconnected to the electrical grid.” Trump decided just to make up a story about how the hospitals are doing because when he tells the truth, it’s through some unexpected accident.
6. Here’s Trump telling a survivor to ‘have a good time.’
Trump in Puerto Rico
He tells hurricane survivors to “have a good time.”
— Shareblue Media (@Shareblue) October 3, 2017
7. Tossed essential supplies at expectant crowds, as if he were throwing T-shirts at basketball fans.
Along with a can of tinned chicken and a pack of batteries, Trump reportedly picked up items and randomly handed them out, because why get organized now.
“Flashlights, you don’t need them anymore. You don’t need them,” Trump told the assembled group, trying to will the crowd into believing his version of events, instead of the observable fact that 90 percent of the island is without power.
He reportedly picked up rolls of paper towels and tossed them into the audience; just another day of an absolutely despicable person being astonishingly despicable because this is life now.
There’s video of Trump shooting paper towels into the crowd and it does not disappoint pic.twitter.com/KPfJ1AeAqk
— Caleb Ecarma (@calebecarma) October 3, 2017
Kali Holloway is a senior writer and the associate editor of media and culture at AlterNet.