- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 27, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

They’re hoping for “deja vu all over again,” as Yogi Berra might have said. Liberals looking for a silver bullet to take down a president they can’t stand are hoping they’ve found it in the administration’s response to Hurricane Maria. After all, they found one in President George W. Bush’s perceived bungling of the Hurricane Katrina relief effort in 2005 and used it to almost terminally undermine his popularity.

Exploiting the Trump administration response to Maria may prove more difficult than they hope, however, as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the administration are doing not just a better job, but a much, much better job today than the Bush administration did then. Liberal pundits, not deterred by mere facts, are almost unanimously suggesting that consistent with their ongoing belief that President Trump is an insensitive racist who simply doesn’t care about Puerto Rico. They see his criticism of NFL players who “diss” the National Anthem and the flag as proof of all this because if he really cared about Puerto Rico, he wouldn’t be tweeting about the NFL.

Mr. Trump’s critics are similarly outraged that he dared mention the island’s fiscal and budget crisis as a complicating factor that has to be dealt with to facilitate the rebuilding Puerto Rico’s infrastructure. Anyone familiar with Puerto Rico’s plight knows that this is dead-on accurate. Indeed, experts have been warning for years that the island’s electrical infrastructure is so old, weak and badly maintained that any storm could wipe it out. Restoring power is going to be very difficult and it is essential that the Trump administration recognize the difficulties our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico face. It’s why FEMA and the military immediately dispatched experts to the island to help determine just how and how soon power can be restored, relying on a system that doesn’t work very well in the best of times.

There are folks who will believe almost anything negative about the current administration, but to relive their past success, liberals are simply lying. The administration’s response to the humanitarian crisis that struck Puerto Rico has been quick and massive. Within days, FEMA and the Defense Department had more than 10,000 logistics experts on the island, supplies and food were being flown in, and mainland experts were working to re-establish communications with areas cut off by the storm.

After earlier accurately observing the total breakdown of the island’s communication’s infrastructure, one media report criticized the Trump response for taking several days to contact some local officials outside San Juan. Rescuers were trying to reach them and the officials were trying to contact the capital city, but both found communication impossible.

It is going to be quite a while before services are restored in Puerto Rico and emergency aid will continue to be needed, but those on the ground believe, in contrast to anti-Trump activists outside Puerto Rico and in the media, that the Trump administration and FEMA are doing a pretty good job.

Earlier this week, Puerto Rico’s governor was asked by a National Public Radio reporter how he would assess the administration’s response to Maria. The reporter may have been hoping for a different response, but Gov. Ricardo Rossello, who lines up nationally with Democrats, was having none of it. He said, “We are very grateful for the administration. They have responded quickly. The president has been very attentive to the situation, personally calling me several times. FEMA and the FEMA director have been here in Puerto Rico twice. As a matter of fact, they were here with us today, making sure that all the resources in FEMA were working in conjunction with the central government. We have been working together. We have been getting results.”

San Juan’s mayor has also praised the administration for its quick response and for the advance planning that had to have been behind the ability to respond as quickly as it did, and the island’s non-voting delegate in Congress agrees. Resident Commissioner Jennifer Gonzalez told a Politico reporter on Monday, “This is the first time we got this type of federal coordination.”

Based on what’s really been happening, Mr. Trump’s critics will not find their silver bullet in the wreckage of Puerto Rico — and would be better off trying to help rather than politicize this human tragedy.

• David A. Keene is editor at large at The Washington Times.

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