Will Trump make the same promise Bush made after Katrina?
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On Tuesday, President Trump will travel to Puerto Rico to survey the damage caused by Hurricane Maria and inspect his administration’s woefully inadequate recovery efforts.

He may give a speech, just as President Bush did in New Orleans after his administration failed miserably to prepare for and respond to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.


The question is whether President Trump will make the same commitment President Bush made to these American citizens — to fully restore and even improve their communities.

In 2005, President Bush opened his speech with a patriotic proclamation:  “All who question the future of the Crescent City need to know:  There is no way to imagine America without New Orleans, and this great city will rise again.”

He then promised: “when communities are rebuilt, they must be even better and stronger than before the storm.”

He dismissed any notion that the region should receive less support because it suffered from decades of poverty: “As all of us saw on television, there is also some deep, persistent poverty in this region as well.  That poverty has roots in a history of racial discrimination, which cut off generations from the opportunity of America.”

He urged the American people to come together:  “We have a duty to confront this poverty with bold action. So let us restore all that we have cherished from yesterday, and let us rise above the legacy of inequality.”

Acknowledging his administration’s failures, he conceded:  “Americans have every right to expect a more effective response in a time of emergency.”

He concluded: “When the federal government fails to meet such an obligation, I as president am responsible for the problem, and for the solution.”

The people of Puerto Rico are American citizens who deserve the same commitment from their leader, but President Trump has shown no such inclination to date.

Retired Lt. General Russel L. Honore, who commanded Joint Task Force Katrina, observed that this is “replaying a scene from Katrina.” Coast Guard Commandant Paul Zukunft asked the same question the people of Puerto Rico are asking: “Where is the cavalry?”

Yet, President Trump and his top aides have been spinning a web of alternative facts, claiming that their response has received “tremendous reviews,” that “we’re very proud of it,” and that “everybody has said it’s amazing the job we are doing there.” 

On Friday, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke said the administration’s response has been a “good news story.”

Stunned by this claim, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín responded:

“When you’re drinking from a creek, it’s not a good news story. When you don’t have food for a baby, it’s not a good news story. When you have to pull people down from buildings — I’m sorry, that really upsets me and frustrates me. … Dammit, this is not a good news story. This is a ‘people are dying’ story. This is a life-or-death story.”

Instead of acknowledging this deep frustration, President Trump took to Twitter and publicly accused the mayor of “poor leadership.”  He then derided the Puerto Rican people, who he claimed “want everything to be done for them.”

Instead of comforting these American citizens and committing to a robust rebuilding effort, he cited Puerto Rico’s historical financial struggles and warned that it is “in debt to Wall Street and the banks.”

Instead of admitting his administration’s own deficient efforts, he blamed Puerto Rico’s infrastructure and even its geography, observing: “This is an island surrounded by water.  Big water.  Ocean water.”

Instead of learning from the mistakes of Katrina — as our nation did in response to the earthquake on the nearby island of Haiti in 2010 — President Trump left work early on Friday to head off for a weekend at the Trump National Golf Club in New Jersey.

When President Trump lands in Puerto Rico on Tuesday, the American families who are struggling to survive there will want to hear one thing:  The American people stick together, and we have your back.  We will help you build a stronger infrastructure, and we will help you rebuild your communities even better than they were before.  

We promise.

Rep. Cummings is the top ranking Democrat on the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in the U.S. House of Representatives.