A True Moment of National Disgrace

On Twitter this morning, stung by criticism, President Trump attacked the people of Puerto Rico, all American citizens, as lazy and disorganized people who “want everything to be done for them.” I am cutting the verbatim text out of the tweets here.

“The Mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump. Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help. They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort. 10,000 Federal workers now on Island doing a fantastic job.”

There’s more. But I don’t think we need to hear more after these words.

Thanks to reporting from the big papers, we now have a general understanding of how this all unfolded. For a critical three or four days after Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, President Trump was away at his New Jersey golf resort, ranting about the NFL and generally not paying attention. It now seems that wasn’t merely a matter of optics and presidential statements. Critical time was lost and things didn’t happen. Once the scope of catastrophe began to become clear, Trump’s inaction began to generate criticism. Once that happened Trump proceeded to fold Puerto Rico into his comfort zone politics of grievance and narcissism. The focus shifted to Puerto Rico’s debt, ingratitude and – finally this morning – laziness and disorganization.

It does not discount or diminish Trump’s penchant for racist awfulness to note that a lot of this doesn’t seem to be by design or, perhaps better to say, forethought. It is more like reflex, in response to his own bumbling. Trump provoked his battle with the NFL out of a mix of personal, racist rage and desire to stoke up his supporters with a new white rights grievance controversy. This seems a little different. His own incompetence and indifference to his job responsibilities generated criticism and led him to make critical mistakes he could not undo. Once that happened, his own personality kicked in. The greased path to narcissistic injury, grievance and racist grievance political attacks was the inevitable reflex. It’s his comfort zone, his natural inclination.

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