The Trump administration has handled the federal response to three consecutive devastating hurricanes quite well -- earning high marks in Texas and Florida, and pushing back against criticisms over Puerto Rico, many of which are either about personality disputes or are substantively unfair. Most objectionable was the president's unseemly war of words with the Mayor of San Juan. Sure, she appears to be a hardcore leftist and a bit of a grandstanding showboat who's given to overwrought hyperbole. But Trump and the White House would have been wiser to focus on the task at hand while leaving those criticisms to surrogates, allies, or even outside observers like this neighboring city's mayor:
The mayor of a Puerto Rican city that sits next to San Juan praised the administration's help Saturday night, and chided the "politics" of San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, who has been criticizing President Trump. In an interview with Secrets, Guaynabo Mayor Angel Perez Otero said that in several meetings with FEMA and U.S. military officials about the recovery effort, Yulin Cruz has been absent. "I've seen other mayors participating. She's not," said Perez Otero...Asked if he has seen similar shortfalls and non-communication from the administration, Perez Otero said "that's not been my experience." He added, "There is a lot of politics in Puerto Rico."
Despite the bad blood, Trump praised Mayor Yulin Cruz in meetings with local residents on the island today:
"Your governor and your mayor have done, really, a fantastic job," Trump said while shaking hands with residents still stranded on the island.
His rave reviews of Puerto Rico's governor were even more adulatory, emphasizing the chief executive's eschewal of 'playing politics' throughout the crisis: "Your governor who I didn’t know, I heard very good things about him — he’s not even from my party, and he started right at the beginning appreciating what we did," Trump said. "He was tremendously supportive and he knew the level of problem that you had at the beginning before, and what happened with respect to the tremendous storms that hit your beautiful island...Governor, I just want to tell you that right from the beginning this governor did not play politics, he didn't play it at all. He was saying it like it was, and he was giving us the highest grades. On behalf of our country, I want to thank you." By going out of his way to mention the governor's lack of political posturing, Trump was implicitly criticizing Mayor Cruz, to whom he paid far less attention during today's events. NBC's Andrea Mitchell didn't seem too pleased with this treatment:
Mitchell is reaching here, especially given Trump's well-established reputation for rhetorically roughing up critics. Politely shaking Cruz's hand and saying nice things about her to Puerto Ricans during his tour is about as gracious and magnanimous as he gets toward someone who's been a loud thorn in his side. Trump may not deserve plaudits for not behaving like a boor, but he dialed back his usual modus operandi in this case, and appropriately so.