With a major hurricane -- “the storm of a lifetime,” the meteorologists call it -- about to slam into the Carolinas, forcing the largest evacuation in U.S. history, President Trump is focused like a laser on what matters most:
Thousands of American lives are at risk at this moment. Well over a million have been forced to leave their homes, fleeing into the interior and heartsick about what they might find when they get the chance to return. First responders at the local, state and national level are gearing up to save lives and ease the aftermath. And the president of the United States, the man supposedly leading and coordinating them, has chosen this moment to relitigate the impact of a storm from a year ago, to ensure that he gets the personal credit that he thinks he deserves.
He’s also nuts. The updated Puerto Rico death toll of 2,975 is not a number concocted by Democrats to embarrass him. Some facts in this world exist independent of their impact on Donald J. Trump. In this case, the new estimate is the product of scientists and researchers using a simple three-step process.
1. Determine the number of people historically expected to die in a certain period in Puerto Rico.
2.) Take the number of people who DID die in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.
3.) Subtract Number 1 from Number 2, and you have a hurricane death toll of almost 3,000 people. That’s how many more deaths the island recorded above the normal level.
This is not, in other words, a controversial number or finding. In the end it’s just basic arithmetic -- addition and subtraction -- yet based on nothing but his own neediness, Trump refuses to accept it. It’s an all-too-familiar pattern. Once again, he attempts to twist reality until it conforms to his thoughts because he will never alter those thoughts to conform to reality. The world is always, always what he wishes it to be, and in that world the nuclear threat from North Korea has been ended and Vladimir Putin is America’s friend and just 20 or so people died in Puerto Rico.
Now we have that same self-deluded man promising us that the U.S. emergency response system is fully prepared and capable of dealing with the devastation that Hurricane Florence is about to inflict. I certainly hope that proves to be true. But if it does perform well, it will have nothing to do with the narcissist sitting in the White House, obsessed not by what’s about to happen to so many of our fellow citizens but whether he gets credit or blame. Instead, it will be a tribute to career government professionals -- the people to whom Trump recently refused to give a cost-of-living raise, seemingly out of spite -- and to a system capable of operating more or less on auto-pilot.