Austin R. Cooper Jr.ColumnistsOp-EdOpinion

COOPER: An Apology to the People of Puerto Rico

Dear Citizens of Puerto Rico:

I apologize, on behalf of the president of the United States, to all of you for the disorganized and slow federal response to Hurricane Maria, resulting in the deaths of close to 3,000 Americans. I also apologize for the following tweets and retweets:

“They hired GWU Research to tell them how many people had died in Puerto Rico (how would they know this?). This method was never done with previous hurricanes because other jurisdictions know how many people were killed. FIFTY TIMES LAST ORIGINAL NUMBERS – NO WAY!”

“When Trump visited the island territory last October, OFFICIALS told him in a briefing 16 PEOPLE had died from Maria. The Washington Post. This was way long AFTER the hurricane took place. Over many months it went to 64 PEOPLE. Then, like magic, 3000 PEOPLE KILLED.”

“The story of Puerto Rico is the rebuilding that has occurred. The President has done an extraordinary job of cleanup, rebuilding electrical stuff and everything else. The people of Puerto Rico have one of the most corrupt governments in our country.”

“They say all these people died in the storm in Puerto Rico, yet 70 percent of the power was out before the storm. So, when did people start dying? At what point do you recognize that what they are doing is a political agenda couched in the nice language of journalism?”

“Three thousand people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the island, AFTER the storm hit Puerto Rico, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from six to eighteen deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, after a long time later, they started to report like really large numbers, like three thousand.”

“This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico. If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico.”

During periods of national tragedies, the job of any president, regardless of party affiliation, is to bring the nation together. And the nation, similarly and regardless of the political leanings of the occupant of the White House, usually unites behind the president. Until now, words from the White House during such tragedies have been sincere, truthful and comforting to all Americans.

For example, images of the explosion of Challenger are seared in many of our memories. Conservative columnist Peggy Noonan wrote these words, later delivered by the president:

“The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and ‘slipped the surly bonds of earth’ to touch the face of God.'”

Another moment occurred on Sept. 14, 2001, when President George W. Bush stood amid the rubble of the World Trade Center Towers, grabbed a bullhorn and started thanking firefighters and first responders. Someone in the crowd shouted that he couldn’t hear the president and he responded with these words:

“I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you. And the people — and the people who knocked down these buildings will hear from all of us soon.”

You, the citizens of Puerto Rico, deserved sympathy in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Instead after the hurricane hit, the Trump administration’s response to not only Puerto Rico, but also the U.S. Virgin Islands, was late, inadequate and racist.

You are a people of color, as am I, and many continue to struggle one year later. We are American citizens!

Yet instead of receiving compassion and sympathy from the president, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz was subjected to criticism and ridicule by the president for criticizing the federal response. Others were subjected to paper towels being tossed to them at a relief facility.

A mentally secure president can take criticism from others and not react negatively each and every time. Wealth does not teach culture, compassion, dignity, respect of others and class. That is taught in the home by parents at a young age. Or not.

Unfortunately, injuries and death are common occurrences in hurricanes. However, a death count that closely resembles those on 9/11 is not. Many died in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands unnecessarily!

Only a mentally, unstable narcissist would publicly question, then deny, the objective death toll of this tragedy, brag about the government’s response and accuse another political party of inflating the death count to score political points.

You deserve an apology from the president. Since he will not give one, I will.

Cooper is president of Cooper Strategic Affairs, Inc.

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