Trump's Puerto Rico Event Was Way Worse Than His Tweets

CNN/ Newswire | 10/3/2017, 4:07 p.m.
President Donald Trump faced a major test on Tuesday as he traveled to storm-ravaged Puerto Rico: Show the American citizens ...
President Trump is visiting Puerto Rico on October 3, 2017, following Hurricane Maria.

Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large

(CNN) -- President Donald Trump faced a major test on Tuesday as he traveled to storm-ravaged Puerto Rico: Show the American citizens struggling for survival on the island that he understood their plight, sympathized with them and was doing everything in his power to make it better as quickly as he could.

He failed. Hugely.

Soon after touching down in Puerto Rico, Trump said the following to government officials:

"Every death is a horror, but if you look at a real catastrophe like Katrina, and you look at the tremendous — hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people that died, and you look at what happened here, with really a storm that was just totally overpowering, nobody's ever seen anything like this. What is your death count as of this moment? 17? 16 people certified, 16 people versus in the thousands. You can be very proud of all of your people and all of our people working together. Sixteen versus literally thousands of people. You can be very proud. Everybody around this table and everybody watching can really be very proud of what's taken place in Puerto Rico."

Where to begin????

How about that suggesting that what happened in Puerto Rico -- an entire island devastated, huge swaths without power, food and water in short supply -- wasn't a "real" catastrophe because not that many people died?

Or, what about using death count as a talking point? Yes, it's true that far more people died in Katrina (1,800+) than did in Maria (16). But, for the families of the 16 who died, that loss is no less heart-breaking. Loss of life is loss of life. And we're not even dealing with the thousands of people whose lives have been fundamentally altered, forever, as a result of this storm -- for whom things will never be the same and may well be far, far worse.

"Proud" is not the right word for how people should -- or do -- feel. It's not even close.

It's the opposite of empathy. Instead of mourning with and for those who lost their lives, Trump is using those who lost their lives as a way to make a broader argument that the media's criticism of him is unfair and biased.

See, I told you I was doing a great job, Trump was saying. Everyone here thinks so!

Me, me, me, me.

While Trump's comments about the relatively small number of deaths will draw the most attention -- and rightly so -- there's so much else in Trump's relatively brief comments that speaks to the fact that he lacks the empathy gene. Among them:

* "It's a great trip. Your weather is second to none but every once in a while you get hit. And you really got hit."

Your weather is second to none? The country has literally been leveled by a hurricane.

* "You've thrown our budget a little out of whack. We've spent a lot of money on Puerto Rico."