Trump's Puerto Rico Visit An Opportunity To Reassure Critics Of Hurricane Response

All eyes will be on President Trump next week when he travels to the devastated U.S. commonwealth of Puerto Rico, whose hurricane-ravaged communities remain largely without food, electricity, and clean water ahead of his visit.

Trump was scrutinized by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle this week for his delay in waiving the Jones Act, a decades-old law that requires goods traveling between U.S. ports to ship exclusively on American vessels. Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Roselló had requested the waiver to better facilitate the delivery of basic supplies to the island, which was destroyed when Hurricane Maria made landfall as a category 5 storm earlier this month.

Democrats have seized on the disaster in Puerto Rico, claiming the administration has the power to bring greater relief to victims of Maria by deploying more troops, opening additional airports and bringing in specialists to deal with blocked roads and lack of power across the island. Failed Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton joined the chorus of critics on Monday, urging Trump and the Defense Department to send the Navy and its East Coast hospital ship, the USNS Comfort, to help with the ongoing relief effort. Officials ultimately agreed to send the ship.

"What you're seeing now with Puerto Rico is Democrats and a fair amount of the mainstream media is trying to recreate the Katrina narrative to hurt Trump," Republican strategist Ford O'Connell told the Washington Examiner. "The reality of the situation is the administration is doing what it can but because of the logistics and infrastructure in Puerto Rico, things aren't looking like they did in Miami or Houston."

"And a lot of Trump's political opponents are beginning to smell blood in the water," O'Connell said.

O'Connell suggested it would be wise for Trump to avoid discussing issues that preceded Maria during his visit to the island next week.

"I think it's a topic he should certainly stay away from even though the reality is that Puerto Rico's lousy infrastructure is one of the reasons why this disaster is so bad," he said, adding that Trump "has to be very careful" with how he discusses the situation so as not to appear as though he is blaming victims or lacks empathy.

Read more from Sarah Westwood and Gabby Morrongiello at the Washington Examiner

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