“We saved a lot of lives.”
Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical left and Islamic terrorism.
“We saved a lot of lives.”
That was President Trump’s message in Puerto Rico. The President and the First Lady were there to acknowledge the amazing work being done by the people saving lives in Puerto Rico.
15 minutes after President Trump and Melania landed at Muiz Air National Guard Base, Comfort arrived.
The United States Navy’s Comfort is a massive hospital ship. The revamped oil supertanker that’s a little shorter than an aircraft carrier has 1,000 beds, a dozen operating rooms and hosts one of the largest trauma facilities in the country.
It arrived in New York after 9/11, in New Orleans after Katrina and now it’s in San Juan.
Hillary Clinton had shrilly tweeted that President Trump should send the USNS Comfort to Puerto Rico “now”. It was more cynical grandstanding from a failed politician seeking to exploit a tragedy. The Comfort is a big ship. Her activation time is five days. Most of the time the ship operates with a skeleton crew of only 50. When the order is given, her unique mix of civilian mariners and Navy medical personnel, have to begin the process of getting her massive facilities fully stocked and ready to get underway. And then the Comfort’s crew can expand all the way up to 1,200 personnel.
The Comfort has arrived in San Juan with 500 medics to help, heal and treat a variety of injuries.
Under Obama, the Comfort was a dysfunctional mess. But the Comfort has new leadership and is there ready to help. Because the Comfort is so big and Puerto Rico is so battered, she’ll be a mile off shore and casualties will have to be flown in by helicopter. And since she has no helicopters, they’ll have to come from Muiz. These are the things that the professionals running the White House’s relief effort understand. And that the media and politicians like Hillary trying to exploit human suffering, don’t.
President Trump understands that. It’s why he didn’t rush into Houston or San Juan. Before Trump or Comfort can arrive at a beleaguered area, the first wave has to go in and do their jobs.
At Muiz Air National Guard Base, President Trump shook hands with the people holding down the fort. The Air National Guard had gotten air traffic control back online. Before that, only six airplanes were able to take off every hour which made ferrying in supplies a challenge. Now forty flights an hour can take off and land.
"I've never seen people working so hard in my life,” President Trump praised first responders.
“When you have men and women that have worked so hard and so long, and many of them came from two other catastrophic hurricanes. They came from Texas, they came from Louisiana, they came from Florida, and there was no -- how many nights' rest have you gotten? Zero in the last month, right?”
“This is day 43,” came the response.
Restoring air traffic control is one of those unglamorous jobs that reporters who spend half their time at airport lounges without thinking about what makes it possible for them to take off, take for granted. Instead of showing any interest in the men and women who kept Muniz going, fueling her generators when the power went out, and restoring communications, they focused on what truly mattered.
When the President and First Lady flew to Houston, the media spent more time on her shoes than on the victims of the disaster. This time around, Melania came under attack for wearing Timberland boots.
But while the media was complaining about Melania’s boots, President Trump was meeting the boots on the ground. Long before the Comfort could arrive, the USS Kearsarge was already on its way.
The USS Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group had delivered 52,000 pounds of supplies and conducted 144 airlifts in Puerto Rico. The Kearsarge can carry 1,200 personnel. It’s a big ship with a big mission. Personnel from the Kearsarge had reoccupied the old Roosevelt Roads base that Puerto Rican nationalist protesters and their leftist allies in the United States had forced the Navy to abandon.
While politicians took potshots on Twitter, the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit was clearing roads and bringing in fuel to power the generators for an island that is largely without power. Kearsarge and the 26th had gone from providing aid in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, then Irma and now Maria. Last month, the men of the 26th were helping out in Key West. Now they’re in Puerto Rico.
And President Trump and Melania landed on the USS Kearsarge to thank them for a job well done.
700 Marines came aboard the Kearsarge. They landed on the beaches because they couldn’t use the ports. And they quickly got to work. Opening ports and restoring airfields made it possible for big ships and more planes to come in. And they can bring in more supplies. Vessels that serve as platforms for helicopters can help bring relief supplies deeper into Puerto Rico. Then roads have to be repaired, generators set up and a thousand other things have to be done until, step by step, life returns to normal.
“There are no docks,” President Trump noted, praising the Navy, “We're just in the process of opening them up. They were just devastated. But there are no docks, no nothing. And the way you got this stuff on shore is incredible.”
On the USS Kearsarge, President Trump was briefed on what it takes to actually provide relief to Puerto Rico from the men and women who have been working hard to do just that. He also met with Governor Mapp of the United States Virgin Islands on the Kearsarge. And he met with Governor Ricardo Rosello at Calvary Chapel. Though Rosello was an Obama delegate and had cut an ad for Hillary, he was gracious and grateful, even while San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz tried to make it about her agenda. Again.
“The job that's been done here is really nothing short of a miracle," President Trump said.
He compared the aftermath to Katrina and told Governor Rossello, “You can be proud.”
“I want to personally thank you, Mr. President, because over the course of the past week you have called essentially every day to make sure we have what we need, to make sure that the resources are over here,” Governor Rossello said.
“And I want to let the people of Puerto Rico and the people on the United States know that you have always responded to us.”
President Trump reviewed the men and women who had been laboring to bring relief to Puerto Rico. And he personally handed out supplies to storm victims.
“It’s not about me,” President Trump emphasized. “It’s about these incredible people from the military, from FEMA, the first responders.”
Storms come from time to time. And this is not the first time that Puerto Rico has been left devastated, without power or drinking water. And it’s not the first time that the best of us come to restore power, to repair and rebuild, to work day and night so that hospitals and schools can open, so that roads can be cleared and the lights can come on. Even as the Democrats exploit this tragedy for cheap shots, we should, like President Trump, recognize the incredible people who came to help Puerto Rico.