President Trump views Puerto Rico as a political opportunity, and not a humanitarian crisis. It’s why he keeps comparing it to Hurricane Katrina—because everything is a competition between him and some other object of his ego. He’s touting Puerto Rico’s death toll, despite the fact that government services are so debilitated that Puerto Rico doesn’t have the resources to gain a full accounting of their dead yet. Trump said “I hate to tell you Puerto Rico, but you’ve thrown our budget a little out of whack,” and then hours later, said of Puerto Rico’s Wall Street debt “we’re going to have to wipe that out. You’re going to say goodbye to that.”
In less than 12 hours, Donald Trump took up positions in line with both Paul Ryan and Che Guevara—likely in a scheme to alleviate the hit Trump will take to his budget in order to make sure that Puerto Rico stays operational (and if you think that Comrade Trump is going to get Puerto Rico’s debt wiped out, you are the most optimistic person in all of the world). For Trump, it’s not about helping American citizens, but getting a “win.” Everything this clown does in government is geared towards a PR victory for himself because he’s too stupid and vain to even imagine a world where some things within his purview exist for the benefit of others.
Nothing proves it more than his uncomfortable photo-op down in Puerto Rico earlier this week. The most infamous image was him shooting paper towels into a crowd like free throws—in an effort that seemed like it was designed to depict him as a humanitarian who also doesn’t give a fuck.
There was also the infamously craven “flashlights” quote.
But this exchange from a Washington Post report fully illuminates the divide at the heart of this for all to see.
The church is also distributing water purification kits, and a member explained the process to the president.
“Wait,” Trump said, “you put it in dirty water?”
“And then you can drink it after 10 to 12 hours,” she explained.
“Would you do it? Would you drink it?” he asked.
“Sure,” she said.
“Really?” Trump said, a disgusted look coming across his face.
“Really,” she said.
“Is this your company or something?” Trump asked the woman, seeming suspicious of the aggressive pitch.
“No,” she said, “I’m part of the church.”
“This is an interesting thing,” Trump said as he started to hand out the kits. “Try that.”
If Barack Obama had intimated that a church member was scamming hurricane victims, the religious right would have convinced the House to begin impeachment proceedings the following day—but because thrice-married Donald is such a good Christian, he gets a pass for this. This exchange is the purest distillation of Trump that exists. It demonstrates his intellectual illiteracy—that he can’t imagine a world where we can turn dirty water into clean—because this problem that nearly a billion people deal with every day isn’t even something that exists in his tiny pea brain.
It highlights his lack of empathy, as his instinct when met with something that challenges his preconceived notions is suspicion, even if the other person is a church volunteer just trying to help in the middle of a catastrophe. The inference hidden in Trump’s response is “of course she’s trying to make money off desperate people with her poop-water purifier scam, that’s what I’d do.”
You’d think that at some point he’d get it—that saying inflammatory things is a good campaign strategy, and governance is different—but that would require Trump to be a person that he’s not. The President of the United States is one of the most cynical, craven and intellectually indifferent people in our country. This is a stain that America will never fully get out of our national fabric.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.