Choosing one’s battles wisely

Mr. President, even a street fighter knows when to pull punches

In an era of bareknuckled politics, there’s something to be said for punching back.

 

Famously, that’s Donald Trump’s specialty.

When the Bush administration was roundly rebuked for its slow response to Katrina – deservedly so – it meekly sat back and took the scolding. It shouldn’t have. The truth is, there was plenty of blame to go around, starting with the incompetent – and now criminal – New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, now serving a 10-year sentence for fraud and bribery.

Fast forward to 2017 and three consecutive monster hurricanes. With each successive one, the media seemed to breathlessly await stumbles by the Trump administration – wondering, even ahead of time, if this might be his “Katrina.”

They got no such traction in Texas and Florida, but found a willing complainant in Puerto Rico with San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, who engaged in a war of words with the president over the government’s response to Maria.

The mayor went on something of an anti-Trump campaign on TV, although another Puerto Rican mayor said he thought the feds’ hurricane response had been fine – and that Cruz hadn’t even been participating in aid coordination meetings with Federal Emergency Management Agency officials.

At one point, conservatives note, Cruz was airing her complaints “in front of pallets containing massive supplies sent since the hurricane struck.”

All that, plus Bush’s failed passivity during Katrina, seem to justify Mr. Trump’s return fire.

That said, the president may have overdone the attacks on the mayor.

Defending the administration against what may be unfair attacks is understandable. But we don’t need our leaders lobbing grenades at each other in the midst of disasters, when people need food and water and electricity. It’s not only unseemly; it’s unproductive.

There’s never been a wider gap between the skills and tactics needed to win the presidency and those needed to be president. As Mr. Trump demonstrated repeatedly last year, it increasingly takes a street fighter to win election. But once elected – and we realize Mr. Trump eschews this notion – it’s important to be presidential.

In 2017, that means – whether one likes it or not – becoming not only commander-in-chief but comforter-in-chief. It means not only sending aid but showing concern. It helps if you’re not waging war while doing it.

Many of us believe the comforter-in-chief role has been way overblown in recent decades. The media appear more concerned with how a president makes people feel than how well he or she runs the government. But that’s where we are.

With the tragic massacre in Las Vegas – where the president headed on Wednesday – and on the heels of Mr. Trump’s visit to Puerto Rico, the role of comforter has nearly taken over the job of president.

All this comes in the aftermath of Trump’s brawl with football. While we agree with the president’s stance against National Football League players’ disgusting disrespect for our nation, his tweets and comments only seemed to inflame them.

With a hostile media on constant lookout for miscues from this president – in some cases even before he takes action – it’s all the more important for him not to pick unnecessary fights.

Plenty will be picked for him.

 

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Thu, 12/14/2017 - 23:31

Rick McKee Editorial Cartoon