Beverly / Flickr usns comfort medical ship...
Beverly / Flickr

When it finally dawned on Donald Trump Tuesday that his “tremendous” leadership on the Puerto Rico response was turning into a crisis, the White House quickly deployed the Department of Homeland Security chief and FEMA director Tuesday afternoon to assure Americans everything was all under control.

That’s when FEMA head Brock Long explained how difficult getting relief to the island was but promised that the federal government was on it. The unique circumstances, he said, are “requiring us to push forward a lot of resources, including the USNS Comfort which is on the way.”

Or not, writes Steve Sternberg of US News & World Report of the Comfort hospital ship:

The mammoth ship was docked Tuesday in its home port of Norfolk, Virginia, with a minimal crew, requiring up to five days to stock up and get underway. When reached by phone Tuesday afternoon, the commanding officer of the ship’s hospital, Capt. Kevin D. Buckley, said, “The Comfort is ready to go, if the call comes.”

Now that the orders have arrived, the goal is to stock the ship with personnel, food, water and medical supplies within 96 hours and get underway Friday. “There’s a whole slew of equipment that has to be brought on board to accommodate the mission, primarily medical supplies,” says the ship’s spokesman, Bill Mesta, of the Military Sealift Command, the civilian maritime agency that runs the ship, while the Navy commands its hospital facility.

If you’re wondering how this compares to other disaster response mobilizations—not well. Here’s a comparison to the urgency with which the ship was dispatched following Haiti’s earthquake in 2010.

Haiti’s earthquake occurred on January 12, 2010. The next day, the ship was ordered to prepare to depart. Four days later, the Comfort — which had been on shore power for painting and repairs — was fully stocked with food, linens and enough medical gear to supply the ship’s 10 operating rooms and set off from Baltimore and passed under the Chesapeake Bay Bridge en route to Haiti.

This isn’t simply an exercise in harping on the semantics of Brock Long. Donald Trump devoted the entirety of his limited intellectual capacity this weekend to pouring salt on the festering wounds of America’s culture wars when he should have been thinking about saving American lives in Puerto Rico.

That’s what the popular vote loser was doing while the woman who won the popular vote was already anticipating a crisis in the making Sunday morning and urging Trump and other administration officials to deploy the hospital ship. 

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.


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