If you took a moment to scroll through President Trump's Twitter feed this past weekend, you witnessed a glaring example of where his priorities appear to lie. As Puerto Rico grapples with what has been described as a "humanitarian crisis" in the wake of extensive damage from Hurricane Maria, Trump has posted at least a dozen tweets about the NFL and the police brutality protest that the president has interpreted as a lack of patriotism. In contrast, Trump has said little about Puerto Rico, even as its leaders and residents beg for help.
By Tuesday morning, however, Trump had clearly been roundly warned about the backlash against his lack of action on what some critics are describing as his presidency's Katrina. The president promptly stepped up his focus on Puerto Rico, promising to visit the devastated U.S. territory in a week's time and swearing in a mid-morning press conference to do all in his power to help. But while Trump did tweet about Puerto Rico Monday, he seemed to only have done so to apparently partially blame the region for its own destruction:
Puerto Rico, which was already suffering from broken infrastructure & massive debt, is in deep trouble..
...It's old electrical grid, which was in terrible shape, was devastated. Much of the Island was destroyed, with billions of dollars....
...owed to Wall Street and the banks which, sadly, must be dealt with. Food, water and medical are top priorities - and doing well. #FEMA
The stark contrast between Trump's focus on the NFL and on Puerto Rico begs the question: What, exactly, would it take for Trump to be as focused on a brutally damaged U.S. territory as he is with his war of words between Colin Kaepernick and other high-profile figures in the NFL? Twitter user Shauna had one idea:
Of course, this call for "black athletes willing to take a knee in Puerto Rico" is satirical — but its sentiment rings true. You only have to look as far as John Oliver taking out ad time on Fox & Friends to be aware that Trump is most passionate about the issues that are able to immediately grab and hold his attention. In this most recent case, this is the president's strongly held belief that a peaceful protest during a football game is emblematic of a lack of patriotism — and his ensuing head-to-head against the many athletes and public figures that have opposed this viewpoint.
By many accounts from a variety of press outlets, Trump is obsessed with his public perception and the news media, which he has crossly dubbed "fake news." In the midst of a wave of natural disasters, yet another looming health care crisis, and the now-notorious showdown between the president and the National Football League, less time has arguably been devoted to Hurricane Maria and its aftermath by the news media than was devoted to Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Harvey. It's no stretch to postulate, then, that Trump only became focused on Puerto Rico's emergency when the national media turned its gaze towards it.
Therefore, one can easily imagine that if NFL players took their protest to Puerto Rico, Trump's attention would be dragged towards the region with them — and, once there, he would be forced to become aware of the enormous damage done to the U.S. territory. It's not a viable possibility, but it remains an uncomfortable thought exercise.