President Donald Trump and his wife who virtually went missing for a month visited the headquarters of FEMA on Wednesday for a briefing about the 2018 hurricane season. This was presumably to avoid the series of missteps, incompetence, and utter lack of basic compassion that made last year’s hurricane season so devastating which is best encapsulated by the image of Donald Trump throwing paper towels at Hurricane Maria victims. I say “presumably,” though, because everyone spent the whole time pretending like things went great in 2017.
This can be summed up by a quote from Vice President Mike Pence, who seems to have been struck with some hardcore amnesia and completely forgotten just how damaging last year’s storm season was (emphasis mine):
To have you assemble your entire Cabinet here at the outset [of hurricane season] I think sends a deafening message across America that we are prepared—just as we were last year, with those historic and unprecedented hurricanes and wildfires in California and elsewhere
Maybe Pence just forgot the very common understanding that Houston was unprepared for Hurricane Harvey—between the absence of a seawall or floodgates and dangerous housing developments in areas with high risk for flooding among several other factors, not much had been done to mitigate damage. He surely must have forgotten that 88 people died as a result of Harvey and that low-income survivors in particular are still struggling to get their lives back in order.
Maybe—and this is the most important part—Pence just randomly forgot about that recent study that found that nearly 6,000 people died as a result of Hurricane Maria, a staggering amount that is especially distressing given the official death toll of 64 people. Maybe he forgot the highly documented evidence that the American government treated Puerto Rico like an afterthought throughout the hurricane and beyond.
It should come as no surprise that, according to CNN, no one in today’s FEMA briefing so much as uttered the words “Puerto Rico.” (Trump did, however, spend roughly 97 hours thanking each individual member of his Cabinet for being at the meeting.) So if we are prepared “just as we were last year,” for hurricane season, then we’re fucked.