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Juliette Kayyem: Trump Has 'Failed Miserably' To Inspire Hope In Puerto Rico

La Perla resident Maria Antonia Perez Rivera looks on from her battered residence after Hurricane Maria, in San Juan.
Carlos Giusti/AP

President Donald Trump has come under fire for his response to the crisis in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

National security expert Juliette Kayyem said on BPR today that while the government is doing its part to send resources to Puerto Rico, the administration has not done enough to boost morale and communicate clearly to U.S. citizens.

“Where they have failed miserably is on that other piece of the responsibility of Donald Trump and the White House, which is empathy, which is hope, which is a sense to people completely devastated that your government is not distracted, that this is their number one priority,” she said. “The debate about the resources is clearly being seen in light of the failure of leadership.”

Kayyem explained that there are a few cardinal rules of crisis communications that the Trump administration has broken.

“If you’re a leader, especially a political leader, when people are suffering, you don’t compliment yourself,” she said.

Kayyem explained that leaders should focus on giving “numbers” and “hope,” inspiring those affected in addition to deploying resources. 

“My explanation is an explanation that should be coming from the White House,” she said. “What I can explain to your listeners is there is a process [for deploying resources] and you’re seeing the process. It’s always going to look bad — it’s a disaster, and we’ve never seen anything like this on an American territory.”

Kayyem also criticized Trump for dividing the country’s attention with the controversy surrounding the NFL.

“For four days he can’t even tweet about what’s going on in Puerto Rico,” she said. “Because he’s focused on the NFL, we’re focused on the NFL, and he should know that.”

Juliette Kayyem is a national security expert, founder of Kayyem solutions, host of the SCIF podcast and contributor to CNN and WGBH. To hear her interview in its entirety, click on the audio player above.

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