About politics with Lisa Lerer: Florence and Maria

About politics with Lisa Lerer: Florence and Maria

Hello. Welcome to On Politics, your guide for the day in national politics. I'm Lisa Lerer, your hostess. If you live in New York, you have time until 9pm. in the primary. Find your polling station Here, and see Live results here tonight,

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As I wrote on Day 1 of "On Politics," we will not all be – Trump – all the time, over every single noise. But sometimes the president will say or do something worthy of deeper scrutiny.

Today is this day.

As emergency workers prepared for Hurricane Florence, President Trump decided to spend time fending off the casualties of another catastrophic storm.

Mr. Trump stated (on Twitter, of course) that 6 to 18 people died of Hurricane Maria last year, rejecting the Puerto Rican government analysis that the storm killed nearly 3,000. He Reproach made Democrats to increase the number of dead "so that I look as bad as possible".

As we have seen, when Mr. Trump feels his plate being attacked, he strikes ten times harder.

But there are exaggerations, distortions and wrong statements. Thousands of tragic deaths fall completely into another category.

It is really difficult to determine the number of people dying from a storm that has devastating effects on basic needs such as water, electricity and medical care. If a bedridden person dies on a ventilator because there is no power for their machine, is that a storm-related death?

In early December 2017, the official death census in Puerto Rico was 64. A few months later, several independent investigations, including one from The New York Times, concluded that the death toll was more than 1,000. In May, a study appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine with a figure of 4,645.

These divergent numbers are one reason why the Puerto Rican government has commissioned the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health to conduct an independent mortality rate assessment. They reached 2,975 dead, 22 percent more than would have been expected without the storm.

These numbers are necessarily estimates. There is no way to get a final count – not a "list" like Trump allegedly in his tweet. But these are our best impartial calculations.

Mr. Trump comes to use this uncertainty for political reasons. When he traveled to Puerto Rico after the storm, he compared the death rate to that of Hurricane Katrina as a measure of success, something that did not go very well with Mitch Landrieu, the former mayor of New Orleans.

"One can not rightly say that everything was successful when 3,000 people died," he told me. "The Commander-in-Chief needs to focus on Florence, we can talk about Puerto Rico next week – what we can not do is talk about Florence next week."

The irony, as always, is that what's good for Mr. Trump is not great for the Republican Party. Just look at Florida, a battlefield state with a sizeable Puerto Rican population that has exploded since the storm. (Puerto Ricans have the right to vote as citizens.)

Here is Gov. Rick Scott, a vociferous defender of the Trump administration, now running for the Senate:

Ron DeSantis, the Republican nominee for the Governor in Florida, won his primaries two weeks ago by riding a full tribute to Mr. Trump. But when asked about the president's tweets, he said he did not believe that any loss of life had been inflated.

Senator Marco Rubio defended the 3,000 estimate. Speaker Paul Ryan said he had no reason to dispute the government's estimate.

No one took a direct shot at Mr. Trump. But even the lukewarm republican criticism is notable as the party was reluctant to attack the president, and it seemed that they were facing a real political threat

As far as Trump is concerned, Republicans do not expect much from a political vote for the president.

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Preparation for Florence

With Hurricane Florence to land overnight, we thought it would be interesting to get a perspective on how it is to handle a big storm. So I called former governor Chris Christie from New Jersey and Mr. Landrieu.

Before the storm:

• Communicate clearly about the risk of remaining.

• Get the mobile number of the president, You want to be able to reach them directly.

• Have pet-friendly accommodation, "Many people will not evacuate if they do not bring their pets with them," Mr. Christie said.

After the storm:

• Restore short term normalcy, Open roads, handle water and restore energy. "Power is king," Mr. Landrieu told us.

• Find out what worked and what did not work. "Every storm is different, they are like children, there should be an autopsy for everyone," said Mr. Landrieu.

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