Goodman: The targeting of journalists has to end

At Least 5 Killed In Shooting At Annapolis Capital-Gazette Newspaper
ANNAPOLIS, MD: Today’s edition of the the Capital Gazette for sale on a newspaper stand. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

When I first heard reports of gunfire at a Maryland newsroom, my immediate thought was: all that journalist-hatred that’s going around. It’s caught up with us.

Admit it, you thought that, too.

The thundering from the president of the United States, calling journalists “the enemy of the people.” The finger-pointing at the writers and camera people in the pens at the back of his rallies, the crowd turning around to spew vitriol at the people who report the news.

The wish expressed, just days ago, by alt-right bad boy Milo Yiannopolous, in a text message: “I can’t wait for the vigilante squads to start gunning journalists down on sight” – which he’s now calling a joke.

It turned out that the man who killed five and wounded several others at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis was someone with a longstanding grudge against the paper. He had been convicted of harassing a woman who had been a high school classmate. When a Capital Gazette columnist wrote about the case, he unsuccessfully sued the paper for defamation and began harassing it – including making online threats to writers and editors.

Every newsperson can imagine this happening. Every newsroom has unbalanced people like this in its orbit. When I worked at the Philadelphia Inquirer in the 1980s and ‘90s, we called them “wackjobs” — almost affectionately, as if to kid away the latent threats they represented — and we had a long list of them.

What’s different now is, today’s wackjobs have the models of mass shooters to go by. The Annapolis shooter, if he didn’t think Parkland or Pulse sufficient, had the example of the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris, where two brothers attached to an Al Qaeda group shot 12 people to death for the crime of satire.

And because mass shootings are a contagion, we must assume this will happen again. There cannot be a newsroom in America that, upon hearing word of shots fired at a newspaper, did not immediately begin reassessing its security. Yes, that includes our own.

An undated photo provided by the newspaper shows Rob Hiaasen, an editor and a features columnist for The Capital in Annapolis, Md.
Rob Hiaasen

And there cannot be a newspaper in America where it did not feel as though members of your family have died. At some important level, all of us in this business feel connected, especially those of us who have retained our love and commitment to it for some years. I did not know the Annapolis victims personally, although anyone who worked at The Palm Beach Post 20 years ago has fond memories of Rob Hiaasen, whose personality was brought to life Thursday in a beautiful, mournful column by an old friend, Frank Cerabino.

Yet these losses feel personal.

We have become so used to mass shootings in this country – we alone among advanced nations – that we usually feel little more than weariness when absorbing the news of yet another one. It’s different when the victims are much like you. Just as no student or parent feels the same degree of security after schools are turned to battlefields and children to casualties, so today does no American journalist feel as safe as we did before colleagues were slaughtered Thursday in their workplace.

And in the background, I keep hearing that hum: “Fake news.” “They lie.” “They make up sources.”

Today President Trump, in a show of sympathy for the Capital Gazette victims, said, “Journalists, like all Americans, should be free of the fear of being violently attacked while doing their job.”

The gall.

This is a man who, using the biggest podium in the world, tears relentlessly into the honesty and patriotism of the reporters and news outlets whose job is to fulfill the ideal of uncovering and telling the truth.

And because the truth is often unflattering and threatening to this man, he has waged a three-year war against the credibility of journalists, just as he attacks the credibility of an independent judiciary, the FBI and members of Congress he can’t bring to heel.

No one has inflamed the present atmosphere more than he, this man who occupies the highest office in our land. He has set a tone which he feeds at every rally and almost every day on Twitter.

I am not blaming him for Thursday’s tragedy in Annapolis. But I do charge him with injecting a sense of hatred into the soul of this nation that journalists do not deserve and which — in a country with more guns than people — may all too easily turn into bloodshed.

All over social media, journalists have been sharing their thoughts. Some of the best came from a Sun Sentinel reporter, Ben Crandell, a former colleague of mine. On Facebook he wrote:

“There is not much money to be made as a reporter at a daily newspaper such as the Capital Gazette. There is no glamour, no prestige. There is only the benefit of knowing that they helped inform their neighbors about things they need to know, entertained them with a story they hadn’t heard, made them chuckle, or shed some light on the pivotal play that won the big game at the high school.

“There is no fake news at a daily newspaper such as the Capital Gazette. It would take too much time. Reporters there are only good at what they’ve been trained to do: Ask the questions readers would want asked, collect information, confirm the facts, discard information that cannot be confirmed, snap the facts together into a story that fairly represents what they’ve seen and heard, and submit the story to an editor, maybe several, who reconfirms the facts before publication.

“If there has been a mistake in one of their stories, they write an explanation with the correct information so it can be published on the website and in a prominent spot in the next day’s paper.

“And then they go home to coach the volleyball team, care for an ailing loved one, do military reserve training, volunteer at the church, see a band, drink a beer, cut the grass. They are not just like you – they are you.”

Goodman: Trump tells Philadelphia Eagles to stay off his White House lawn

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles with the Vince Lombardi Trophy after winning Super Bowl LII against the New England Patriots on Feb. 4.  (AJ Mast/The New York Times)

When have you ever heard of the president of the United States telling the Super Bowl champions that they’re not welcome at the White House? But, then, when have we had a dis-uniting presidency like Donald Trump’s?

Last night, amid reports that fewer than 10 of the Philadelphia Eagles planned to attend a South Lawn ceremony this afternoon in the team’s honor, Trump abruptly canceled the event.

Trump, keeping up the drum beat he started last fall, said the players “disagree with their president because he insists that they proudly stand for the National Anthem, hand on heart, in honor of the great men and women of our military and the people of our country.”

However, not one player on the Eagles took a knee during the playing of national anthem during this year’s regular season or playoffs.

That fact didn’t stop Fox News from airing images of several Eagles players kneeling, as if to illustrate the president’s point about unpatriotic players. In reality, the players were not kneeling in protest, nor during the national anthem. They were praying.

One of those kneeling Eagles players, Zach Ertz, denounced the Fox News segment as “propaganda.” Teammate Chris Long also slammed the network:

Fox News later apologized for “the error.”

While the Eagles player may not have taken a knee, it’s true that many strongly side with the protests against racial injustice and police brutality that were sparked by former San Francisco QB Colin Kapaernick — which Trump soon twisted into a purported test of patriotism. And many objected to the recently announced NFL policy to fine teams whose players who kneel during the “Star Spangled Banner,” which was followed by Trump saying that if you “don’t stand proudly for the national anthem,” then “maybe you shouldn’t be in the country.”

In Philadelphia, a city that voted 82 percent for Hillary Clinton, many heaped scorn on Trump for his handling of the situation.

Mayor Jim Kenney said that disinviting the Eagles from the White House “only proves that our president is not a true patriot, but a fragile egomaniac obsessed with crowd size and afraid of the embarrassment of throwing a party to which no one wants to attend.”

Philadelphia Daily News sports columnist Marcus Hayes wrote that size-obsessed Trump cancelled the event because, “in the end, he couldn’t stand the thought of another tiny crowd.”

The NFL protests have stirred no end of controversy. On Sunday, the Palm Beach Post Editorial Page devoted its entire letters column to letters taking passionate positions on all sides of the issue.

In my view, Trump has repeatedly and intentionally inflamed the situation by ignoring the players’ intent to protest police shootings of unarmed black men, and painting the players as unpatriotic pariahs.

He has had plenty of opportunity to try to find common ground and heal the divisions among us. A greater man might have sought out the players who balked at coming to the White House, and invited them to sit down together to talk out their differences.

But no. He pouts. He cancels. Telling the team to stay off his White House lawn is just his latest way of saying, “Get that son of a bitch off the field!”

Goodman: Roseanne’s raw racism earns well-deserved cancellation

Roseanne Barr   (Brinson+Banks/The New York Times)

A television network stood up for decency today. With head-spinning speed, ABC canceled its hit revival “Roseanne,” just hours after its titular star tweeted a crude racist remark about former Obama presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett.

The viciousness of the tweet (“muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby = vj”) was a shock too great for Disney, ABC’s owner, to tolerate, even if it meant sacrificing the highest-rated and most-watched series of the broadcast season.

Robert Iger, Disney CEO, tweeted “there was only one thing to do.”

The quick axing was a necessary corrective in this age of Trump, when the dog whistles from the White House have awakened many an inner racist. When you have a president who says there are “some fine people” amid the neo-Nazis at Charlottesville, who talks about “shithole countries,” you’re going to see an uptick in hate speech. You’re going to get what Roseanne Barr called her “bad joke” about Jarrett’s “politics and her looks.”

You can’t separate President Donald Trump from this story. Indeed, Trump has celebrated “Roseanne”‘s high ratings as a powerful endorsement of himself and his followers.

In the revival of the show, the title character returned to the air after a 21-year absence as, explicitly, a Trump supporter — just like Barr, the mouthy comedienne who plays her. The sitcom was seen as smart counter-programming on a network that has made a specialty of minority-themed comedies with a liberal bent, like “Black-ish” and “Fresh Off the Boat.”

ABC seemed, in fact, to be smelling the makings of a trend. There was talk of developing more shows to cater to conservative, Trump-admiring audiences. And why not, if the shows could deal with our divisions with humor and wisdom — and not compound our divisions?

The network seemed OK with its hard-to-control star, even when she filled her Twitter account with wildly fact-free conspiracy theories.

But raw racism — such as comparing an African-American woman (even a woman as accomplished as Jarrett) to a simian — has no place in American society. We cannot go back to a time when it was considered OK for many white Americans to look upon people of other races, cultures or religions as less than fully American — nay, less than human.

When that attitude surfaces, it must be confronted and repudiated.

By doing so in such a swift and forceful manner, ABC has done us all a favor. It has helped steer America’s course back towards its true north.

I’d like to know what you think.

Goodman: Do you see President Trump as a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize?

President Donald Trump delivers remarks at a campaign-style rally in Washington Township, Mich., on Saturday. (Tom Brenner/The New York Times)

Is there a Nobel Peace Prize in President Trump’s future? The man who talked about “shithole countries” and warned North Korea, and its leader “little Rocket Man,” of “fire and fury like the world has never seen”?

Sen. Lindsay Graham thinks it’s possible. The South Carolina Republican and former Trump critic said that if there’s a successful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, Trump should get the credit.

“Donald Trump convinced North Korea and China he was serious about bringing about change,” Graham said Friday. “We’re not there yet, but if this happens, President Trump deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.”

And so does Harry J. Kazianas, director of the conservative Center for the National Interest.

President Trump’s tough stance against a nuclear North Korea and his success in winning approval of international economic sanctions against the North at the United Nations that have crippled the country’s economy clearly succeeded beyond expectations in pushing Kim to the negotiating table.

Should the U.S. rejoin the Trans-Pacific Partnership?

WEST PALM BEACH: President Donald Trump and his wife Melania Trump arrive with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife Akie Abe on Air Force One at Palm Beach International Airport for a weekend together at Mar-a-Lago resort on Feb. 10, 2017. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

With Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, coming back to Palm Beach for talks with President Trump Tuesday, it’s a good time to ask if the U.S. should rejoin the multi-country trade agreement.

In a head-spinner of a reversal, Trump on Thursday said he was looking into rejoining the TPP. Tearing up the pact was one  of his bedrock campaign promises and first acts as president.

Back then, he denounced the deal as “a rape of our country.” But now many farmers, business people and Republican lawmakers are worried about threats of tariffs and trade barriers.

Trump made the comment to a gathering of farm-state lawmakers and governors, so maybe this was mind-boggling idea that evaporates as soon as the intended audience leaves the room, like the time he seemed to side with Democrats on DACA or that moment when he embraced universal background checks on gun purchases.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership, forged during the Obama administration, was to unite 12 countries,  representing 40 percent of the world’s economic output, in a trading bloc. The hope was to strengthen economic ties by slashing tariffs and writing policies and regulations — and to counter China’s dominance in Asia.

Critics on the left, as well as Trump-supporting nationalists, assailed the pact as costing U.S. jobs and said it was developed with too little transparency.

So what do you think? Is the U.S. better off outside the TPP? Or should we get back in?

Christie: Is America losing its standing in the world under Trump?

President Donald Trump’s “America First” strategy is seen as a sign of strength by some and making the U.S. weaker on the world stage by others. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Depending on your “point of view” the United States has either re-asserted its dominance on the world stage or confirmed its conspicuous exit.

To be sure, conservatives would argue the former saying that President Donald J. Trump’s tough talk and “America First” strategy leaves no doubt that American interests are what matters most when it comes to foreign policy. But liberals argue that such a self-centered mindset in an increasingly inter-connected world leaves us not only vulnerable, but looking kind of foolish.

At least, the latter was the gist of the reader Point of View in today’s Palm Beach Post:

Do we realize or care that as the world becomes increasingly one global interdependent economy, America’s marginalization will not only threaten our safety but our partnerships? Americans will feel more isolated and more paranoid, but continue to create more detachment and segmentation amongst us that will harm and change these United States irreparably?” ask Burton and Barbara Halpert of West Palm Beach.

Well, that’s a pretty hard line. It’s also indicative of a philosophical split within the Republican Party, according to an October Pew Research poll. (BTW, the same polled also revealed a similar split within the Democratic Party.)

“On questions of the U.S. role in the world, the country-first group is obvious. Three-quarters consider immigrants to be a burden to society; only 4 in 10 think that involvement in the global economy is good. About two-thirds think that openness to the rest of the world puts America’s identity at risk and believe that we should focus more on America’s problems.”

President Trump obviously plays to this crowd as America will no longer allow other nations to dis us while they are taking our money… Take that United Nations! Take that Pakistan! Take that Palestinians!

But does this present an image to the world of a divided America that is closing itself off?

U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley speaks in favor of a resolution at United Nations headquarters. The U.S. government last month negotiated a significant cut in the United Nations budget. Haley said that the “inefficiency and overspending” of the organization is well-known, and she would not let “the generosity of the American people be taken advantage of.” (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

POINT OF VIEW: U.S. is losing its standing in the world

In 2017, America saw the loss of nearly everything we have gained since the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt. That is, how we and the rest of the world view how America approaches democracy, inclusion, humanity, and a place where morality, principals and ethics are not only embraced but openly debated.

Our current “leadership” has encouraged divisiveness not seen in this country in many decades. There is so much friction and hatred that friends who do not see eye-to-eye politically may not be able to salvage relationships. Families are urged not to discuss politics at gatherings so as not to create irreparable upheavals.

In the old days, contentious ideas were encouraged to nourish and build upon the foundations of which our country was established — morality, respect for those who are different from us and celebration for how a united country could contain such disparities with grace, dignity. There was an insistence that our elected officials try to promulgate these ideals.

Donald Trump was elected because he was seen as a political outlier and, indeed, he has proven to be so. His attraction for many who voted for him is that he will shake up Washington, and that he is like the common man. Well, he has shaken up Washington and the common man (and woman) will be paying for it for many years to come in terms of loss of health care options, short-term financial gains which after 2025 drastically cost the middle class, and making the wealthiest companies and individual much more so. Is Trump really like the common man who voted for him?

Our country has lost the respect of the world as we lose credibility with allies and foes alike. We are becoming increasingly destabilized in a global world because our leadership has no education of history, and therefore cannot utilize critical strategies to make our country safer without insulting other cultures. The bravado our president spouts about our country being stronger than ever before is “fake news.” Foreign news reporters say their jobs put them more in peril now then ever before because other countries are so hostile towards the United States. Is this what we sought when we elected Trump? Do we realize or care that as the world becomes increasingly one global interdependent economy, America’s marginalization will not only threaten our safety but our partnerships? Americans will feel more isolated and more paranoid, but continue to create more detachment and segmentation amongst us that will harm and change these United States irreparably?

Our leadership uses masterful manipulation to claim that we are victims. Trump models how not to be a victim by shouting, insulting, bullying and keeping a stable of lawyers employed to fight the multitudes of lawsuits that have been waged against him. And all the while doing so with billions of dollars in the bank. Is this really a role model that we can all identify with?

America needs to wake up and realize that gross mistakes have been made; and that it is OK to admit to mistakes because only then can we try and rectify them. Our country is the laughingstock of the world. And if you feel this is what is making America great again, then we can sink only further into the abyss.

May God bless and save the United States of America.

BURTON AND BARBARA HALPERT, WEST PALM BEACH

Goodman: In Boynton, tempers flare as the Trump Effect takes hold

Boynton Beach Commissioner Christina Romelus. (Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post)

The Trump Effect is playing out in Boynton Beach, and it’s not pretty.

With fears of deportation on the rise in immigrant communities, first-term city commissioner, Christina Romelus, suggested that Boynton declare itself a sanctuary city. The idea was quickly shot down by the City Commission.

But some residents were so incensed at Romelus for suggesting the idea, they demanded that she resign, be voted out or be impeached.

Romelus, who was born in Haiti, has a better grasp of what being an American means than the self-proclaimed patriots demanding her ouster.

“Having differing opinions and working through those to reach a common goal is how this country was founded,” Romelus told The Post’s Alexandra Seltzer. “Asking for my resignation simply because I had the audacity to bring up a controversial issue is testament to this day and age in which we live. I think it is sad.”

She added that the “grotesque behavior” of those who have been “spewing blind hatred at me for wanting to have a discussion about this issue is alarming and merits attention.”

Romelus said she has no intention of resigning.

Good. She offers a point of view that needs to be heard.

And yes, this subject does merit attention. Let’s put the attention where it belongs: on President Donald J. Trump and the animosities and vitriol he has unleashed with his appeals to racism and xenophobia, ugly currents of American life that are usually held in check by a general sense of restraint, respect and decency.

Take sanctuary cities. This is a concept that’s been around since the 1980s, most famously when San Francisco declared itself a “City of Refuge,” claiming the moral high ground with the argument that asylum-seekers should be shielded from shortsighted federal law enforcement. Some 300 cities, states and counties now consider themselves sanctuary cities, largely on practical grounds: they don’t want immigrants and their families to be scared of relying on local police. And so they limit their cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

The republic has seemed to get along well enough with this state of affairs, despite efforts in the 2008 primaries by Republican candidates Rep. Tom Tancredo, of Colorado, and Mitt Romney to crank it into a campaign issue.

But these politicians didn’t have Trump’s gifts for drawing attention, slinging invective, devising phrases that stick in the brain, and using a single horrifying fatal shooting in San Francisco by an undocumented Mexican to represent the whole of cities’ tolerance for illegal immigration.

Take a look at how the phrase “sanctuary city” spiked in Google searches after Trump made it a campaign issue. The chart’s timeline starts in 2004. Curiosity about the subject was minimal until June 2015. That’s the month when the billionaire real estate developer/showman declared for the presidency, telling us about the Mexican “rapists” sneaking over the border.

Since winning the White House, Trump and his attorney general, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, have placed a crackdown on sanctuary cities high on their agenda. And now it’s a boiling issue, the very mention of which is seen as grounds for impeaching a city commissioner.

Such are the heightened animosities in the United States under a president who speaks of “fine people on both sides” of the Charlottesville, Virginia, confrontation between neo-Nazis and people protesting neo-Nazis. Now, reprehensible views are free to roam — such as those of Cindy Falco-DiCorrado, one of the Boynton Beachers who called for Romelus to resign.

Cindy Falco-DiCorrado at the Dec. 5 Boynton Beach City Commission meeting. (Photo handout: Adam Wasserman)

According to resident Mathi Mulligan, Falco-DiCorrado told him at a meeting this month to speak “better English,” and allegedly told black residents “you’re lucky we brought you over as slaves or else you’d be deported, too.”

Falco-DiCorrado says she was misconstrued, explaining that she always tells her son and husband, who speak with accents, to improve their English. And whatever anyone heard her say about black people, she meant that “out of hardships you can rebuild again and there are blessings.”

Her denials would be more convincing if she didn’t have a Facebook page that, according to Post columnist Frank Cerabino, is filled with tripe, including a post that reads: “If you agree that racism is no longer an actual threat in this country, but a strategy that the Democrats and Liberals use to secure black votes = SHARE!!”

And her attitudes would be less significant if she weren’t a member of Boynton’s Community Redevelopment Agency advisory board.

Now it’s being asked why someone with her views should advise an agency that aims to improve neighborhoods with large minority populations. Vice Mayor Justin Katz asked her this week to resign. She returned his email with a no.

The City Commission seems sure to take up the question at its meeting next Tuesday. Mulligan says, “We will keep pressing on until the City Commission fires this white supremacist from a job that gives her direct power over the lives of people of color.”

Falco-DiCorrado insists she’s no racist but is now, herself, the victim of a “lynch mob” that’s harassing her with emails.

And so, welcome to Boynton Beach, where nerves are frayed, tensions are rising, and in no way can it be said that Boynton Beach is winning. Or being made great again.

What we need is a way to talk about these differences with a whole lot less anger. But we’re not going to have that with a president who sets a tone of disparagement toward minorities and pushes the buttons of white resentment every time he talks to his “base.”

The bully pulpit has become a pulpit that bolsters bullies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christie: Some travel tips for Trump’s Puerto Rico visit

A political party banner waves over a home damaged in the passing of Hurricane Maria, in the community of Ingenio in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico on Monday ahead of President Donald Trump’s visit to the U.S. territory on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

President Donald J. Trump is due to arrive in Puerto Rico today to survey and assess the federal government response to damage in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

Other than Gov. Ricardo Rossello, who has been resolute as a picture of diplomacy, the president isn’t likely to get the warmest welcome. Certainly, not like he did in Naples when some Hurricane Irma victims there compared Trump’s response to former President Barack Obama’s playing golf in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. (By the way, that’s a lie. Obama wasn’t even in office in 2005 when Katrina hit.)

The 3.4 million U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico, 95 percent of whom still do not have power, will care less about comparisons and more about answers as to why they’ve been made to feel like second-class citizens by their own country.

RELATED: An unlikely Palm Beach County pair bring relief to Puerto Rico

Plush toys, recovered from a flooded home, hang out to dry on a wrought iron gate in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, in the community of Ingenio in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico, Monday. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

Of course, most of them can be forgiven for asking. So much has happened since Maria — the second major hurricane to hit the island this season — flattened the place. Trump has repeatedly misstated the size of the hurricane. He has repeatedly talked about what a tough state the island was in to begin with — as if to shift blame. He has talked repeatedly about how Puerto Rico is an island “in the middle of the ocean” — as if to temper expectations. He has even talked about how Puerto Rico might be made to repay the cost of its recovery.

And while taking a weekend at his golf club in New Jersey, even as the scope of the problems in Puerto Rico was still growing, he stopped long enough Saturday morning to take some very personal shots at Carmen Yulin Cruz, the mayor of San Juan, after she once again criticized The federal response.

JERSEY CITY, NJ — U.S. President Donald Trump looks on from the clubhouse during Sunday singles matches of the Presidents Cup at Liberty National Golf Club on Sunday. (Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images)

“The Mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump.”

– Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 30, 2017

“…Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help. They….”

– Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 30, 2017

“…want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort. 10,000 Federal workers now on Island doing a fantastic job.”

– Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 30, 2017

RELATED: From his N.J. golf resort, Trump continues to attack mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico

Not good. Especially given that while Trump was tweeting about her “poor leadership,” Cruz was wading through waste deep, sewage-tainted water helping to rescue people.

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO — San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz deals with an emergency situation where patients at a hospital need to be moved because a generator stopped working in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria on Saturday. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

With that in mind, here are a few travel tips for the president as he visits hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico today:

  • Don’t bring up Puerto Rico’s crippling debt load — totaling $73 billion — as that has nothing to do with the problem at hand. Yes, Puerto Rico’s debt “must be dealt with,” as the president pointed out in a dispassionate tweet early last week, but keep the focus on preventing as many of its residents from dying right now.
  • Do remember that Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, not a foreign country — even if it is an island “in the middle of the ocean.” Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens just like those in Key West and Houston. That means they can vote. Ask Gov. Rick Scott, who on Monday ordered a state of emergency in Florida to prepare for evacuees; and Sen. Marco Rubio, who has called for a bipartisan detente to address Puerto Rico’s humanitarian crisis.
  • Don’t keep pointing out Puerto Rico’s infrastructure issues. (See “debt load” above.) The island was hit by two major hurricanes in the span of three weeks. The second, Hurricane Maria, was a massive Category 5 storm when it swept across the entire island. Any state’s infrastructure — including Florida — would probably have been left paralyzed in that scenario.
  • Do remember the lesson from the first post-Hurricane Harvey visit to Texas, and mix it up with the citizens. Puerto Ricans are truly suffering, nearly two weeks after the storm. Embrace the role of comforter-in-chief, and show some real in-your-face compassion. Shake a hand, and let the first lady hug a child.
  • And please, don’t over-sell the federal response. Things still aren’t going “great” if you’re the one having to sleep on your porch just to remain cool at night. Things aren’t “fantastic” if you haven’t been able to get to elderly parents in a remote location. There’s no “good news” when you can’t do something as basic as feed your child.

To be sure, the president will find some less critical, more supportive voices among the territory’s 70-plus other mayors, as well as Puerto Rico’s Republican Congresswoman, Jennifer Gonzalez-Colon. But such sentiment, even with the ramping up of federal aid in recent days, will be hard to come by among the regular folks.

This is not the time for victory lap, because Maria is quickly shaping up to be Trump’s Katrina. It has not been a heckuva job. But it still can be.

Good luck, Mr. President.

Christie: Was Trump too focused on himself to feel Harvey victims’ pain?

Our president can’t help himself. He just cannot help himself.

As he exited a firehouse in Corpus Christi, Texas, on Tuesday, President Donald Trump noticed a crowd of about 800 people. He grabbed a lone star Texas flag and shouted back at his supporters: “What a crowd! What a turnout!”

And there you have it. Minutes after managing to show leadership while sitting at a table of local, state and federal officials managing the catastrophic mess of Tropical Storm Harvey, the president couldn’t resist the lure of the adoring crowd.

And as a result, raise questions about his inability to show true compassion for those who are suffering.

I know, I know… this simply sounds like nit-picking. Only it’s not.

Nit-picking would be making hay of first lady Melania Trump walking to Marine One in a pair of expensive snake-skin, spiked heels — on her way to “helping” storm victims. That’s trivial in the grand scheme of things. So I’m not doing that.

President Donald Trump, accompanied by first lady Melania Trump, holds up a Texas flag after speaking with supporters outside Firehouse 5 in Corpus Christi, Texas, on Tuesday, where he received a briefing on Harvey relief efforts. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

This is about our president, and the tens of thousands of Texans who want to believe that he feels their pain.

He had the opportunity, but he didn’t close the deal.

The president, despite criticism about pardoning former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio on Friday, had pushed aides from the beginning to schedule a visit to Texas as early as possible after Harvey made landfall near Rockport, Texas on Friday night as a Category 4 hurricane. He has made sure to say repeatedly that all necessary federal resources would be made available to relief efforts; and the crucial Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has performed admirably, coordinating with Texas state and local officials.

RELATED LINK: Trump, in Texas, Calls Harvey Recovery Response Effort a ‘Real Team’

Trump even made the right call Tuesday by going to the Gulf Coast city of Corpus Christi, largely avoiding being a distraction from the catastrophic flooding that was ravaging the Houston area about 200 miles to the northeast.

“It’s a real team, and we want to do it better than ever before,” Trump said of the response effort during a briefing with officials in the Corpus Christi firehouse that resembled more a board meeting. “We want to be looked at in five years, in 10 years from now as, this is the way to do it.”

More than 9,000 and counting have gathered at the downtown evacuation center at the George R. Brown Convention Center on Tuesday in Houston. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

That’s all good. But even during the briefing, Trump had to be pulled back from P.T. Barnum-mode after introducing FEMA administrator Brock Long as “the man who’s really been very famous on television over the last couple of days.”

Long quickly responded that “all eyes are on Houston, and so are mine,” cautioning that rescue and recovery efforts still have “a long way to go.”

“We’re still in a life-saving, life-sustaining mission,” he added, as if intending to re-focus the president’s attention where it should be — on the victims, especially in Houston where 9,000 residents fleeing rising floodwaters crammed into a makeshift shelter designed to accommodate 5,000.

“This is not the Superdome,” Long said, referring to the chaos residents of New Orleans endured while seeking shelter at a sports arena after Hurricane Katrina 12 years ago.

“At the convention center, we are sustaining food,” he added. “I have an incident management team inside the city of Houston. And more and more people are being moved to shelters to stabilize the situation.”

People navigate through floodwaters with their belongings during flooding from Tropical Storm Harvey in Orange, Texas, Wednesday. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Long’s sobering focus was made surreal by the split-screen video feed from Houston that showed simultaneously on every major news channel that carried the briefing. Images of people wading through water chest deep, carrying babies and pets. The self-described “Redneck Navy” risking their own lives and boats to find trapped residents and get them to safety. Neighbors fighting against rushing floodwaters to form a human chain to get a nine-months-pregnant woman aboard a dump truck.

It was an awesome sight. America at its best, to be sure.

And in Corpus Christi, which, by comparison, had sustained relatively light damage from the storm, there was Trump still managing to seem like he was above it all standing atop a fire truck.

“Texas can handle anything,” he said, waving the state flag to cheers.

No handshakes. No hugs. No words of comfort whispered in any ears.

Well, even Trump knew this lack of empathy didn’t play well. This morning, he tweeted:

Indeed. It was a seeming disconnect made worse shortly thereafter by the mayor and police chief of Houston delivering the somber news that a Houston Police Department officer had died in the relief effort around 4 a.m. Sunday. Officer Steve Perez, a 34-year veteran of the force, drowned when his car was submerged driving through a flooded underpass as he tried to get to his “secondary” duty station after not being able to find a path to his primary station, according to Police Chief Art Acevedo.

“We couldn’t find him,” Acevedo said through tears.

Once the dive team got to the scene, it was “too treacherous to go under and look for him,” Acevedo said.

“We could not put more officers at risk,” he said.

The dive team went back out at 8 a.m. Tuesday and found Perez “within 20 minutes,” Acevedo said.

At last 20 people, including Perez, have been confirmed dead as a result of the storm, officials said.

Today would be a good time for the president to reach out to Acevedo and Mayor Sylvester Turner, whom Trump has basically avoided to this point.

It is possible, given all of the misery they are currently experiencing from the deluge of Tropical Storm Harvey, that Texas residents — especially those in Houston — could care less whether the president feels their pain.

Maybe this early test of Trump’s talents as comforter in chief will be less of a showcase for him to demonstrate compassion, and more one for leadership. To that end, maybe all frustrated and exhausted residents really care about is an adequate response.

Maybe. But they also want to know that the president cares more about them than he does himself. That he won’t be standing above an adoring crowd blowing kisses while they and their family are sleeping on cots in a over-crowded, makeshift shelter.

Sure, it’s symbolic; but symbolism matters — just ask former President George W. Bush.

President Trump plans on making a second trip to the region on Saturday. This time including a swing through Louisiana, which is starting to feel the brunt of the storm today.

Rarely do we get second chances to make good impressions. I hope the president makes the most of his.

Christie: Removing Confederate monuments is not erasing history

This is a view of the Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson Monument in the Wyman Park Dell. (Barbara Haddock Taylor/Baltimore Sun/TNS)

There are more than 700 Confederate monuments in the U.S. — the vast majority in the South — according to the latest figures.

And there are many in Florida cities like Fort Myers, Gainesville, Jacksonville and yes, West Palm Beach. The latter is actually a private monument to Confederate soldiers in Woodlawn Cemetery. The cemetery is owned by the city.

Standing directly behind the American flag, a 10-foot tall marble monument is unmistakable when visitors drive through the front gate of Woodlawn. A Confederate flag is carved into the side with words honoring that army’s soldiers who are buried there. Early in her term, Mayor Jeri Muoio worked to remove all Confederate flags and symbols on city property, but the monument is owned by the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

The city’s legal department has also been investigating if the city can tell the group to move the monument. But nothing yet.

This week, as the violent and tragic events of Charlottesville, Va., continue to dominate the news and political discussion — largely because of equivocal, ill-advised statements from President Donald J. Trump — the debate over whether these monuments should be taken down has once again heated up.

In fact, here are links to two opposing viewpoints in the Confederate monuments debate:

RELATED: Commentary: Confederate monuments about maintaining white supremacy

RELATED: Commentary: Why we need Confederate monuments

Overnight Tuesday, Baltimore took down four statues of Confederate monuments after it was ordered by the state’s Republican governor. And in Charlotte, N.C., protesters had pulled down a Confederate statue earlier in the day.

Meanwhile, the white nationalist groups behind the Charlottesville event have promised to have more rallies and demonstrations to preserve these monuments. Whether they will have further access to university campuses is another issue. This week, both Texas A&M University and the University of Florida denied Richard Spencer’s National Policy Institute permission to speak on their respective campuses.

In the case of UF — full disclosure: my alma mater — President Kent Fuchs rightly denied the request to rent campus space to the “alt-right” movement leader “after assessing potential risks” campus, local, state and federal law enforcement officials.

Continued calls “online and in social media for similar violence in Gainesville such as those decreeing: “The Next Battlefield is Florida’ ” also played a role in Wednesday’s decision, Fuchs said.

Confederate flag on large stone monument at Woodlawn Cemetery in West Palm Beach. (Bill Ingram / Palm Beach Post)

In a July 31 blog post, I made note of this debate after various Palm Beach Post letter writers shared their views on either side of the debate.

RELATED: Christie: Should West Palm’s lone Confederate monument be removed?

Among the blog post’s 500-plus comments emerged the interesting question of whether by removing these monuments to the Confederacy from public lands, we are seeking to hide an ugly part of U.S. history.

Aside from the preponderance of expected racist opinions, there were many like the following that stimulated an interesting intellectual discussion:

— Only an idiot would want to destroy history. Leave the monument alone. — Jimmy Anderson

— Now it will be Confederate memorials demonstrating history; and next it will be what? Could be anything that offends a group of people. If we don’t acknowledge history, it will repeat itself. And a lot of it is not necessarily good; but hopefully we have learned from it … leave the memorials! — Mo Earle

— Leave our history alone. Tearing down monuments does nothing be cheat future generations out of history… American history. The good and the bad. — Gennifer Cseak

Agreed, but there’s no rule that says that “history” must remain in a specific public space. Many of these monuments are front of city halls, major parks and other taxpayer-funded places that are frequented by the people who would be most offended by them as vestiges of slavery.

As a compromise, these memorials should be removed and placed in a taxpayer-funded museum where people who want to view them and further study history can do so at their leisure. After all, you can’t find a monument to Nazism in an outdoor public space anywhere in Germany.

Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comments section.