Donald Trump
Photo: Mark Wilson (Getty)

Seems there was a time — long, long ago — when the commander in chief, the so-called leader of the free world, was also the consoler in chief, comforting Americans in their time of need and assuring them all would be right with the world.

These are apparently not those days — at least not for everybody. As Hurricane Dorian bears down on Florida after skirting a Puerto Rico still recovering from last year’s Hurricane Maria, at least one U.S. lawmaker is pointing out a marked disparity: Donald Trump’s seeming empathy for the people of Florida vs. the lack thereof for the people of Puerto Rico.

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Rep. Don Beyer, a Virginia Democrat, told CNN that the differences in tone from Trump may just be because Florida, unlike Puerto Rico, “is not an island full of people of color.”

Beyer elaborated, per CNN:

“Well, part of it is that Florida could be a swing state in 2020. And part of it is Florida is not an island full of people of color. We have seen him again and again pick on anywhere color is involved,” Rep. Don Beyer of Virginia told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on “The Situation Room” when asked about Trump’s change in tone.

When forecasters predicted the hurricane would hit Puerto Rico, Trump basically was like, “Too bad, so sad. Your lawmakers suck.”

But when the storm appeared to change directions, with predictions that Florida would take the brunt, Trump canceled a planned trip abroad to Poland and sent tweets that seemed meant to reassure Floridians that our nation’s leaders were on top of things.

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As CNN noted:

In a tweet on Wednesday, Trump wrote: “Puerto Rico is one of the most corrupt places on earth. Their political system is broken and their politicians are either Incompetent or Corrupt. Congress approved Billions of Dollars last time, more than anyplace else has ever gotten, and it is sent to Crooked Pols. No good!” he wrote, adding: “And by the way, I’m the best thing that’s ever happened to Puerto Rico!”

On Thursday, the President said it was “very important” for him to be in the US while Hurricane Dorian made landfall and that the storm “looks like it could be a very, very big one indeed.” Trump added that Vice President Mike Pence would go to Poland in his place.

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Beyer wasn’t the only one to note the shift in tone. Aaron Rupar, an editor at ThinkProgress, took to Twitter, Trump’s favorite medium, to display the stark contrast as well:

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With warnings late Friday that Hurricane Dorian could be a category 4 storm by the time it makes landfall in Florida late Sunday or Monday, expressions of concern for those in the storm’s path seem appropriate.

Those at the highest levels of government have a particular responsibility in this regard — for all people similarly endangered, no matter their location, race, or political affiliation.

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As Beyer told CNN:

“I don’t really criticize [Trump for] sticking up and trying to modify the impacts of the hurricane on Florida. I just wish that he would be evenhanded.”