For the 43 previous presidents, their ultimate goal was to find ways to remind people in the country of our common humanity, to take the high road, to appeal to our better angels.
The call came hours after U.S. president Donald Trump questioned the leadership of San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz who pleaded for federal aid.
President Donald Trump is defending his response to Puerto Rico's hurricane destruction and says "big decisions" are coming on the cost of rebuilding the island. "When you're drinking from a creek, it's not a good news story". She drew a sharp rebuke from the city's mayor for saying Thursday that the federal relief effort is "a good news story". Residents at the time were still recovering from the powerful Hurricane Irma two weeks earlier that had unleashed heavy rain and high winds. Yet until Anderson Cooper arrived on Friday, Maria hadn't attracted cable news' marquee stars.
Criticized for devoting more attention to protests by professional football players than to the disaster in the Caribbean, the White House announced Saturday that the president would make a series of phone calls later in the day to officials in Puerto Rico ahead of a visit there on Tuesday. People's lives and avoiding death above the debt.
"If he asks to meet with me, of course I would meet with him", Cruz said.
He added that FEMA employees have been forced to rebuild numerous most basic services in Puerto Rico, far beyond the demands that are typical in a disaster area. Because Puerto Rico isn't a US state, it doesn't have representatives in the US Congress, and doesn't vote in the presidential elections.
"Dammit, this is not a good-news story".
Journalists have faced the same logistical issues as relief workers. Getting to Vieques was treacherous for CNN's Weir since his pilot had to fly on sight alone because of broken radar. By now, telecommunications are back for about 30 percent of the island, almost half of the supermarkets have reopened at least for reduced hours and about 60 percent of the gas stations are pumping.
NBC News saw few trucks leaving the port of San Juan on Saturday.
"The President and I will not be fully satisfied, however, until every Puerto Rican is back home, the power is back on, clean water is fully available, schools and hospitals are fully open, and the Puerto Rican economy is working", said Duke. Many NBC personnel there sleep on cots at the local Telemundo affiliate. "It's the first responders".
Still, Cruz, in her CNN appearance, left little doubt that she is looking to the White House for help. One woman was in tears because a bank machine was inoperable; Weir reached into his wallet and handed her some bills.
But Gutierrez had more pointed criticism for the President, suggesting he ought to deploy the military forces with which he has threatened to "totally destroy" North Korea to aid the distressed island. "We still need to do much more", he said. "I have been involved with many disasters, this is the worst I have seen", said Lt. NBC's Gadi Schwartz told Rachel Maddow of hundreds of officials milling around an air conditioned convention center, seemingly unsure what to do.
"It's been total devastation", Trump said.
"Damn it, this is not a good news story", Cruz told CNN. But many remain desperate for water and other necessities. "When you have to pull people down from buildings - I'm sorry, that really upsets me and frustrates me".