Donald Trump And The Legacy Of D-Day
Donald Trump has betrayed the legacy and the sacrifices of the soldiers who fought their way onto the beaches of Normandy.
On this 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, frequent Trump critic Max Boot argues in The Washington Post that the President has betrayed the sacrifices that were made that day:
Can you imagine what Trump would have said had he been in office during the 1940s and Britain had requested U.S. assistance to fight the Nazis? I can almost hear him abusing the British for taking advantage of us, praising Adolf Hitler for being very strong and powerful, and demanding payment before he would send a single “beautiful” American soldier to Europe. That’s speculation, of course, but the way he treats our allies is well documented.
Just last week, Trump threatened to impose tariffs of up to 25 percent against Mexico to punish it for not having any more success than the United States has had in sealing its borders from undocumented immigration. “The problem is that Mexico is an ‘abuser’ of the United States, taking but never giving,” he tweeted. That is not the way you talk about an ally. Trump also raised tariffsagainst India, a country that a succession of presidents has been wooing as a counterweight to China. He even considered raising tariffs against Australia, a country that has sent troops to fight alongside our own in every war of the past century.
Yet Trump boasts of his “very good,” even “excellent,” relationship with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, inheritor of a slave state that 36,000 Americans died trying to defeat. The president seldom speaks of promoting democracy outside Venezuela — where what he is really promoting are his own political interests among Florida voters.
At the end of his speech in 1984, Reagan said: “Here, in this place where the West held together, let us make a vow to our dead. Let us show them by our actions that we understand what they died for. Let our actions say to them the words for which Matthew Ridgway listened: ‘I will not fail thee nor forsake thee.’ Strengthened by their courage, heartened by their valor, and borne by their memory, let us continue to stand for the ideals for which they lived and died.”
Trump has forsaken the boys of Pointe du Hoc. He has failed to stand for the ideals for which the heroes of D-Day lived and died.
Based on his actions as President, it’s hard to argue with Boot’s here. Whether you’re looking at his record and rhetoric on domestic politics or his foreign policy, and notwithstanding the words he spoke during today’s ceremonies, it is clear that this President has nothing but contempt for the principles and ideals that the men he was standing before, and those buried in the cemetery where he spoke, lived and died fighting for three-quarters of a century ago.
Based both on his rhetoric and his actions, Donald Trump gives the impression of being a President who sees himself as unconstrained by the law or the other branches of Government in the tradition of Jackson or Richard Nixon, both of whom set off Constitutional crises from which it took the nation years to recover. As in the case of those two previous Presidents, he would likely justify his actions by appealing to the same populist, anti-establishment rhetoric that has fueled his campaign from the start. The difference is that this time, he is President of the United States and his rhetoric would is tied to actions that could do real damage to the Rule of Law and to the Constitution. Furthermore, unlike any of his predecessors, Trump seems to have command over a mob of supporters that would rush to his defense even when he was clearly wrong. This is why the arguments that equate Trump to the European far right, and even to fascists and authoritarians of the past, are completely on the mark. Either Donald Trump is lying to his supporters or he is the kind of man who cannot be trusted with political power even in a Constitutionally limited democratic republic. Under the circumstances, it would be foolish for anyone to believe that this is all a big con on Trump’s part, and much safer to assume that he quite simply cannot be trusted with political power.
The President has shown the same utter contempt for freedom of the press. Throughout the campaign, Trump used his speeches and even media appearances where he was being given free time to address voters to attack reporters covering him and the networks covering his speeches virtually from beginning to end. Almost without fail, for example, he would falsely claim to the crowd that the networks covering the speech had turned off their cameras, or that they were deliberately not showing the size of the crowd on television. More often than not, this occurred at the same time that his speeches were being aired live and without interruption on all three cable news networks. Additionally, he frequently referred to reporters covering him in derogatory terms and encouraged people in the crowd to turn their ire toward the reporters in the press area in the back of the room. In many cases, this resulted in members of the pro-Trump crowd shouting vile epithets and even threats at individual reporters to the point where they would often need to be escorted out of the venue by law enforcement officers or Secret Service agents. During the campaign, the Trump campaign would often respond to negative coverage by banning reporters or even entire news organizations such as The Des Moines Register and The Washington Post, from receiving press passes to cover events and speeches only to them accuse them of trying to censor his message to the voters because they weren’t there to cover it.
This war with the media continued after Trump won the election and entered office in ways that have made it harder for reporters covering the Administration do their jobs and in the process made his Administration far less transparent than its predecessors. The daily White House Briefing, for example, has gone from being something that occurs on an almost daily basis to something that only occurs irregularly. Additionally, when the briefing does occur it’s often been the case that the White House Press Secretary, at first Sean Spicer and now Sarah Huckabee Sanders, has forbidden live television coverage of the event, forbidden live audio coverage, or simply not held the event at all and limited interactions with reporters to handing out press releases and statements that convey the Administration’s version of events without allowing for any follow-up questions. On those rare occasions when there has been a live broadcast press briefing it is typically far shorter than anything that has been held under previous Administrations, and Huckabee Sanders, in particular, has been very skilled at not answering reporters question or attempting to divert their attention with briefings about entirely irrelevant topics that could easily be handled by the press offices at one of the Cabinet Departments. Trump himself has only held two press conferences since becoming President, a pace that would put him at the bottom of the list of recent Presidents in that category if it continues for four years. And, of course, Trump has continued his war on the media on Twitter and it’s typically his habit to label any piece of negative information, whether it involves economic data, the Russia investigation, or bad poll numbers, as “Fake News.”All of this poses unique challenges to the entire concept of freedom of the press in the Trump Era.
The final respect in which this President has abandoned the principles for which Americans fought for at Normandy is the extent to which he has spit in the face of the alliances that have kept the peace for the past seven decades. I’ve written about this topic extensively in the past, especially here and here. For the better part of the past two and a half years, President Trump has spent a considerable amount of time driving a wedge between the United States and its traditional allies in Europe and also calling into question the integrity and resolve of the American commitment to the NATO alliance. He has withdrawn from the Paris Climate Accords, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the nuclear deal with Iran, and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, one of the hallmarks of the end of the Cold War. In addition to the fact that all of these moves and miscues clearly benefit only one man and one motion, they have already sent a message to America’s allies that the United States can’t necessarily be trusted to stand by its allies. It’s ironic, if not hypocritical, then, that this President represented the United States at a ceremony marking the anniversary of an event that was perhaps the best example in history of what an effective alliance can accomplish.