Trump Skips Visit To American Military Cemetery

Claiming it was because of the weather President Trump chose to skip a visit to a cemetery at the site of one of the bloodiest battles involving Americans in World War One.

President Trump is in Paris this weekend along with the leaders of nearly 100 other nations marking the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One, which marked the end of what was, at the time, the bloodiest war in world history and one that still leaves scars on the land in France, where the majority of the war was fought. As one might expect, Trump managed to bring controversy with him thanks both to his Tweets and his actions, including the decision to skip a visit to a cemetery located near one of the bloodiest of the war’s battles that the United States was involved in:

PARIS — President Donald Trump canceled a planned visit Saturday to a cemetery for Americans killed in World War I, the White House citing bad weather that grounded his helicopter.

Trump had been scheduled to lay a wreath and observe a moment of silence at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial, located adjacent to Belleau Wood and about 60 miles (100 kilometers) northeast of Paris.

Instead, Trump spent much of the day following a meeting and lunch with French President Emmanuel Macron at the U.S. ambassador’s residence, where he was staying during events to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.

Attending in Trump’s place were the White House chief of staff, retired Marine Gen. John Kelly; the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Joe Dunford; and several members of the White House staff. The Battle of Belleau Wood was a critical conflict in the war and a pivotal encounter in Marine Corps history.

The Secret Service determines when it’s safe to fly Marine One, the president’s helicopter. Paris was covered in clouds with drizzling rain through most of Saturday.

Trump was scheduled to join dozens of world leaders Sunday at a ceremony in the shadow of the Arc de Triomphe marking Armistice Day. He was to deliver remarks at the Suresnes American Cemetery and Memorial, located five miles west of Paris, before returning to Washington.

The cancellation of Saturday’s visit drew criticism from those who say the president should have found a way to travel to Aisne-Marne regardless of the weather.

One of the sharpest criticisms comes from Max Boot:

On Saturday afternoon, the president was scheduled to attend a ceremony at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery, where 2,289 U.S. soldiers are buried — a small part of the 116,000 Americans who gave the last full measure of devotion during World War I. It was the sort of solemn occasion that U.S. presidents have considered an integral part of their duty at least since the Gettysburg Address. But Trump couldn’t be bothered.

The White House explained that bad weather grounded the helicopters that Trump and his entourage were planning to take. Yet somehow bad weather did not prevent French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel or Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau from attending outdoor ceremonies commemorating the end of World War I that afternoon. Somehow bad weather did not stop Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and retired general John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, from attending the very ceremony that Trump could not make.

Rather than make the hour-long drive (Aisne-Marne is only 55 miles from Paris), the low-energy president remained behind at the U.S. ambassador’s residence. It’s not as if he didn’t sacrifice anything, however. Odds are that his room didn’t have Fox News. So he was probably reduced to watching CNN all afternoon. If the New York dating scene was Trump’s personal Vietnam, this was his personal Verdun.

The irony is that Trump prides himself on being pro-military. When asked this week to comment on Michelle Obama’s new memoir, in which she wrote that she could never forgive him for spreading the “crazy and mean-spirited” birtherism conspiracy theory, he replied that he could never forgive President Barack Obama for “what he did to our United States military.” And what did Barack Obama do that was so awful? He spent a little less for defense than Trump is.

(…)

So much for Trump’s conceit that he is pro-military. It has about as much factual foundation as his claim not to know his newly appointed acting attorney general. He has no understanding of what soldiers do or the honor code by which they live. His idea of military service is marching in a parade — and he is peeved he couldn’t have one in Washington this Veterans Day. Through his words and deeds, the commander in chief shows his contempt for the men and women in uniform.

Boot isn’t the only person on the right criticizing the President:

“It’s incredible that a president would travel to France for this significant anniversary — and then remain in his hotel room watching TV rather than pay in person his respects to the Americans who gave their lives in France for the victory gained 100 years ago tomorrow,” David Frum, who served as a speechwriter to President George W. Bush, wrote in tweets. Trump is actually staying at the U.S. ambassador’s residence in Paris.

So began a weekend in which Trump — battling on a number of political fronts in Washington — seemed distracted and disengaged. Trump left Washington as the list of White House worries piled up: newly empowered Democrats, criticism of his pick for acting attorney general and backlash over his personal attacks against journalists.

Trump was in France in body but appeared unenthusiastic in spirit.

The White House said Chief of Staff John F. Kelly and Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, would attend the Belleau ceremony in the Trumps’ absence, but Frum suggested Trump could have tried to scramble a motorcade to keep his schedule.

Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser under President Barack Obama, noted he helped plan Obama’s foreign travel throughout his two terms and said it was common to have a backup plan to deal with inclement weather.

“There is always a rain option. Always,” he wrote in a tweet. “Trump will use the U.S. military for a pre election political stunt but sits in his hotel instead of honoring those who fought and died for America.”

The cemetery has 2,288 grave­sites honoring those who died, including many Americans. The names of 1,060 more Americans who went missing and whose bodies were not recovered are engraved on the walls of the site.

The visit to the cemetery isn’t the only event that the President chose to skip this weekend. This morning, as the world leaders gathered to mark the moment at which World War One ended — the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month — Trump was only one of two world leaders not to participate in a dramatic walk down the Champs Elysée up to the tomb of the French unknown soldier at the Arc de Triomphe. This walk was meant to be a symbolic representation of the commitment to world peace and international cooperation that French President Emmanuel Macron sought to emphasize to mark the commemoration of a war that has, slowly but surely, slipped from world memory as the veterans of that war has passed on. There were only two world leaders who didn’t participate in this walk; President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Trump will also be skipping a three-day summit that the French President scheduled to coincide with the anniversary commemoration, but that isn’t too surprising since one of the major themes of the conference is intended to discuss the manner in which international cooperation can help avoid the kind of misunderstandings and mistakes that nationalism can lead to, something that World War One stands as an excellent example of. President Trump, of course, became famous, or infamous, during the run-up to the midterm elections by declaring himself to be a “nationalist,” although it is not at all apparent that he has even the slightest understanding of what this means in the context of history or how it sounds to Europeans who paid huge prices in massive wars in both the 19th and 20th Centuries due to what can arguably be called hyper-nationalism. It’s unclear if any representatives from the United States will be participating in this forum in Trump’s place.

It is true that the security concerns surrounding an American President are far different from those that surround any other world leader, or any of the members of the White House Staff such as those who made the journey to the Aisne-Marne cemetery. Additionally, it is true that flying via helicopter is safer and far less disruptive to surrounding areas than traveling via motorcade would have been. That being said, though, it is also true that had the President insisted on making the visit then the Secret Service and local security forces would have found a way to make it happen. That, after all, is their job. Additionally, with world leaders from France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and other nations already attending the ceremonies at the cemetery, the idea there would not have been sufficient security had the President traveled by motorcade just doesn’t come across as credible.  Taking that into account, Trump’s decision to skip the visit does come across as callous and an example of bad optics. This is more so the case given that the Battle of Belleau Wood is seen as one of the pivotal battles of the final year of the war, and a particularly important battle in the history of the United States Marine Corps, which happened to be marking the 243rd anniversary of its founding in 1775 yesterday.

Perhaps the more notable fact is the hypocrisy that things like this revealed. If former President Obama, or a hypothetical President Hillary Clinton, chosen to skip a visit to a major American military cemetery or a gathering of world leaders in the name of world peace, there can be no doubt what the fever swamps of the far right would have to say about it. As it is, those people repeated what President Trump said on Friday when he blamed former President Obama for “eviscerating” the American military notwithstanding the fact that it is rather obvious that the opposite is true. If a Democratic President had done what Trump did, or not done what he didn’t do as the case may be, the rhetoric directed against them would have been swift and severe. In Trump’s case, there’s nothing but crickets from the pro-Trump right.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Military Affairs, Politicians, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Not the IT Dept. says:

    On the other hand, at one of the events he did bother to show up for, Putin gave his favorite lackey a thumbs-up. Must have made the whole trip worthwhile.

    https://www.thesun.ie/video/news/vladimir-putin-gives-donald-trump-the-thumbs-up-as-they-attend-a-ceremony-to-mark-the-100th-anniversary-of-the-signing-of-the-armistice/

  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Another day ending in “y”.

  3. Jen says:

    He is a global, colossal embarrassment. The bar for him is already low, but as I saw recently shared on Twitter, this particular move has the bar spinning uselessly on the floor.

    There is NO BOTTOM for this president. He is a disgrace.

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  4. Kathy says:

    After taking a bullet and coughing up blood, Reagan managed to walk himself to the entrance of the hospital. El Cheeto can’t be bothered with a little rain.

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  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    My original theory for why he skipped the ceremony was that he really is a witch. Betty Cracker over @ Balloon Juice thinks it has to do with the fact that he can’t wear a hat and the rain would dissolve the ferret on his head. Occam’s Razor says she is probably correct.

    Sigh… And I so wanted to see if he weighed the same as a duck.

  6. Franklin says:

    Let’s be fair: Humidity can cause havoc on a guy’s bone spurs.

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  7. Moosebreath says:

    He prefers soldiers who don’t get shot, just as he prefers those that don’t get captured the way McCain was.

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  8. CSK says:

    The rationalizations by the Trumpkins over at Lucianne.com are truly hilarious. You see, Trump really, really wanted to go, but the Secret Service wouldn’t let him because they learned of a very, very serious threat to his life.

    Suuuuure.

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  9. CSK says:

    @Franklin:

    So awful, so painful, so debilitating that he can’t remember which foot the spur is in.

  10. steve says:

    Not sure why people find this surprising. He doesn’t really like or value the military, they are just a tool to garner support for him and help win elections. Prior to running for office you didn’t see him doing anything to help our troops. A billionaire who wasn’t willing to part with amy of his money or spend any of his precious time for their sake. I would wager that many of the people who comment here have given more time and money towards our troops than has Trump. Trump is willing to “support our troops” just as long as it benefits him. In this case it was inconvenient, not really worth the effort. For someone who has no sincere commitment to our men in the military, this is the kind of behavior you should expect.

    Steve

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  11. JohnMcC says:

    Small fact: My grandpa got into the Belleau Wood fight. Then he deserted the US Army (according to the family legend) and hid out in Paris for the duration. Stole a train, is how I heard it.

    For a story like that, I’d walk in the rain. I’d even fly in a chopper in the rain.

  12. Michael Reynolds says:

    It’s okay, it’s not like this is the kind of moment that comes only once in a century. Maybe in 2118 we’ll have a real president.

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  13. Slugger says:

    I think that the fear of drizzle excuse doesn’t make much sense. He must have had something more important. There are two things that are very important to him. Golf is one, but he wasn’t out on the links. The other thing is an activity that can be indoors and kept hidden. Somewhere in Paris there is a fille de la nuit with a $125,000 boost in her bank balance.

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  14. Mister Bluster says:

    “…The silence spreads. I talk and must talk. So I speak to him and say to him: “Comrade, I did not want to kill you. If you jumped in here again, I would not do it, if you would be sensible too. But you are only an idea to me before, an abstraction that lived in my mind and called forth it appropriate response. It was that abstraction I stabbed. But now, for the first time, I see you are a man like me. I thought of your hand-grenades, of your bayonet, of your rifle; now I see your wife and your face and our fellowship. Forgive me comrade. We always see it too late. Why do they never tell us that you are just poor devils like us, that your mothers are just as anxious as ours, and that we have the same fear of death, and the same dying, and the same agony — Forgive me, comrade; how could you be my enemy? If we threw away these rifles and this uniform you could be my brother just like Kat and Albert. Take twenty years of my life, comrade, and stand up — take more, for I do not know what I can even attempt to do with it now.”
    ― Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front

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  15. Hal_10000 says:

    I don’t generally like to blame the “If Obama did this” game. Trump being a jerk, a philanderer and a cad was baked in when we elected him. But this is a step beyond that. It’s the most basic thing we ask a President to do, something near and dear to the hearts of many conservatives. And he couldn’t be bothered. I shouldn’t be surprised. Honor, sacrifice, selflessness — the concepts are alien to him. But you’d think one of the people surrounding him would do it.

    I expect the real reason is that Trump was still fuming over Macron’s speech. In the end, it is all about him.

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  16. Hal_10000 says:

    I was curious how the state media is responding to this. Hannity is on about Comey. Most of the rest are peddling conspiracy theories about votes in Georgia and Florida. I’m curious to see if ANY of them will call Trump out on this. Not holding my breath.

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  17. Mister Bluster says:

    …state media is responding to this…

    If Fox & Friends had any balls at all they would send him an umbrella…

  18. Mikey says:

    Eliot Cohen has a piece up at The Atlantic. Go read it–it’s not long, but it hits the nail squarely on the head.

    He concludes thusly:

    …[T]he soldiers and marines of Belleau Wood were young men; Donald Trump is an old man. They took a pledge to serve faithfully, even at the risk of their lives; Donald Trump took a pledge to discharge the office of commander in chief, a similarly unlimited oath. They faced shot and shell; Donald Trump faced damp. They dutifully made their rendezvous; to his eternal shame, Donald Trump failed his.

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  19. Gustopher says:

    Is he too ill to do the job? He hasn’t gotten a physical from a non-disgraced physician, so I think it’s actually possible that he is just physically exhausted and unable to do all these events.

    Either that or he doesn’t care at all. One of the two.

  20. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Gustopher: How about both? We all know he never cared and he hasn’t looked healthy in decades.

  21. Kathy says:

    @steve:

    He doesn’t really like or value the military, they are just a tool to garner support for him and help win elections.

    You don’t think he values all his lackeys?

  22. Teve says:
  23. mattbernius says:

    @One American:
    Do you realize how ridiculous that particular clutch at straws sounds?

    Seriously, positions set aside, movement conservatives elected someone who took every moral far they saw in Obama and turned them to 11. And now they are stuck trying to twice themselves into knots to explain why all of that mattered when it came to Obama and can be forgiven/explained away with Trump.

    The best strategy for you on topics like this — as your fellow travelers have realized — is to stay silent.

    Or just be honest and say this doesn’t matter to me because I voted for him because policy matters more to me than morals. Just don’t pretend you have the moral high-ground next time the other party is in power.

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  24. Liberal Capitalist says:
  25. Csk says:

    @One American:
    Do you really believe that? Because as rationalizations go, it’s pretty feeble. In fact, it’s ludicrously feeble.

    I understand your position. You adore Trump, and have to defend him at all costs. But it’s going to get harder and harder.

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  26. mattbernius says:

    @mattbernius: just to be clear, that should have read:

    Seriously, positions set aside, movement conservatives elected someone who took every moral FLAW they saw in Obama and turned them to 11.

  27. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @One American:

    Maybe the Secret Service determined it not safe for other reasons not announced, lots of lunatics these days.

    After the tsunami of threats they dealt with with Obama (who never let a death threat stop him from showing up at a scheduled appearance) I’m pretty sure they have more than enough experience to deal with the half dozen or so unarmed lunatic lefties// who threaten trump.

    Face it, “Dear Leader” is a pansy.

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  28. An Interested Party says:

    This is shameful…disgraceful…can you think of any other American president who would have acted in this way? Worst. President. Ever…

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  29. Mister Bluster says:

    I simply respect the elected officials even if I don’t agree with them all the time.
    That must be why you just called Obama a fool!

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  30. An Interested Party says:

    Are you trying to silence me?

    Oh my, that was incredibly weak…nothing he wrote looks like he is trying to “silence” you, but, people like you do seem to enjoy playing the victim…

    he is not your president anymore.

    No worries…Trump will only be your president for a few more years…

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  31. mattbernius says:

    @One American:

    Are you trying to silence me?

    Ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!! Thank you so much for the much needed laugh.

    I’m assuming you’re making a joke…. Right?

    Please tell me you were joking…

    Like seriously, please. Because internet text fails to capture key nuance to help separate a joke from a serious statement.

    Because if you seriously thought that my saying that there is no legitimate moral defense for Trump (especially versus Obama) beyond “I voted for him because I care more about the economy than I do about personal behavior” is “silencing you” or somehow a suggestion of physical intimidation or violence… well then we really cannot have a rational conversation.

    Like ever.

    Or, alternatively, simply let us know how you would have extended the same courtesies to Obama (though he did multiple public events in the rain — much like W.) and that you thought that complaints about how much he golfed or how “thin skinned” he was or how he hurt foreign relations because of his treatment of Churchill’s bust were just partisan baloney.

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  32. Jen says:

    @One American: You know what is exhausting? This president. He embarrasses this country every. single. day. I’d like 24 complete, consecutive hours of him not embarrassing us with a tweet, with his behavior, his lack of decorum, or violating ethics rules, laws, or norms.

    Unfortunately, we are only able to get that kind of temporary quelling of behavior when he goes on his millionth golf trip, to one of his properties–which even that doesn’t really count because he’s stuffing his pockets full of taxpayer cash even when he does that.

    He is a disgrace.

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  33. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Mister Bluster: Exactly! How is Donald Trump supposed to understand THAT? It’s not like he’d have ever been one of those poor bastards in a trench. Even as a university student serving in his own personal Vietnam in Times Square, he was too important for those things.

  34. KM says:

    @One American :
    Yeah right. If there was a threat, they would have said that. The Secret Service has never been shy about the fact their business is protecting the President and screw your feelings. Are you seriously so stupid as to think they’d say it was “the rain” instead of “it wasn’t safe”? What, you think that was the best they could come up with and you’re OK with people that incompetent guarding his life? What’s more, TRUMP would have tweeted out about the “losers trying to ruin an important day” or somesuch because that man has diarrhea of the keyboard. Where’s him talking about the people trying to attack a President in a cemetery for American soldiers on a holiday dedicated to them? Nowhere, because you and yours made this sh^t up to try and explain what even you recognize is disgraceful behavior.

    Stop insulting the brave men and women who work to protect our leadership because Trump couldn’t be bothered to go somewhere the cameras weren’t. It was a goddamn cemetery and the LEAST he could do was show up and some respect. Those men gave their all and he’s too cowardly to risk a made-up”threat”?

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  35. Mister Bluster says:

    Are you trying to silence me?

    My understanding of the administration of OTB is that only a post author or moderator can delete comments.
    You might want to take up your paranoid visions with them.

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  36. Not the IT Dept. says:

    Way brilliant, everyone. You let a troll highjack the thread again.

  37. mattBernius says:

    @Not the IT Dept.:
    But… Umm…

    *Sigh*

    Yes. Yes we did.

  38. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @One American: The Secret Service told LBJ it was too dangerous for him to walk in JFK’s funeral procession. He told them to take a flying leap. Oh well, at least we know he won’t go out on 5th Avenue to shoot someone, if it’s raining.

  39. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @One American: Goodnight! Don’t forget to brush the ©0©k off your breath in the morning….

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  40. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Rain is the new Bone Spur…

    @One American:

    Maybe the Secret Service determined it not safe for other reasons not announced, lots of lunatics these days.

    Your Dear Leader is weak. He is afraid his spray tan will run if it gets wet. That his hair spray won’t hold. You helped elect a pussy boy. Now you are left making pathetic excuses for his weakness…because you too are a pussy boy…unable to come to grips with your failure to spot a con job being played upon you. This is worse than Bush’s Katrina moment. The entire world just found out that the POTUS is afraid of rain.

  41. al Ameda says:

    @One American:
    A couple of observations:

    Are you trying to silence me?

    I might be wrong but I think Doug, Steven, and James have to clear that with Trump and Putin, or at least Alex Jones. You’re safe for now.

    Case in point, let’s rip down Tucker’s front door while his wife hides in pantry.

    As you know, I certainly do not approve of the harassment of Tucker and his family, but, does anyone on the Right remember when Tucker said, on the air and falsely or course, that comedian and television host W. Kamau Bell was a member of Antifa? Subsequently of course Bell received numerous threats. Tucker plays with fire then wonders why sh** fell from the sky and splattered his bow-tie.

  42. Teve says:

    @al Ameda: The publicly available police report shows that Tucker’s story was full of lies.

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  43. al Ameda says:

    @Teve:

    @al Ameda:
    The publicly available police report shows that Tucker’s story was full of lies.

    Thanks. Why am I not surprised?


    That said, I’m not a big fan of hassling these people at restaurants and so forth.