Trump spars with allies on European trip
President Trump stood increasingly isolated on the world stage this week, after an acrimonious trip to France to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. Almost immediately upon landing, Trump tussled with French President Emmanuel Macron, tweeting that his plan for a European army was “very insulting.” He had seemingly been angered by a garbled press translation, which said Macron wanted a European army as protection against the U.S.; Macron had in fact said such a force would reduce Europe’s reliance on U.S. defense help. The next morning, Trump scrapped a planned visit to a cemetery for American war dead, with the White House blaming poor weather for grounding his helicopter. “I suggested driving,” Trump tweeted later, but the “Secret Service said NO.” White House Chief of Staff John Kelly did attend the ceremony, at the site of a battle in which 1,800 Americans died. Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel paid their respects to the war dead under gray skies at another ceremony the same day.
Later in the trip, Trump sat stonily as Macron delivered a rebuke of his “America First” politics. In a speech, Macron branded nationalism a “betrayal of patriotism” and warned against “old demons coming back to wreak chaos and death.” Trump blasted Macron with a series of incendiary tweets, mocking his low approval ratings and even the Nazi occupation of France. “How did that work out for France? They were starting to learn German in Paris before the U.S. came along,” Trump wrote.
What the columnists said
The “crumbling” of America’s alliance with Europe couldn’t have been any clearer in Paris, said Robin Wright in NewYorker.com. As European leaders marched together in the rain toward the Arc de Triomphe on Armistice Day, Trump chose “the dry comfort of his limousine.” Russian President Vladimir Putin was “the only leader that the president seemed to connect with.” Putin also arrived at the ceremony alone, and “gave Trump a thumbs-up.”
Trump showed “contempt” for America’s service members by skipping the memorial at Aisne-Marne American Cemetery, said Max Boot in The Washington Post. Instead, he holed up at the U.S. ambassador’s residence. This is par for the course. “He still has not visited U.S. troops deployed to a war zone,” and is now using troops as “political props” at the Mexican border. That’s not to say he didn’t sacrifice anything by skipping the ceremony. “Odds are that his room didn’t have Fox News.”
Macron “chose an odd occasion” to lecture an American president, said Steve Cortes in RealClearPolitics.com. It was American nationalism that “animated our mighty republic” to save Europe—not once, but twice. Religious liberty, pluralism, free-enterprise economics, “respect for our Constitution, and reverence for our great flag” define America’s “enlightened” nationalism. Conflating it with Nazi ethno-fascism misses the mark. When such ideals were endangered in Europe, we demonstrated our “historic commitment” to defending them by fighting overseas.