Macron on Trump cemetery controversy

The French President tells Fareed why he wasn't disappointed Trump did not visit the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery with him.

Posted: Nov 12, 2018 2:18 PM
Updated: Nov 12, 2018 2:37 PM

First it was a second-place replacement for his own grand military parade. Then it was a stately gesture to illustrate an alliance he's done little to cultivate. After a midterm election drubbing, it was an opportunity to retreat and regroup.

Yet by the time US President Donald Trump departed Orly Airport on Sunday, 44 hours after he arrived, the reasons for his trip to Paris had become largely obscured. It did less to bolster the transatlantic partnership than to expose its cracks. The 3,800 miles the President put between himself and Washington did little to buffer the boiling political crises back home.

And it was decidedly gloomier than the procession of tanks and troops Trump originally envisioned rolling through Washington on this date more than a year ago.

Attending the 2017 Bastille Day parade at the invitation of President Emmanuel Macron, Trump was dazzled by the soldiers, armored tanks and fighter jets that painted the French sky red, white and blue -- and informed high-ranking defense officials upon his return that he wanted a parade of his own in Washington.

Officials scrambled to put something together and set a tentative date of November 11. But when estimates for Trump's military parade soared to nearly $100 million, officials realized they needed a backup plan to convince Trump a parade was too exorbitant. In the end, they persuaded him that dozens of other world leaders would be in Paris for the commemoration, and he needed to be, too.

But if Trump came to Paris expecting a parade that echoed the one he witnessed last summer, he was disappointed. The events commemorating the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I were solemn and stately, and the wet streets of Paris were largely empty as the procession got underway Sunday.

Missed moment?

As early as Saturday afternoon, the reasons for Trump to be in Paris at all had become obscured. Homebound at the US ambassador's residence after foul weather forced the cancellation of a trip to an American burial ground, the President was invisible as his European counterparts memorialized the World War I slaughter across the former Western Front.

The White House declined to say how he spent the empty hours, though Trump tweeted in the evening he'd had "some very productive meetings and calls for our country today."

The dire political predicament weighing on Trump cannot have been far from mind, despite the thousands of miles separating Paris and Washington.

Fresh off a midterm election that cost his party control of the House of Representatives, Trump kept an eye on his domestic difficulties while abroad. He accused election officials of rigging the vote in two US Senate races, repeated his claim that he does not personally know the man he tapped to become the acting attorney general and threatened to cut federal aid while blaming the deadly wildfires in California on "poor" forest management.

Officially, the reason for scrapping the journey to the Aisne-Marne American cemetery came down to safety: the President's Marine One helicopter cannot fly in low cloud cover, a decision that is made by military and security officials and not the President. But there did not appear to be a backup plan and the President did not make any statements of regret at not being able to visit the cemetery.

Late Sunday, the White House defended the President's decision not to attend, citing concerns about disrupting traffic.

"A car ride of two-and-a-half hours, each way, would have required closures to substantial portions of the Paris roadways for the President's motorcade, on short notice," said press secretary Sarah Sanders. "President Trump did not want to cause that kind of unexpected disruption to the city and its people."

The optics were undeniably bad, partly because the episode only appeared to confirm the suspicions of Trump's critics that he is uninterested in carrying out the traditional duties of the commander in chief. While reasonable-sounding to those familiar with presidential travel logistics, the White House's explanations for the cancellation appeared inauthentic to casual observers.

White House officials were confident early Sunday that those criticisms would evaporate after the President's appearance at the Suresnes American Cemetery and Memorial, where more than 1,500 American soldiers are buried. His remarks, they said, would be the highlight of the trip. Trump addressed the crowd mutedly for roughly 10 minutes before leaving for the airport.

If the weather imbroglio was concerning him, it did not show.

"You look so comfortable up there under shelter as we're getting drenched," he called out to a group of American veterans. "You're very smart people."

Nationalism in the crosshairs

Earlier Sunday, as world leaders gathered under misting rain at the Élysée Palace, Trump opted to head directly to the Arc de Triomphe, where the ceremony was being held. Driving down a deserted Champs-Élysées, a topless female protester breached the barricade lining the famous Parisian avenue and came within feet of the President's motorcade before she was apprehended by French security officials.

The dozens of other leaders who met at the French President's residence beforehand arrived in coach buses moments later, leaving Trump out of a striking scene as they marched down the street together with black umbrellas held over their heads, led by Macron. The White House said the President arrived separately because of "security protocols."

Russian President Vladimir Putin also arrived separately and flashed Trump a thumbs up before taking his place on the riser.

The imagery may have been rooted in logistics, but as France and its European partners fret about the alliance forged with the United States in bloody conflict a century ago, it mattered. Trump has shown little appetite for strengthening the relationships that have underpinned transatlantic relations since the end of World War I, instead lambasting traditional US partners on trade and the cost of security.

He's shown more affinity for strongmen leaders who have eroded democracy in their countries, like Putin, with whom he spoke at a lunch on Sunday, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who sat alongside him at dinner on Saturday.

That's left leaders, such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Macron, who put forth well-publicized displays of unity this weekend, to urgently warn of backsliding into history's darkest moments.

Macron offered a clear message about the dangers of nationalism while hosting the ceremony commemorating the armistice Sunday. With Trump -- a self-declared "nationalist" -- seated stone-faced in front of him, Macron delivered a stinging rebuke of the US President's "America First" agenda.

"Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism," Macron said. "Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism. By saying 'our interests first; who cares about the others?', we erase what a nation holds dearest, what gives it life, what makes it great, and what makes it essential — its moral values."

Macron later warned that "the old demons" have resurfaced, declaring that "giving into the fascination for withdrawal, isolationism, violence and domination would be a grave error" for which future generations would hold them accountable.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 485655

Reported Deaths: 6558
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1007641586
Ramsey43106801
Dakota36297390
Anoka33293385
Washington22078256
Stearns18734201
St. Louis14805262
Scott13290107
Wright12526115
Olmsted1178988
Sherburne872872
Carver772640
Clay691587
Rice670491
Blue Earth594735
Kandiyohi579574
Crow Wing520681
Chisago499045
Otter Tail482170
Benton446490
Winona418349
Mower404731
Douglas392668
Nobles387047
Goodhue385768
Polk343162
McLeod339349
Beltrami337951
Morrison324547
Itasca313046
Lyon313044
Becker311342
Isanti306154
Steele300411
Carlton300149
Pine282016
Freeborn280723
Nicollet258641
Todd248030
Brown245037
Le Sueur235320
Mille Lacs227447
Cass220024
Waseca208717
Meeker207434
Martin189528
Wabasha18653
Roseau180217
Hubbard160640
Houston157314
Dodge15224
Renville149640
Redwood147027
Fillmore13728
Chippewa136335
Cottonwood134820
Pennington134416
Wadena130920
Faribault123017
Aitkin118833
Sibley117310
Watonwan11738
Rock115714
Kanabec107519
Pipestone101424
Yellow Medicine97617
Murray9448
Jackson93510
Swift87918
Pope8045
Marshall77815
Stevens7418
Lake74018
Clearwater71914
Lac qui Parle68416
Wilkin67110
Koochiching61811
Big Stone5163
Lincoln5062
Grant4918
Norman4788
Unassigned46768
Mahnomen4417
Kittson40921
Red Lake3625
Traverse3055
Lake of the Woods2191
Cook1180

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 362827

Reported Deaths: 5440
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk58260551
Linn20670313
Scott18318210
Black Hawk16258292
Woodbury14979211
Johnson1384874
Dubuque13562194
Dallas1138690
Pottawattamie10791143
Story1024945
Warren556674
Clinton543784
Cerro Gordo533782
Webster519587
Marshall497272
Sioux494869
Buena Vista474537
Des Moines458861
Muscatine452291
Wapello4345108
Jasper417766
Plymouth395378
Lee375452
Marion359169
Jones294154
Henry293337
Carroll286249
Bremer280854
Crawford275135
Boone259730
Washington254347
Benton253854
Mahaska224746
Jackson221638
Dickinson217840
Tama213765
Kossuth208555
Clay193625
Hamilton192142
Delaware189140
Winneshiek189127
Buchanan185729
Fayette185235
Page183319
Hardin181439
Wright179931
Harrison179469
Cedar178523
Clayton168154
Butler167231
Mills163020
Floyd162741
Cherokee154836
Madison154718
Poweshiek154330
Hancock147130
Allamakee146747
Lyon145941
Iowa145023
Appanoose139247
Grundy139230
Jefferson138734
Winnebago138631
Cass134751
Calhoun133811
Mitchell130940
Louisa128241
Union126631
Chickasaw125215
Sac124618
Emmet121740
Shelby121733
Franklin118319
Humboldt117925
Guthrie116628
Palo Alto105221
Montgomery104136
Howard102921
Clarke100420
Unassigned9900
Keokuk98229
Monroe93328
Adair92128
Ida91432
Pocahontas85419
Davis83123
Monona81627
Greene77510
Lucas74021
Osceola70615
Worth6997
Taylor66612
Fremont5909
Decatur5829
Van Buren56118
Ringgold52320
Wayne48921
Audubon4889
Adams3274
Rochester/St. Mary'S
Partly Cloudy
35° wxIcon
Hi: 44° Lo: 26°
Feels Like: 35°
Mason City
Clear
32° wxIcon
Hi: 49° Lo: 28°
Feels Like: 26°
Albert Lea
Partly Cloudy
36° wxIcon
Hi: 41° Lo: 27°
Feels Like: 36°
Austin
Partly Cloudy
34° wxIcon
Hi: 44° Lo: 26°
Feels Like: 34°
Charles City
Partly Cloudy
34° wxIcon
Hi: 46° Lo: 25°
Feels Like: 30°
Mild conditions expected this week
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Community Events