The revealing words Trump said about Pelosi's trip

David Axelrod talked with former Secretary of State and 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, John Kerry, about Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's claim that the age of American shame is over.

Posted: Jan 19, 2019 6:10 AM
Updated: Jan 19, 2019 6:10 AM

I can almost understand President Trump's decision to ground Nancy Pelosi and her traveling delegation.

Almost.

Pelosi played hardball by suggesting the President postpone his State of the Union speech due to the ongoing government shutdown. Never one to sit still for an affront, Trump fired a spitball back by yanking the Air Force jet that was to fly the speaker and a congressional delegation overseas.

Neither looked particularly good.

But buried within Trump's overheated letter Thursday was a phrase that revealed something more about this President than the petty reprisal it was meant to deliver.

In summarily canceling the speaker's trip to Afghanistan, the President said, "I'm sure you would agree that postponing this public relations event is totally appropriate."

Public relations event?

Pelosi was about the embark on an unannounced visit to our troops. Hardly a junket, the trip to a war zone was cloaked in secrecy to protect the safety of Pelosi and a delegation of House members.

In light of the President's controversial plan to shrink the US footprint in Afghanistan, there was a compelling reason for the trip. They were then to go on to Brussels to meet with our NATO allies.

I had the privilege of joining President Barack Obama in 2010 on his first visit to Afghanistan as commander in chief -- a journey I'll never forget.

Air Force One corkscrewed into the war-torn country unannounced and under the cover of darkness. We shuttled to Kabul on Blackhawk helicopters, with gunners poised to return hostile fire. The President and his delegation met for hours with their Afghan counterparts. Then we returned to Bagram Air Base, where Obama offered words of encouragement and appreciation to our troops.

The visit seemed to mean a lot to those splendid young Americans, who were risking their lives for our country half a world away. I know it meant a lot to the President, who saw it not as a "public relations event" but as his sacred obligation as commander in chief.

Maybe it's because our current President views such visits -- and virtually everything, for that matter -- as mere "public relations events" that he has yet to visit Afghanistan and our 14,000 troops there.

Or maybe he just fears going where other leaders have dared to tread. Trump, who won a deferment from service in Vietnam due to "bone spurs," described his much less risky Christmas Day trip to Iraq as if he were a hero in "Top Gun." And he has said he knows "more than the generals."

This aroused the ire of former Secretary of State John Kerry, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, with whom I sat down for this weekend's CNN episode of "The Axe Files."

"No, you don't, Mr. President," Kerry said. "You will never know what it is like to be in a foxhole or be in the front lines, be in an ambush, to be shot at, see your best friend killed in war, and I object to that."

Trump's decision to punish Pelosi by canceling her travel was a peevish retort to a political provocation. His casual dismissal of her planned visit to the troops said so much more.

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