Trump can­cels visit to U.S. war dead

Bad weather cited for skip­ping trip to WWI ceme­tery; crit­ics howl

The Day - - WORLD & NATION - By DAVID NAKA­MURA, SE­UNG MIN KIM AND JAMES MCAULEY

Paris — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump flew 3,800 miles to this French cap­i­tal city for cer­e­monies to honor the mil­i­tary sac­ri­fice in World War I, hop­ing to take part in the kind of pow­er­ful ode to the brav­ery of the armed forces that he was un­able to hold in Washington.

But on his first full day here, it rained on his sub­sti­tute pa­rade week­end.

Early Satur­day, the White House an­nounced Trump and the first lady had scut­tled plans, due to bad weather, for their first stop in the week­end's re­mem­brance ac­tiv­i­ties — a visit to the solemn Aisne Marne Amer­i­can Ceme­tery, mark­ing the fe­ro­cious Bat­tle of Bel­leau Wood.

It was not com­pletely clear why the Trumps were un­able to at­tend. The ceme­tery is 50 miles from Paris. Per­haps the pres­i­dent was plan­ning to travel on Marine One, which is oc­ca­sion­ally grounded by the Se­cret Ser­vice.

But the sight of dig­ni­taries ar­riv­ing at other sites out­side Paris, in­clud­ing Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau, Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel and French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron, led some for­eign pol­icy an­a­lysts to spec­u­late the U.S. com­man­der in chief just wasn't up for it.

“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 for­mer 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 Kelly and Gen. Joseph 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.

Trump held a bi­lat­eral meet­ing with Macron, but the U.S. pres­i­dent ap­peared sub­dued, al­most sullen, as Macron tried to mask grow­ing ten­sions be­tween them.

When Macron tried to pat Trump's thigh, the pres­i­dent ig­nored him and didn't ac­knowl­edge the touch or re­cip­ro­cate it — a marked dif­fer­ence from their demon­stra­tive power-grip hand­shakes and back slaps dur­ing pre­vi­ous meet­ings.

Trump is still plan­ning to at­tend the fea­tured cer­e­mony un­der the Arc de Tri­om­phe to­day where more than 100 world lead­ers will pay homage to the 100th an­niver­sary of the ar­mistice that ended the Great War.

But he won't re­ally get a pa­rade. The event will not fea­ture tanks or mis­siles like the pa­rade Trump had en­vi­sioned on the streets of Washington on Vet­er­ans Day but can­celed due to ex­or­bi­tant costs.

Af­ter an­other sched­uled visit to a cer­e­mony to­day, the pres­i­dent plans to fly home just as Macron's Paris Peace Fo­rum kicks off for three days of meet­ings aimed at gal­va­niz­ing global ac­tion on shared chal­lenges, such as cli­mate change.

“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 SPEECH­WRITER FOR FOR­MER PRES­I­DENT GE­ORGE W. BUSH

FRAN­COIS MORI/AP PHOTO

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, left, and Chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Joseph Dun­ford, cen­ter, at­tend a cer­e­mony Satur­day at the Aisne Marne Amer­i­can Ceme­tery, near the Bel­leau Wood bat­tle­ground. Bel­leau Wood, 50 miles north­east of Paris, is the place where U.S. troops had their break­through bat­tle by stop­ping a Ger­man push for Paris in 1918.

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