Donald Trump speaking at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. Gage Skidmore/Flickr

Robert Brehl: Trump, an Ugly American in Paris

  • November 14, 2018

Just when one thinks the current president of the United States can’t do anything more brazen, he trumps that belief and goes one further.

Donald Trump’s behaviour in Paris last weekend on the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War was shameful.

 But before getting to that, let’s recap some of his other antics in November. He continued his assault on the country’s Constitution and First Amendment; this time barring CNN’s chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta after a heated exchange between the two at a news conference.

Acosta was then denied entrance into the White House for “placing hands on a young woman” which was clearly not the case. The White House intern was the one who forcibly tried to take the microphone from Acosta. That’s Trump and his war on reporters who don’t work for his unofficial organ at Fox News.

In tweets, Trump also blamed forestry mismanagement for the deadly wildfires that are causing historic damage in both northern and southern California. And he even threatened to hold back federal relief money.

This angered many, including Canadian rock legend Neil Young who lost his Malibu home to the fires.

“California is vulnerable — not because of poor forest management as DT (our so-called president) would have us think. As a matter of fact this is not a forest fire that rages on as I write this. We are vulnerable because of Climate Change; the extreme weather events and our extended drought is part of it,” Young wrote on his website.

“It really is time for a reckoning with this unfit leader. Maybe our new Congress can help. I sure hope so,” Young said.

Then there was Trump claiming victory and credit after the U.S. mid-term elections. With Republicans holding onto the Senate, Trump gave himself accolades for his campaigning on behalf of his allies and then ridiculed Republicans who declined his help and lost.

With the Democrats taking over the House of Representatives, Trump also dismissed that as “cyclical” and nothing to do with him. Funny, but the economy — a cyclical beast to be sure — is humming along nicely and Trump claims it’s all because of his tax cuts and deregulation maneuvers.

Anyway, returning to Paris, Trump went overboard to play the role of the ugly American, shunning Western leaders at his first public appearance and sitting glumly until the arrival of Vladimir Putin, who tossed Trump a “thumbs up.”

On Nov. 10, Trump was scheduled to lay a wreath in a cemetery just outside Paris — and where 2,000 American soldiers died in battle 100 years ago — but he decided to stay in his hotel room rather than go out into the rain.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel — even Trump’s own staff — were all seen attending memorial ceremonies around the country, standing in the lightest of drizzles, while Trump tweeted from his room.

Canadian David Frum, a former speech writer for George W. Bush, tweeted that Trump had “shirked on grounds of weather the job of honouring those who fought and died in rain and mud. 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.”

Then on Sunday, Nov. 11, other world leaders walked together along the Champs Élysées; Trump travelled separately in a limousine — telling symbolism.

Under the Arc de Triomphe, the French president spoke, leaving no doubt as to whom he referred: “Patriotism is the antithesis of nationalism. Nationalism is inherently treasonous. In saying ‘our interests first, and forget the others’, we lose the most important part of the nation: its moral values.”

We’ve come to expect such behaviour from Trump. After all, he avoided serving in Vietnam due to “bone spurs” and then a few years ago criticized military veteran and senator John McCain: “He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured (in Vietnam). I like people that weren’t captured.”

Journalist and esteemed political commentator H.L. Mencken issued a prophecy in the Baltimore Evening Sun on July 26, 1920, shortly after the end of the Great War that was being commemorated by world leaders in Paris. 

“As democracy is perfected, the office (of the president) represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron,” Mencken wrote.

Lest we forget.

(Brehl is a writer and author of many books.)

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