Biden to visit WWI cemetery Trump ignored in France

PARIS — President Biden will visit an American cemetery in France on Sunday, a somber setting that will allow him to pay tribute to fallen soldiers while reminding voters of one of the most controversial moments of Donald Trump’s presidency.

Biden’s stop at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery — a site Trump ignored on a 2018 trip after reportedly calling those buried there “suckers” and “losers” — will cap a trip of five days in France during which the president did not tell his predecessor. name in public but nevertheless sought to highlight the marked differences that exist between the two men and their two presidencies.

It’s part of a growing effort by Biden and his campaign to resurface the worst memories of Trump’s turbulent four years in office — a push that has run squarely into a phenomenon pollsters have called “amnesia.” of Trump.” With polls showing Americans giving Trump higher marks on several issues than when he was president, the 2024 election could be determined by voters’ willingness to forget, political strategists and historians say.

Biden has taken personal interest in the idea that the passage of time has softened Americans’ memories of Trump’s presidency and has increasingly sought to play a role as booster in chief. With speeches, trips to places Trump once visited and campaign ads that often feature more of Trump’s words than his own, the president has tried to help voters remember why they chose to oust his predecessor.

Whether actions like Sunday’s cemetery tour — and the accompanying political ads launched this week to make a more direct argument — are effective in combating Trump’s sense of nostalgia could be a question. prove crucial to Biden’s re-election efforts.


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“Trump is trying to make the country forget how dark and troubling things were when he was president,” Biden said at a May 30 campaign rally in Philadelphia, repeating a phrase he has said repeatedly these last months. “But we will never forget.”

In his recent speeches, Biden has frequently brought up Trump’s visit to France, often raising his voice to castigate the former president for allegedly denigrating fallen service members. Trump vehemently denied making the comments, even though the “suckers and losers” controversy has persisted for nearly four years.

In November 2018, Trump skipped a planned stop at the military cemetery near Paris, where he and other world leaders were to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. According to a 2020 report in the Atlantic, Trump refused to surrender. the cemetery in part because he declared that the 2,000 soldiers buried there were “losers,” comments that were later confirmed by his then-chief of staff, John F. Kelly. Trump’s allies have pointed the finger at other officials who deny he left such a mark, and his aides at the time said bad weather was to blame for the decision to remove the cemetery tour from his schedule .

While Biden visited France primarily to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day – the invasion of Nazi-occupied France by Allied forces on June 6, 1944 – and to make a state visit with what he called “America’s first friend”, a trip to France the cemetery which Trump’s rejection presented the president with a clear opportunity to resurrect memories of his predecessor’s failures, said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian.

“I hope that Biden will have the courage to go visit this cemetery and pay his respects where Trump would not go because it was drizzling,” he said before the announcement of the Biden’s itinerary. “He doesn’t need to say anything, but commentators will point out the contrast.”

While Biden did not mention Trump by name during his five-day public events in France — which might have seemed crude on a trip focused on World War II veterans — much of the substance of his visit consisted of an implicit rebuke of his predecessor’s worldview and a warning about the threat what it represents for the world order.

In his speeches, Biden denounced isolationism, campaigned against “hateful ideology,” criticized those who try to stay in power and warned that democracy is under grave threat, messages that dovetail with the main lines of his speeches. his campaign’s attack on Trump.

He effusively praised the global alliances denigrated by Trump, saying their value to American security is “a lesson I pray we Americans will never forget.”

His aides and allies said that even without naming the former president, Biden offered voters a stark contrast by sharing emotional moments with World War II veterans in Normandy, echoing defense of democracy of former President Ronald Reagan at Pointe du Hoc and showing solidarity with the French president. Emmanuel Macron and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky – two men Trump clashed with during his time in office.

While Biden implicitly made his case for reelection, his campaign pushed to make a more direct appeal against Trump by releasing two digital ads criticizing the former president for his treatment of the U.S. military. One of the ads, released Saturday, featured quotes from Trump disparaging veterans against a backdrop of military cemeteries and flag-draped coffins.

The Trump campaign said Biden’s trip to France presented a foreign policy contrast that it welcomed, noting that the wars in Ukraine and Israel took place on Biden’s watch.

“No one poses a greater threat to American democracy than Joe Biden,” Trump campaign communications Karoline Leavitt said in a statement, adding that Biden is “taking our country into the gutter.”

Molly Murphy, a pollster for the Biden campaign, said the president and his team are well aware of the phenomenon of “Trump amnesia” and are working diligently to combat it. She said voters, exhausted by the constant drama during Trump’s tenure, actively tried to forget those memories, charging Biden’s campaign with evoking memories of incidents like the one in January. January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol by supporters of the former president.

“We need to do this everywhere, because when the voters we need to reach tell us, ‘I’m actively trying to forget that time; I don’t actively accept it, “it just means you have to be everywhere to do it,” she said.

Biden’s campaign has regularly marked anniversaries of Trump’s missteps, noting that many of the president’s struggles with the coronavirus pandemic occurred four years ago.

Biden himself has made the effort on the road, at times using his physical presence to remind voters of Trump’s presidency. Last month, he traveled to Racine, Wisconsin, to demonstrate a new Microsoft data center, criticizing Trump for his broken promise to put a Foxconn factory on the same site.

His stop at the cemetery on Sunday — consisting of a wreath-laying before his return to the United States — is expected to be less explicit, but hopefully it will remind voters why Trump left office with such low approval ratings.

It remains to be seen whether this broader bet will succeed, but Biden’s struggling poll numbers — and surveys consistently showing Americans have a more favorable view of Trump’s presidency on key issues — indicate the battle could be difficult.

“There is a general feeling that we are going in the wrong direction. And none of that answers this question that Biden fundamentally needs to overcome,” said Doug Heye, a Republican strategist. “So going to France won’t change the mind of a single voter. He kind of says, “Hey, remember when Trump left? Okay, what is this supposed to do?

Trump is also trying to remind voters of moments his opponent wants them to forget.

Trump has used social media to call out some of Biden’s mistakes, frequently making allusions to the president’s advanced age and alleged lack of physical fitness. Biden is 81 years old and Trump is 77 years old.

Last week, Trump posted a video on Instagram of Biden falling during the 2023 U.S. Air Force Academy graduation, noting that the incident happened exactly a year earlier.

On Thursday, he posted video of some of Biden’s most embarrassing moments, including clips of him falling off his bike, stumbling down the stairs of Air Force One and struggling to find his words.

At campaign rallies, Trump frequently spoke of the chaotic 2021 withdrawal from Afghanistan and the rampant inflation of the start of Biden’s presidency, relying on a “Make America Great Again” message to cultivate a sense of nostalgia for his four years in office.

At a town hall in Phoenix on Thursday, the former president explained that “people who had comfortable lives under Trump” are now struggling under “record inflation” during Biden’s tenure.

While efforts to shape voters’ memories have long been a staple of presidential elections — with the question “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” Becoming a popular refrain in election years — the fact that two presidents are facing off this year only reinforces the importance of winning the battle over what Americans remember, said Tevi Troy, a presidential historian.

“History shows that memory campaigns can work, but only if voters think the memory evoked is worse than what they are currently experiencing,” he said.

Isaac Arnsdorf contributed to this report.

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