Biden Warns of Isolationism at War Cemetery Skipped by Trump

(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden warned against the rise of isolationism in the US while visiting an American military cemetery in France that his predecessor, Donald Trump, famously skipped six years ago.

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Biden said the World War I-era Aisne-Marne American Cemetery was the final resting place for soldiers who fought in the deadliest US Marine Corps battle until then, Biden said, and he could not fathom “the idea that I’d come to Normandy and not make the short trip here to pay tribute.”

The US president didn’t name Trump during a brief discussion with reporters after a wreath-laying ceremony and declined to answer a question about his expected 2024 opponent, but his target was unmistakable. Honoring war dead is “a measure of a country’s support for democratic values,” Biden said.

The Atlantic has reported that Trump in 2018 canceled a visit to the graveyard because he was worried his hair would be ruined by heavy rain, and that he belittled Americans who died in the nation’s wars as “suckers” and “losers.” Biden has frequently seized on that reporting to criticize Trump, who denied disparaging US troops and blamed logistical problems caused by the weather.

Biden on Sunday took aim at Trump’s “America First” foreign policy, arguing “the idea that we’re able to avoid being engaged in major battles in Europe is just not realistic” for a major power like the US.

“I think there’s a new rise and a sense of some within the country wanting to let that slip,” he said.

“The idea that we’d become semi-isolationist now, which some are talking about. I mean, the idea we had to wait all those months just to get the money for Iraq because we were waiting. I mean, it’s just — it’s not who we are. It’s not who America is,” Biden added, mistakenly referring to the Middle Eastern country instead of Ukraine.

Trump picked up the thread at a rally in Las Vegas later Sunday, where he again called The Atlantic’s report false.

“For me to say ‘suckers’ and ‘losers’ about people that died in World War I in front of military people — it’s not a possibility you could say a thing like that,” he said. “So it’s a shame.”

Biden’s stop at the cemetery capped off a visit to France marking the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings that paved the way for the Allies’ victory over Nazi Germany. In a pair of speeches, the president drew parallels between Russia’s present-day invasion of Ukraine to the Nazis’ conquest of Europe in the 1930s and 1940s and called on Americans to stand up for freedom and democracy at home and abroad, making an implicit contrast with Trump.

--With assistance from Alicia Diaz.

(Updates with Trump comments in eighth paragraph.)

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