Tuesday, November 13, 2018

What did Donald Trump do today?

He changed his story on skipping Veterans' Day observances.

Trump refused (or was unable) to attend a memorial service this past Saturday at the American cemetery in Belleau Wood, near Paris. This proved especially embarrassing as other world leaders were willing and able to attend, a fact which appears to have been slowly registering with Trump as he caught up with the news after returning to the United States.

Today, he belatedly explained himself in a tweet—and contradicted all previous White House spin on the matter. 

Initially, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders had claimed that, with poor weather supposedly grounding Trump's helicopter, he had decided not to travel in his armored limousine because it would cause traffic delays for Parisians. In a tweet today, Trump claimed shifted the blame to the Secret Service, claiming that they had forbidden him from making the trip.

The distinction is an important one, because the president has the final say in such matters. More than that, Trump has bragged in the past about (supposedly) about overruling his pilots and forcing them to land in bad weather to attend a campaign rally.

In the same tweet, Trump complained that nobody was talking about how he spoke the following day at a different cemetery "in pouring rain." It's true that Trump made an appearance on Sunday at a cemetery more convenient to his Paris lodging, but it was not pouring—or visibly raining at all—as he spoke.

The tweet did not explain why, safely back in the United States and on a day on which no rain fell in Washington, he refused to attend Monday's Veterans Day observances at Arlington National Cemetery—or make any other public observance of the holiday honoring America's veterans. 

Why should I care about this?

  • Good leaders don't deal with controversy by publicly trying to pin blame on their subordinates.
  • Truthful explanations for why a president does (or fails to do) something don't change over time.
  • It's a huge problem that the most likely explanation for these absences is that Trump was too emotionally volatile in the wake of the midterms to appear in public.