Joe Biden’s trip to France proved two big things: He’s no Ronald Reagan, and he forgot to pack his patriotism.

Along the way, he also managed to cheapen historic heroes by trying to score partisan political points with attacks on Donald Trump and House Republicans.

Whatever happened to the tradition that partisanship stops at the water’s edge?

Other than that, heckuva job, Mr. President.

Biden’s visit to Normandy for the 80th anniversary of the D-Day invasion was overshadowed from the start by Reagan’s exceptional speech at the same spot 40 years earlier.

Although the contrast must have eaten at Biden, who bitterly opposed almost everything Reagan did and stood for, White House aides used the Gipper’s speech as a guide for Biden’s.

That was their first mistake.

Their second was to so closely echo Reagan’s description of the Army rangers who climbed the cliffs of Omaha and Utah beaches in the face of withering German fire that Biden is being accused on social media of plagiarism.

Reagan saluted the “boys of Pointe du Hoc,” some of whom sat before him with tears in their eyes.

“These are the men who took the cliffs,” he said.

“These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war.”

Biden cited the “ghosts of Pointe du Hoc,” and said “These rangers put mission and country above themselves. Does anyone believe they would exact any less from every American today?”


Biden’s visit to Normandy for the 80th anniversary of the D-Day invasion was overshadowed from the start by Reagan’s exceptional speech at the same spot 40 years earlier.
Biden’s visit to Normandy for the 80th anniversary of the D-Day invasion was overshadowed from the start by Reagan’s exceptional speech at the same spot 40 years earlier. AP

An actual similarity both presidents faced are the global circumstances.

Reagan was trying to hold a fractured alliance together in the face of the Soviet Union’s occupation of much of Europe, while Biden struggles to hold NATO together to counter Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

But once again, there was no comparison in the quality of ideas or in expression.

Reagan came off as a towering international leader, while Biden, as usual, sounded an uncertain trumpet.

Peggy Noonan, credited with writing most of Reagan’s speech, describes what she called the “speech within the speech.”

“The Western alliance was falling apart,” she writes in her Wall Street Journal column.

“Its political leaders were under severe pressure at home. British, West German and Italian peace movements had risen and gained influence in 1982 and 1983, pushing to stop the U.S.-Soviet arms race . . . In New York, a million antinuclear protesters had marched from Central Park to the United Nations.”

It was, she recalls, “one of the tensest moments of the Cold War.”

For Biden, the global picture took a back seat to domestic politics.

Reagan also faced re-election in the year of his Normandy speech, but he handled that challenge in a way that shames Biden’s approach.

Gipper and Griper

Reagan never cited, even indirectly, his opponent or any domestic issue.

Instead, he focused on America’s role of leading the free world against Soviet communism.

Seven years earlier, before becoming president, he had outlined his vision of American policy toward the Soviets as, “We win, they lose.”

In 1984, that remained an extremely controversial idea, with the smart set in Washington and Europe convinced the USSR would remain a permanent power and that containment was the only realistic hope.

But Reagan had a big idea, and the Soviet Union would break up two years after he left office.

Biden’s only idea is a second term, and the speech within his speech was all about Trump.

He used the dramatic backdrop to restate his constant claims that democracy will end if Trump wins, although he didn’t mention his opponent’s name.

Speaking of the Army rangers in one telling sequence, he said, “They’re not asking us to scale these cliffs. They’re asking us to stay true to what America stands for.”

The media, prompted by the White House, got the message.

The headline in The New York Times declared, “Biden Straddles the Patriotic and the Political in Speech at Normandy.”

The Wall Street Journal was more explicit, writing “Against D-Day Backdrop, Biden Puts Democracy at Center of Anti-Trump Pitch.”

Biden’s other big no-no came during a Paris meeting with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, where he groveled over a delay in sending military aid.

“I apologize for the weeks of not knowing what was going to pass, in terms of funding, because we had trouble getting the bill that we had to pass, that had the money in it,” he told Zelensky.

“Some of our very conservative members were holding it up.”

Imagine that.

America has expended vast resources to help Ukraine defend its territory, and Republicans held out to get Biden’s commitment to defending America’s southern border.

That sure sounds like democracy in the way the Framers imagined it.

And for that the president apologizes?

Not incidentally, Biden’s former boss, Barack Obama, was also fond of traveling abroad and complaining about Americans.


U.S. President Ronald Reagan gives a speech on the 40th Anniversary of D-Day at Pointe du Hoc, Normandy, France on June 6, 1984.
U.S. President Ronald Reagan gives a speech on the 40th Anniversary of D-Day at Pointe du Hoc, Normandy, France on June 6, 1984. White House via CNP

Most notably, he did it in Cairo in his apology to Muslims for America’s history.

If Trump did that, he would face an avalanche of criticism for trashing his own country on foreign soil.

Democrats and their media mouthpieces would declare that breaking norms is the greatest sin in politics and absolute proof of unfitness for the Oval Office.

Which is what they say every time Trump does something they don’t like.

Calling foul

The instant historians at The Washington Post once listed the top 20 norms Trump broke during his presidency.

CNN limited itself to 10, saying he “flouted the limits of presidential power unlike any of his recent predecessors,” and cited a “daily deluge of controversial tweets and distractions.”

Ah yes, mean tweets.

Off with his head!

The WaPo list of Trump’s sins included firing people, presumably including the crooked FBI director Jim Comey — no doubt a Post source — and insulting allied leaders.

Although the outlet acknowledged that norm-smashers of yore included Thomas Jefferson, Woodrow Wilson and FDR, only Trump was singled out as a flagrant violator.

The entire concept, of course, is ridiculous.

For example, No. 15 on the Post list was that Trump used “government resources for partisan ends,” which the paper said included attacks on “political enemies during official presidential addresses.”

Doesn’t Biden do that almost daily?

Also relevant was No. 10 on the WaPo list — “Politicizing diplomacy and foreign policy.”

Which perfectly describes what Biden just did in France.

And that’s not even to mention Democrats’ efforts to ban Trump from state ballots, bankrupt and imprison him.

All of those are historic firsts, and yet Trump is the threat to democracy?

As stupid as the argument sounds, it’s not trivial.

It is part of the core case against Trump, which is that he doesn’t play by the rules Washington established and therefore can’t be trusted.

It could be a powerful argument — except that most Americans now believe Washington is indeed a cesspool of crooks and self-dealers and that their government is failing them.

In that sense, Biden’s biggest problem isn’t Trump.

It’s that he keeps proving the public is right.

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