On Thursday, President Trump gave a speech at Omaha Beach to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landing that was widely praised in the media and even by those who are usually his fierce critics. However, MSNBC Live with Craig Melvin guest host Geoff Bennett seemed to wonder if Trump really meant what he said.
Noting that Trump was "reading from scripted remarks," Bennett questioned whether Trump really meant what he said when he, "reaffirmed America's alliance with Europe." Trying to build support for his assertion, Bennett told correspondent Bill Neely: "When the President is off script, as you know, he time and time again complains that U.S. Allies don't spend enough on their own defense and he's also made clear that he sees little use for multi-national organizations."
Bennett then asked Neely, "How should we parse, how should we digest when we heard from President Trump today?"
Neely conceded that Trump has been "tough" on NATO itself and NATO allies, but that today was not a day for alliance politics. He went on to praise the speeches given by Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron. Yes, Trump was on script, but it was "beautiful" and "powerful," Neely reported from Normandy.
The United States has had disagreements with our European allies before. Criticizing the Europeans for low defense spending is one of the last remaining bipartisan traditions in Washington. Perhaps Trump has taken it too far, but Bennett should not have used D-Day advance his anti-Trump agenda. There is a time and a place for everything and as Neely said, today is not that day.
Here is a transcript for the June 6 show:
MSNBC Live with Craig Melvin
June 6, 2019
11:00 a.m. Eastern
GEOFF BENNETT: Details now from NBC’s Bill Neely in Normandy and NBC's Hans Nichols in Limerick, Ireland. And by Bill, I want to start with you because in President Trump’s speech today, he touched on the sacrifice of the Americans that served and lost her lives in Normandy and reaffirmed America's alliance with Europe. But he, of course, was reading from scripted prepared remarks. And when the president is off script, as you know, he time and time again complains that U.S. Allies don't spend enough on their own defense and he's also made clear that he sees little use for multi-national organizations. So how should we parse, how should we digest when we heard from President Trump today?
BILL NEELY: Jeff, you're absolutely right. He's been tough on NATO, the organization and on NATO allies for not contributing what he believes they should contribute to the organization. But, look, this day of all days was not a day for berating allies and President Trump did not. And he was on message. He had, as say script as you say, a beautiful script and, he handled it well indeed. Two powerful scripts, because the other was from France’s President Macron, it was more political and deeply thankful of America's role in liberating his nation. But for President Trump, he name checked countries and he name checked people and that was very diplomatic. He name checked France and the French Resistance, that will have gone down very well here. He spoke of resilient Britain, the fighting Poles, Australia, Denmark, all of them NATO allies, but above all personally he name checked some of the 60 or so veterans who sat behind him, some of them huddled up in blankets, in particular the one I picked out was a Private Russell Picket, President Trump told the story of Private Picket who is in his mid-90s and then asked him -- well didn't does ask, he led the applause, Private Picket tried to stand up, very labored. President Trump went over to him and bent down and hugged him. This is not a president we've seen hugging very much. He's not that kind of man. But it was a really, really touching moment and felt President Trump got it just right. And after that he said, “you are among the greatest Americans who will ever live. You're the pride of our nation. The glory of our republic. And we thank you.” So that was personal. He touched on the political. He did talk about NATO indirectly saying to all of our friends and partners, “Our cherished alliance was forged in the heat of battle, tested in the trial of war and proven in the peace and our bond is unshakeable.” That is as far as he went. President Macron name checked NATO directly and urged President Trump to live up to the spirit of Normandy as he put the “alliance of free peoples and the values of America's founding fathers.” So name checking NATO directly there from President Macron. But a day when the ties that bind these oldest of allies, remember France and the United States are the oldest of allies, it was a day when those ties were strengthened, where President Trump did step up to the plate. But above all, it was a day when presidents praised privates. Those extraordinary vets, most of them in the mid-90s, who, as President Trump said, carried on their shoulders not just the pack of a soldier but the fate of the world. A really deeply-moving speech by the president and a very somber day of remembrance here at the American cemetery overlooking Omaha beach, the deadliest beach of the five Normandy beaches on this day 75 years ago.