Joe Scarborough: Future may be in best speech reader’s hands
By Joe Scarborough
President Ronald Reagan did not “wing it” as he overlooked the rocky bluffs of Pointe du Hoc, offering praise to D-Day heroes and inspiration to a nation still haunted by Vietnam. President John F. Kennedy did not toss aside his prepared speech when he stood at the Berlin Wall and declared, “I am a Berliner.”
Neither did America’s notoriously unscripted president last week, who used his time at Normandy to offer words of assurance to the same allies that he spent his first years in the White House provoking.
President Donald Trump drew praise from editorial writers and thought leaders across the political spectrum for a D-Day address that temporarily soothed the nerves of NATO allies and foreign policy analysts alike. The president’s belligerence toward America’s most faithful democratic partners was notably absent on the 75th anniversary of the historic military invasion. And it’s all right to admit it: This is a good thing.
The best orators employ speechwriters and teleprompters for a reason.
During occasions such as last week’s ceremony, America’s reputation depends on its president choosing words with both care and eloquence. Trump critics understandably dismissed positive headlines accompanying his Normandy speech and scoffed that the president had done little more than read a script written by a staff member. But even Trump’s detractors should recognize that the object of their contempt has proved more than any politician before him that rhetorical restraint is indeed a precious commodity.
U.S. prestige suffered after Trump’s Helsinki summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, when Trump admitted to a watching world that he had less faith in his intelligence chiefs than in the cynical assurances of a former KGB agent. The president also did his country few favors by dismissing Germany ahead of last year’s NATO summit as “captive to Russia” and accusing other allies of being “delinquent.”
Like many, I consider the Normandy American Cemetery hallowed ground. I was saddened by the president’s use of the sunlit white crosses there as a backdrop to attack his political enemies on Fox News.
But that performance was not repeated later in the morning, when French President Emmanuel Macron met Trump onstage as the world watched. In that moment, the commander in chief was effusive in his praise for British fortitude, Canadian honor, the fighting Poles, the intrepid Aussies and the valor of the French.
Forgive Democrats for being less than impressed by their nemesis’ reading skills. But they should not forget that their ability to dislodge The Donald from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. next year may depend upon a certain Scranton, Pennsylvania, native doing the same. Considering that Joe Biden, the Democrats’ best hope for 2020, has a checkered past as a candidate for national office, his supporters can only hope that when the former vice president gets onstage, he smiles for the crowd, reads his speech and exits stage left, waving as he goes. That is because Biden has proved himself uniquely challenged in going off script, taking 20 minutes to answer a question and causing himself and his staff unnecessary political grief.
In fact, Biden’s successful campaign launch in 2020 owes much to his newfound political discipline. Until last week’s flip-flop on abortion funding, the Democratic front-runner kept his most loquacious instincts in check. If he can restrain himself for another 16 months, Biden is likely to be our 46th president.
Too much is riding on next year’s election for any Democratic candidate to shoot from the hip rhetorically. America’s future will likely be left in the hands of whichever 70-something politician sticks most closely to the script that is handed to him.
Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman from Florida, hosts the MSNBC show “Morning Joe.”
By Leonard Pitts It’s a story that will lacerate your heart. Indeed, you’ll watch “When They See Us,” director Ava... read more