Trump Subdued: President Avoids Fiery Rhetoric Hours After Off-The-Rails Rally

Alex Brandon/AP
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President Donald Trump gave a sleepy speech to the American Legion’s annual convention in Reno, Nevada on Wednesday, listing legislative accomplishments and avoiding fiery campaign-style rhetoric.

The anodyne address stood in stark contrast to his off-the-rails rally a night earlier, when he went after the media and fellow Republicans, among other targets.

“One year ago, at this gathering, and I remember so many of you so well, I promised you that I would make it my priority to fix the broken [Department of Veterans Affairs] and deliver our veterans the care they so richly deserve,” Trump told the convention’s attendees Wednesday.

“Now you have a true reformer in Secretary David Shulkin,” he said, referring to the one Obama-era holdover in his Cabinet. “He has done an incredible job.”

Trump spent much of the speech trumpeting his military-related accomplishments: Signing legislation to enhance accountability at the VA, for example, and securing additional defense spending in a short-term congressional funding package.

He also trumpeted his outline Monday of a continued military confrontation against the Taliban in Afghanistan, though he advocated precisely against such involvement as a private citizen.

“We will pursue an honorable and enduring outcome in Afghanistan, worthy of the tremendous sacrifice our troops have already made,” he said. “We will give our men and women in uniform the tools they need and the trust they have earned to fight and to win.”

He added later: “No longer are we using our military to build democracies. Instead, we’re forming a coalition of nations that share the aim of stamping out extremism, defeating terrorism and pursuing stability, prosperity and peace.”

Though Trump occasionally veered into more political territory — he commended the American Legion for its emphasis on “the need to preserve the nation’s cultural, moral, and patriotic values” and “the need to enforce our laws, including our immigration laws” — it was nothing compared to Tuesday’s barnburner in Phoenix.

There, Trump blamed the news media for giving white supremacists a platform and defended his response to the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia on Aug. 12. He repeated some of statements he made following the events in Charlottesville, but left out the parts where he blamed “many sides” for the violence surrounding the white nationalist rally, and where he said both sides contained “very fine people.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matt Shuham is a news writer for TPM. He was previously assistant editor of The National Memo and managing editor of the Harvard Political Review. He is available by email at mshuham@talkingpointsmemo.com and on Twitter @mattshuham.
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