POLAND SUFFERED terribly during World War II. Under occupation by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, nearly 6 million Poles lost their lives (estimates vary by source).
About 3 million Polish Jews perished in the Holocaust; in Nazi death camps, on Holocaust trains, in the Jewish ghettos and as a result of “mass shooting actions” by the Germans. Nearly 3 million more non-Jewish Polish people died in acts of war, in labor camps, in prisons, by mass executions and from malnutrition and disease.
Nearly as horrific, 200,000 Polish children considered to have adequate “Aryan” characteristics were kidnapped and transported to Germany to be indoctrinated into German culture, or “Germanized.” Barely 1/8th of these children were ever returned to Poland.
Last weekend, President Trump was supposed to attend ceremonies in Poland commemorating and honoring Polish losses in World War II. At the last minute, he canceled that trip and sent Vice President Pence in his place, because he claimed that he needed to be physically present in the United States to “monitor” a hurricane in the Caribbean that was potentially making its way toward the mainland of the U.S.
Here at home and across the seas, many expressed skepticism. Other than being updated on the path of the erratic storm, there is literally nothing a President can do about an impending hurricane. Releasing federal emergency funds, updates on damage and sending relief and support services do not require his presence. And any visit to the affected region would not take place for days.
As I write this, the vice president’s trip to Poland has wrapped up, the storm has not yet made landfall in the United States and Donald Trump enjoyed a lovely Labor Day Weekend on the golf course.
When asked on Monday if he had a message for Poland as they commemorated this the solemn occasion, the President said he sends them his “congratulations.”
My problem isn’t so much with the fact that the President used a hurricane as cover for skipping a trip and spent the weekend at one of his own golf courses. It’s that he seemed to have no comprehension of why this visit was so significant to begin with.
Poland is a post-Iron Curtain success story and its people look to the United States for inspiration. America played a key, supporting role when Poland gained its independence in 1918 and, according to former U.S. Ambassador to Poland Daniel Fried, “Poland has been for a long time one of the most pro-American countries in Europe, if not the world.” (as quoted in USA Today.)
Poland is a nation that has paid a heavy price for its freedom and the Polish people understand from their own experiences behind the Iron Curtain how fragile that freedom can be. They are an American ally and having our American President attend these ceremonies as an honored world leader could only have strengthened that bond and further advanced the cause of freedom around the world.
So, why not attend the ceremonies, enjoy the limelight for a couple of days and highlight the strong relationship we have with Poland? We may never know, but it’s an honest question.
Maybe the President was genuinely concerned about the storm. Or maybe he didn’t want to stand on stage with Polish President Andrzej Duda as he denounced Trump’s call to allow Russia to return to the G7. Russia and Vladimir Putin pose a clear and present danger to freedom and liberty around the world. While Trump continues to cozy up to the dictator, Duda understands what a genuine threat Putin is.
Duda is unafraid to tell the truth, as he did with Vice President Pence by his side in Warsaw. “I believe we must not proceed according to the business-as-usual principle when it comes to Russia … this is my position, and I don’t hesitate to express it.”
I want to be able to take Trump at his word when he says he’s worried about a hurricane hitting our shores, but I can’t. His record of avoiding strong leaders who openly disagree with him and seeking the approval of dictators and despots is too revealing of his own internal weakness. His dishonesty and regular attacks on the foundations of freedom force us to question his intentions every time he steps out of the White House.
I pray to God that Hurricane Dorian leaves as little devastation in its wake as possible and I hope that the President provides all the support and resources possible to those affected by the storm. But I don’t believe that he skipped Poland because of this hurricane.
Trump was on a golf course when he should have been standing shoulder to shoulder with an ally in freedom, just another example of how weak and ineffective he really is.