Like Reagan Before Him, Biden Looks to Capture Magic of Pointe du Hoc Story

PARIS (AP) — President Joe Biden will return to Normandy for a second day during his trip to France as he tries to rally Americans in defense of democracy from Pointe du Hoc, a legendary spot along the coast where Army Rangers scaled cliffs during the D-Day invasion.

The site’s prominence in American folklore was partly established by President Ronald Reagan, who delivered one of his most famous speeches there in 1984.

Like Reagan before him, Biden hopes to use the tale of the Rangers’ victory to advance his own vision for the country’s global role. The Democratic president is wrestling with two grueling wars — one between Russia and Ukraine in Europe, the other between Israel and Hamas in the Middle East — while also trying to reorient U.S. foreign policy to confront China’s rising power in Asia.

Although overseas speeches are typically nonpartisan, Biden’s rhetoric will dovetail with his reelection message, which has portrayed Donald Trump as a threat to American values and democracy. The Republican ex-president, who is seeking another term in the White House, has continued to lie about his 2020 election loss and threatened to dismantle U.S. commitments overseas.

Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, told reporters that Biden’s speech would focus on sacrifices made by U.S. soldiers during “an existential fight between a dictatorship and freedom.”

FILE – President Ronald Reagan delivers a speech in Normandy at Pointe Du Hoc, France, June 6, 1984, during commemorative ceremonies of the 40th anniversary of the Allied landing in Normandy in 1944. President Joe Biden will speak from Pointe du Hoc on Friday, June 7, 2024, for the 80th anniversary of D-Day. The cliffs of Pointe du Hoc were scaled by Army Rangers during the invasion, and the mission was memorialized by Reagan, when he paid tribute to “the boys of Pointe du Hoc,” seated at Reagan’s right. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds, File)

“He’ll talk about the dangers of isolationism and how if we bow to dictators and fail to stand up to them, they keep going and ultimately America and the world pays a greater price,” Sullivan added.

Before flying to Normandy, Biden sat down with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Friday in Paris, where he stressed the U.S. commitment to Ukraine and for the first time publicly apologized to the Ukrainian people for a monthslong holdup in American military assistance that let Russia make battlefield gains. It was their first meeting since Biden signed the legislation authorizing the additional military assistance. The U.S. is preparing $225 million in ammunition shipments, including rockets, mortars, artillery rounds and missiles.

The speed and breadth of American support has been a source of tension between the two presidents, with Biden wary of steps that could lead to direct conflict with Russia and Zelenskyy eager for any edge against his country’s invaders.

On Thursday, both were at Omaha Beach for the 80th anniversary of D-Day. Speaking from the American cemetery nearby, Biden said the U.S. “will not walk away” from Ukraine.

“To surrender to bullies, to bow down to dictators, is simply unthinkable,” he said. “If we were to do that, it means we’d be forgetting what happened here on these hallowed beaches.”

Pointe du Hoc is located nearby, between Omaha and Utah beaches. Before D-Day, the Nazis were believed to have stationed artillery there, which would have allowed them to shell critical landing zones for Allied troops.

U.S. President Joe Biden looks on as he meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Paris, Friday, June 7, 2024. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Army Rangers used ropes and ladders to scale Pointe du Hoc’s cliffs while under fire. When they reached the top, they realized that the artillery had already been moved elsewhere and only decoys remained. The weapons were tracked down nearby and disabled, and the Americans spent two days repelling Nazi counterattacks.

The mission was memorialized by Reagan on the 40th anniversary of D-Day in 1984.

“These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc,” he said. “These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war.”

Reagan’s speech, coming as the Cold War with the Soviet Union remained underway, was also a call for the U.S. to not turn its back on Europe.

“We in America have learned bitter lessons from two World Wars,” he said. “It is better to be here ready to protect the peace, than to take blind shelter across the sea, rushing to respond only after freedom is lost. We’ve learned that isolationism never was and never will be an acceptable response to tyrannical governments with an expansionist intent.”

It’s a view that would likely put him out of step with the modern Republican Party, which under Trump’s leadership has become increasingly skeptical of foreign entanglements.

Biden highlighted the contrast during his State of the Union this year.

“It wasn’t that long ago when a Republican president, Ronald Reagan, thundered, ‘Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,’” a reference to another famous speech in Berlin. “Now, my predecessor, a former Republican president, tells Putin, ‘Do whatever the hell you want.’”

Trump made that comment at a February rally in South Carolina, warning European allies not to be “delinquent” in their military spending or he would refuse to help them as president.



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