Damage Control: Trump Touts Defense Boost as ‘Major’ Win

President downplays concessions in 'hotly contested budget'

President Donald Trump touted the “massive and badly needed” $21 billion increase in defense spending during an appearance presenting the Commander-in-Chief Trophy Tuesday at the White House.

The U.S. Air Force Academy cadets, who snatched the American football competition victory from the naval and military academies this year, joined the president at the White House for the ceremony. As Trump praised them for their athletic prowess and their dedication to serving their country, the president also reaffirmed his campaign promise of supporting the five military branches.

“Any member of Congress who opposes our plans on border security … is only empowering these deadly and dangerous threats.”

“Whenever an Air Force crew flies, you’ll always find a powerful symbol of American strength and American prestige,” Trump said. “One of the reasons I was elected, one of the reasons that I’m standing here, is called, ‘people want their military to be strong.’ Not weak, but strong — really strong.”

After praising the cadets for their victory, Trump noted that “our Republican team had its own victory under the radar” that is “a very important thing for the men and women of the United States military, and it’s a very important thing for the people of our country.”

“In our new budget — and it’s been a very hotly contested budget … we’ve ended years of painful cuts to our military and just achieved a $21 billion increase in defense spending,” Trump said of the ongoing resolution. “Not only did we achieve this massive and badly needed increase in defense, but we did so without having to put in place an equal increase in non-defense spending, breaking the so-called ‘parity’ rule that was breaking our budget and degrading our military.”

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The budget agreement on Capitol Hill has drawn withering criticism from conservatives outraged over the inclusion of funding for Planned Parenthood, sanctuary cities, and other liberal priorities — all while ceding ground on funds for a border wall.

Trump tried to sidestep the critics and instead promoted the deal as a “major” victory.

“With this major investment in America’s national defense — a core campaign promise of mine — we are at last reversing years of military cuts and showing our determination and resolve to the entire world — and believe me, the entire world is watching,” Trump insisted. “These long-awaited increases will make America more safe and more secure and give our amazing service members the tools, equipment, training and resources they need, and they very much deserve.”

Trump also touted the “single largest increase in border-security funding in 10 years” this budget bill offers — even though the funding for the wall is explicitly excluded. While insisting that the wall will still be built, the president insisted it was necessary to stem the flow of drugs, human trafficking, and gang members from pouring into the country.

“Any member of Congress who opposes our plans on border security … is only empowering these deadly and dangerous threats. And we will not put up with it and the public won’t put up with it,” Trump warned. “After years of partisan bickering and gridlock, this bill is a clear win for the American people.”

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The president also took the opportunity to take a jab at several members of Congress in attendance at the ceremony for their ongoing failure to repeal and replace Obamacare.

“How’s health care coming, folks? How’s it going?” Trump asked. “All right. We’re moving along? I think it’s time now, right? They know it’s time.”

But the president soon returned his attention to the cadets gathered behind him on the podium who will be commissioned as Second Lieutenants in the U.S. Air Force under his command in just three weeks.

“You keep us safe, you keep us strong, and you keep us free,” Trump thanked them. “It’s an honor every single day to serve as your commander-in-chief to the incredible men and women of the United States Air Force — a very special, beautiful place.”

“We all join the very proud and distinguished heritage of the long blue line — you know what that is, fellas. That’s a long, big, beautiful blue line,” Trump added. “The cadets here represent not only the future of our Air Force, but also the future of our country. Their skill, dedication, loyalty and patriotism represent the very best of America.”

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