RENO, Nev. — One day after a searing speech tearing into the media and some Republicans, President Donald Trump returned Wednesday to calls for unity and love as he spoke to veterans Wednesday at an American Legion conference.
“We are here to hold you up as an example of strength, courage and resolve that our country will need to overcome the many challenges that we face,” Trump told the veterans, speaking in measured tones and adhering to his prepared remarks. He said all Americans must learn the same work ethic, patriotism and devotion as veterans.
The messaging zig-zag appears to reflect the president’s real-time internal debate between calls for moderation and his inclination to let loose. Trump had opened his Tuesday rally in Phoenix much the same way — but quickly erupted in anger, blaming the media for the widespread condemnation of his response to violence at a Charlottesville, Virginia, protest organized by white supremacists.
The president awoke Wednesday still thinking about the rally, as evidenced by his Twitter account. “Last night in Phoenix I read the things from my statements on Charlottesville that the Fake News Media didn’t cover fairly,” he wrote. “People got it!”
By the time he arrived at the American Legion conference, Trump seemed more congenial. He even thanked Sen. Dean Heller, a Nevada Republican with whom he has openly and repeatedly feuded. He discussed his early efforts to restructure and improve the Veterans Administration.
Trump signed into law a bill that would cut the amount of time the Department of Veterans Affairs takes to decide veterans’ appeals of their disability payments.
Trump described the bill as “a big one” as he readied his pen at a signing ceremony at the event.
The legislation will overhaul the process by allowing veterans to file “express” appeals if they waive their right to a hearing, or allow them to submit new evidence. Veterans currently could wait five years or more to resolve their disability appeals.
The department provides $63.7 billion in compensation annually to about 4.1 million veterans living with disabling conditions suffered during military service.
The changes would apply almost entirely to newly filed appeals, not the existing backlog.
Associated Press writers Jill Colvin, Darlene Superville, Alan Fram in Washington and Josh Hoffner in Phoenix contributed to this report.