Wilbur Ross says Trump's Syria missile strikes was "after-dinner entertainment"

"The thing was, it didn’t cost the president anything to have that entertainment"

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published May 2, 2017 1:50PM (EDT)

Wilbur Ross (AP/Andrew Harnik)
Wilbur Ross (AP/Andrew Harnik)

When Dan Rather commented that President Donald Trump's missile strikes against Syria were "easy," he probably had no idea how literally true that was for certain members of the cabinet.

During a speech on Monday at the Milken Institute Global Conference, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross described how the summit between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping was interrupted by the announcement of the Syrian missile strikes.

As Ross told the guests, "Just as dessert was being served, the president explained to Mr. Xi he had something he wanted to tell him, which was the launching of 59 missiles into Syria. It was in lieu of after-dinner entertainment."

The crowd, finding this line humorous, burst into laughter, prompting Ross to add, "The thing was, it didn’t cost the president anything to have that entertainment."

The missile strikes may have cost up to $60 million, according to some estimates.

Aside from the obvious moral questions involved in a powerful government official laughing about a military strike and describing it as "after-dinner entertainment," Ross' anecdote raises serious questions about the president's attitude toward sensitive national security matters at his Mar-a-Lago estate. After all, these remarks occur after an incident in February in which Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe were witnessed discussing a crisis in North Korea in full view of dinner guests at the resort.

Similarly, it was reported by CNN that after deciding to launch missile strikes in Syria, Trump and Xi sat down to a dinner of steak and pan-seared sole. He continued to dine and hobnob with his guests even as the major military operation was underway, being briefed on their results by Secretary of Defense James Mattis after dinner.


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By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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Donald Trump Syria Wilbur Ross