Wednesday, July 3, 2019

3 Reasons Not to Worry About Trump’s Fourth of July—and 1 Big Reason to Worry


Since President Donald Trump announced his proposal for a military display and presidential speech on the National Mall, Trump’s critics across the political spectrum, have reached a consensus: The president’s intrusion into Independence Day is a hijacking. New York Times columnist Michelle Cottle complains that Trump is "trampling a longstanding tradition of keeping these events nonpartisan — apolitical even — and focused on bringing the nation together.” The same sentiment came from the Washington Post’s editorial page, and from conservative Trump skeptics like radio host Charlie Sykes and former GOP Congressman David Jolly.

It's true that the president has upended many of the traditions of the celebration; the location of the fireworks have been moved; the president has demanded a heavy military presence, including tanks in the streets of Washington, and he plans to deliver a speech in front of a crowd where the choicest locations will be reserved for ticket holders, a feature somewhat at odds with Trump’s rhetorical scorn for the elites and D.C. insiders.

By one measure, the criticism is overwrought. There have been presidents who've appeared during celebrations at the Capitol, most recently Harry Truman in 1951. President Richard Nixon offered up a videotaped speech aired on the Mall in 1970; other presidents, including Calvin Coolidge and John Kennedy, traveled to Philadelphia’s Independence Hall to mark the occasion. (If you want one measure of how far we have traveled since JFK’s time, note that he devoted much of his speech to celebrating the emerging European Union: “The United States looks on this vast new enterprise with hope and admiration,” JFK said “We do not regard a strong and united Europe as a rival but as a partner.”)

As for the parade—well, if Trump wants military armored vehicles to accompany the flyover by the Navy’s Blue Angels, stealth fighters and Air Force One, maybe he’s just trying to emulate Thomas Jefferson, who watched a military parade from the White House back in 1801, rather than the celebrations of military might more common to Moscow and Pyongyang.

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