Fresh from his envious encounters with authoritarian leaders like Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un on his overseas trip, President Trump has returned to the United States and resurrected his fever dream fantasies of a grand military parade in Washington DC — this time as part of his VIP-segregated “Salute to America” Fourth of July celebration.
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You may recall that this is not the first time that Trump — inspired by the French Bastille Day celebration, which he attended in Paris in 2017 — has expressed his lust for the pomp and power of a heavy-metal armed forces parade with tanks rolling through downtown Washington DC and Blue Angel jets flying overhead in a grandiose display of military might.
His similar plan for just such an ego-gratifying event that he wanted to hold on Veteran’s day last year was scuttled when it was revealed that it would be estimated to cost the government over $92 million to hold and that the city’s street would likely be damaged by the tanks, some of which can weigh up to 60 tons.
The Washington Post detailed the internal negotiations and disorder among Trump administration officials who are trying to scramble to keep the president happy while withholding the details of the costs of his latest attempt to fulfill his dream parade fit for the desires of a five-year-old child’s mind.
With the event just days away, the newspaper paints a picture of potential chaos in the invite-only VIP section close to the podium where President Trump will likely violate the Hatch Act by turning an official government event into a campaign rally.
“White House officials intend to give out tickets for attendees to sit in a VIP section and watch Trump’s speech, but did not develop a distribution system before much of the staff left for Asia last week, according to two administration officials. Officials are also still working on other key crowd management details, such as how to get attendees through magnetometers in an orderly fashion,” the newspaaper writes.
Complicating the preparations is the fact that rather than hire a seasoned event producer to oversee the event planning, President Trump himself has taken on the role. According to The Washington Post:
“Trump has demonstrated an unusual level of interest in this year’s Independence Day observance, according to three senior administration officials. He has received regular briefings about it from Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, according to the people briefed on the plan, and has weighed in on everything from how the pyrotechnics should be launched to how the military should be honored.”
“As a result, the administration has organized a far more ambitious celebration than was originally planned, at a yet-to-be specified additional cost to taxpayers. Two major fireworks firms have donated a pyrotechnic show valued at $750,000, for example, but the Park Service will have to pay employees overtime to clean up the remnants of that display. The fireworks have also been moved to a new location in West Potomac Park at Trump’s urging.”
Trump’s plan for the Independence Day festivities has met with opposition by Democrats and national park advocates who see higher priorities for taxpayer dollars as children are being locked up in Geneva convention-violating conditions in what many consider to be concentration camps and the Parks Service itself is underfunded.
“It’s irresponsible to ask the National Park Service to absorb the costs of an additional and political event when there are so many unmet needs in the parks,” said Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks Chair Phil Francis, whose group represents current, former and retired Park Service employees and volunteers, in an email, according to The Post. “The men and women of the National Park Service have been asked to do more with less for too long. Funds should be directed to the agency’s highest needs such as operation of the parks and the maintenance backlog and should not be directed to support political objectives.”
Local Washington DC officials were equally opposed to plans for tanks rolling down their streets, as this witty tweet the city council posted demonstrates.
— Council of DC (@councilofdc) July 1, 2019
President Trump’s hijacking of the annual Independence Day celebrations in our nation’s capital may not even be in the top 100 of any list of the worst things that he has done in his administration. It is, however, perfectly indicative of the ego and selfishness that the underlies everything that the president does.
Many Americans who would otherwise enjoy the Fourth of July fireworks show in Washington DC now wouldn’t think of attending due to Trump’s propagandistic presence.
Others will tune out the blanket mass media coverage the president will use as gratis campaign airtime for his reelection.
All of us will spend this Independence Day remembering what the holiday is about: winning the battle for freedom from an autocratic king, just the kind of unquestioned ruler that Donald Trump is trying to become.
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Original reporting by Juliet Eilperin, Josh Dawsey, . Dan Lamothe at The Washington Post