Trump will be the first president to deliver an address at the National Mall’s 4th of July celebration since 1951
Since the 1950s, the 4th of July celebration that takes place on the National Mall has been nonpartisan and apolitical, a time when all Americans can come together and celebrate the nation. Until this year, because Trump is doing everything he can to make himself and his reelection campaign the centerpiece of the event.
A lot of details haven’t been revealed yet, even though the celebration is just days away. But what we do know about it is, frankly, disturbing. For starters, Trump has revealed he plans to have tanks on the streets and a display from fighter pilots overhead, at an undoubtedly huge cost to taxpayers.
“We’re going to have some tanks stationed outside,” he told reporters from the Oval Office on Monday. “You’ve got to be pretty careful with the tanks because the roads have a tendency not to like to carry heavy tanks. So we have to put them in certain areas.”
Air Force One and the Navy’s Blue Angels, who reportedly were previously scheduled to have the day off, will do a flyover. And Trump plans to deliver campaign-rally-esque remarks from the Lincoln Memorial. He’ll be the first president to speak at the event since 1951.
“He is trampling a longstanding tradition of keeping these events nonpartisan — apolitical even — and focused on bringing the nation together,” a New York Times editorial said about the president’s plans to speak, saying he’s “hijacking” the event.
And while the celebration is free for anyone to attend, Trump has been distributing VIP tickets, which include priority viewing areas and seating, to his donors.
As if this weren’t all disturbing enough, this week Trump has been criticized by National Park advocacy groups, who warn that bringing tanks to the National Mall and turning the annual event into a political rally will further strain the parks system, which is already struggling to make ends meet.
“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,” Phil Francis, chair of the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks, told the Washington 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.”
We don’t know what the total cost of the July 4th event will be since the administration isn’t releasing numbers. But we do know the National Park Service currently has an $11 billion backlog of maintenance projects it can’t afford to complete, and the Trump administration has repeatedly called for cutting the Park Service’s budget. Now he really wants to hold a campaign rally on their dime?
The National Mall 4th of July celebration should continue to be an event for all Americans, not just for Trump’s supporters. On our nation’s birthday, of all days, we should be able to come together, even though Trump seems to think otherwise.