President Donald Trump is slated to fulfill his dream of headlining a massive celebration of the U.S. military, with the Interior Department confirming Wednesday that the president plans to deliver a speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. following the annual National Independence Day Parade.
Trump will lead "a celebration of America's military with music, military demonstrations, and flyovers" at the National Mall on the evening of July 4, the department said in a statement. That "Salute to America" event will be preceded by the afternoon parade down Constitution Avenue, featuring "marching bands, fife and drum corps, floats, military units, giant balloons, equestrian, drill teams, and more."
The Interior Department's statement came as The Washington Post reported Wednesday morning that "Trump plans to have U.S. military planes, including one of the jetliners used as Air Force One, fly over the Mall as part of his Fourth of July celebration next month."
While the president reportedly will not be aboard any of the planes for the stunt, sources told The Post that "the flyover reflects Trump's long-standing interest in replicating the Bastille Day celebration he observed in France in 2017 and his desire to throw an extravagant patriotic celebration."
Trump’s back to his military parade bullshit, I see. https://t.co/2IfQHE85Lk— Will Fischer (@will_c_fischer) June 19, 2019
In the nearly two years since Trump attended France's annual military parade in Paris—where he was also met with protests—the president has repeatedly sought a similar event in the United States as a display of "military might," efforts which elicitied condemnation from critics of both Trump and the U.S. war machine.
"It's a gross example of Trump's narcissism," CodePink co-founder Medea Benjamin told Common Dreams in February of 2018. "He wants thousands of soldiers to publicly salute him, as he recklessly sends them off to escalate wars from Afghanistan to Syria and start new conflicts with North Korea and Iran. We must try to stop this colossal waste of money and display of authoritarianism."
By August of last year, plans to put on such a spectacle during Veterans Day weekend in November collapsed due to projected costs—which the president blamed on local politicians. But with this year's Fourth of July festivities, which Trump teased in a February tweet, he may finally get his wish.
Some senior Democrats on the Senate Appropriations Committee are alarmed by that. According to The Post, Sens. Tom Udall (N.M.), Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.), and Chris Van Hollen (Md.) sent a letter Tuesday to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt "asking that he provide the panel with details on how much the celebration would cost, who would pay for it, and what other changes were planned."
In addition to expressing concerns that the event "will require the National Park Service to divert resources from other priorities of the Mall or other national park system units at a time when it is facing significant budgetary pressures," the senators wrote, "we are deeply troubled that the president's involvement at the event will turn the long-standing, nonpartisan celebration into a de facto campaign rally conducted at taxpayer expense that will serve to further divide rather than unify the nation."
The senators are not alone in their concerns.
Hmm "military demonstrations and flyovers." I understand now, Trump didn't get his big military parade, so he's going to militarize the 4th of July celebration instead. https://t.co/yzOD28JuUn— Mr. T in DC (@MrTinDC) June 19, 2019
"If Trump insists on making the anniversary of our nation's birth a celebration of him," Michael Winship wrote for Common Dreams last month, "his overreach will symbolize all that he has done to the country, trampling tradition and unity, trampling the tenets of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence that we commemorate on the Fourth, and trampling American democracy as no other president has ever done."