Donald Trump and His (Apolitical) Independence Day Speech

The United States Independence Day came and went, largely devoid of any political undertones. Fears of United States President Donald Trump hijacking the celebrations in Washington, D.C. for political gain were quelled, as he delivered an apolitical message from the Lincoln Memorial. Leading up to the event, top military brass, politicians, and observers were wary of how Trump might turn it into a campaign rally, but the president adhered to a scripted message focused on American progress and praise for the military.

Trump conceived the idea of holding a military parade in 2017 after attending the Bastille Day celebration in France. “The marching orders were: I want a parade like the one in France,” a high-level military official said.

Wheels were put into motion in a coordinated effort between the Pentagon and White House to put together a show that would satisfy Trump’s directive. Planned for November 11, 2017, Veterans day to commemorate the end of World War One, the event never materialized due to budgetary concerns. The extravaganza was estimated to cost around $90 million. Although it was cancelled, the event marked the beginning of a rift between the Trump administration and Washington, D.C. city officials. The president tried to blamed Mayor Muriel Bowser and the city council for extorting taxpayers by inflating costs.

Not one to be deterred, Trump shifted gears to prepare for a July 4 address featuring a heavy military presence. Bowser again resisted the idea, stating that she preferred keeping a traditional firework display as had been the custom. Financial and security concerns were seemingly forced upon the city. The White House handles the Secret Service to protect the president and his entourage, however crowd control generally is reserved for local governments when the president visits. In order to cover the bill, $2.5 million was reallocated from the National Park Service, an amount that barely covers the unusual amount of pomp.

Adding to the rift between the president and the mayor, The Washington Post recently reported that his campaign and US Congress still owe the city $7 million for his inauguration, an event that occurred going on three years ago.

In the lead up to the holiday, concern began growing that Trump would use the event to make a campaign rally. Although the primary election season is barely underway, Trump has been prone to hold ‘Make America Great Again’ rallies since the month he took office. “This must be the most insecure man I’ve ever seen, because everything’s gotta be about him,” said Representative Don Beyer, a Democrat from Virginia. “And this bringing in the military, again we’ve never seen something like that, it reminds me of some small autocratic country.”

The Republican National Committee sold tickets and provided exclusive V.I.P. seats for donors, but they weren’t treated to a campaign speech. Instead, Trump devoted his speech to highlight military victories since the nation declared its independence from Britain in 1776.

“As long as we stay true to our course, as long as we remember our great history, as long as we never, ever stop fighting for a better future, then there will be nothing that America cannot do,” Trump said.

If anything of note came from his speech, other than a history lesson, Trump highlighted US airpower as a strategic asset during the Revolutionary War, a conflict that took place over 100 years before the invention of the airplane.

“Our Army manned the air – it rammed the ramparts. It took over the airports. It did everything it had to do,” the president declared. The moment went viral as viewers began to mock the glaring inaccuracy of the statement which Trump blamed as a problem with the teleprompter.

While a few tanks were on display, few could compare the celebration to his initial idea of a military parade. There were, however, flyovers by two F-35 jets, considered by many to be the most sophisticated fighter in the world. It was joined by a B-2 bomber, the Navy’s Blue Angels, and even one of the Boeing 747s that serves as Air Force One when Trump is on board.

In addition to paying lip service to the military, which he encouraged the nation’s youth to join although he received five deferments to avoid the Vietnam War, the president recounted the stories of Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King Jr., Thomas Edison, and the Apollo 11 astronauts who first landed on the moon. In short, Trump’s Independence Day speech turned out to be just that: a patriotic oration imbued by the occasional military aircraft flyover. If all that came from the day was a gaffe about the use of airplanes in 1776, then most people would likely consider it to be one of Trump’s more successful engagements.

“We are one people, chasing one dream, and one magnificent destiny,” Trump said. “We all share the same heroes, the same home, the same heart, and we are all made by the same Almighty God.”