President Donald Trump is going full steam ahead with a plan he mentioned months ago to take over the traditional July 4th festivities on the National Mall, which now likely will feature a speech by him, The Washington Post reported.
The takeover threatens to turn a nonpartisan national celebration on public land into a Trump campaign rally.
Trump and Interior Secretary David Bernhardt have already “taken charge” of the celebration, according to the Post. The fireworks launch will be moved from the Mall to West Potomac Park under the new scheme. And Trump has made “tentative” plans to deliver a speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Trump administration officials told the newspaper.
Trump first mentioned his plans in February in a tweet, bizarrely urging followers to “HOLD THE DATE” — as if that had never occurred before to vacationing Americans. He promised then an “address by your favorite President, me!”
He was mocked by critics who accused Trump of hijacking a national holiday as a way to honor himself.
The National Park Service has staged the traditional fireworks on the Mall for more than half a century, an event attended by hundreds of thousands of Americans each year. The event has been broadcast live on TV since 1947 and includes a free concert on the West Lawn of the Capitol.
Trump has dubbed the new event “A Salute to America.”
Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), chair of the House Appropriations subcommittee responsible for the Interior Department budget, criticized Trump’s attempt to change a national holiday into an event about him.
“It’s not about any one person, it’s about ‘We, the people,’” she told the Post. “If the president moves to make this about him, I think he will find the American public disappointed and angered by it.”
After Trump first tweeted about the idea, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) said that the president “needs to realize it’s America’s birthday, not his birthday.”
Bernhardt told the Post: “I think the president is excited about the idea, and we’re working hard on it, and I think it could be very, very meaningful. The president loves the idea, as probably all Americans do, of celebrating America on the Fourth of July, or thereabouts.”
A local official expressed worries about costs incurred by event changes and about security for the president amid hundreds of thousands of people, creating a situation that could reduce public access.
Trump pushed for a large-scale military parade in Washington after viewing the Bastille Day independence celebration in Paris in 2017, but it didn’t work out. The upcoming celebration appears to be his second choice.
To preserve its nonpartisan character, presidents have not attended the public July 4th celebration on the National Mall.
Supporters of Richard Nixon, however, organized an “Honor America” Independence Day on the Mall in 1970. The event instead blossomed into a free-for-all involving furious neo-Nazis and other conservatives and a “smoke-in” by antiwar hippies. (“Before this is over, I may need some of that stuff myself,” quipped master of ceremonies Bob Hope.) Nixon was not on the scene.
Here’s a couple of ideas for Trump’s bash that were first posted on Twitter after the president told Americans to “hold the date!”