Garish? Gaudy? Tacky? Wasteful? Utterly inappropriate? Thy name is Trump …
New details are emerging about Trump’s plans. The Post reports that the National Park Service will now divert millions of dollars previously earmarked to improve parks across the country to fund Trump’s celebration on the Mall.
Meanwhile, a White House official tells The Post that the plans include a plane from Air Force One’s fleet soaring overhead at precisely the moment that Trump takes the stage. Tanks will take part in the display.
Finally, the White House is handing out tickets to the event to GOP donors and political appointees. Passes are being distributed by the Republican National Committee and Trump’s reelection campaign.
As many critics have pointed out, by politicizing July 4th so nakedly, Trump has inevitably transformed the celebration into a campaign event. It remains to be seen whether he will do so explicitly in his speech, but either way, that conversion has already been implicitly accomplished.
There’s no way his speech won’t be a campaign speech. He doesn’t know how to give any other kind of speech.
A never-Trump Republican named Tim Miller put it this way:
President Donald Trump is planning the #InternationalChocolateDay version of July 4th.
It’s all phony branding, no history.
It will be a gaudy TRUMP extravaganza, replete with tanks on the mall, “USA” spelled out across the sky, a rendering of the president’s massive hands with USA tattooed across the palm, a musical extravaganza hosted by Uncle Jesse from Full House, an “enormous” American flag, and a “special appearance” by the Sesame Street muppets. (Only one item in that list is made-up, the rest were provided, unironically, by the Department of Interior).
The TRUMP version of Independence Day swaps out liberty and self-government for owning the libs and self-aggrandizement.
There are reports that Trump has ordered military top brass to stand next to him on the reviewing stand. He is wrapping himself in the power and authority of American military might, in other words. As Charles Pierce put it, “This is out-and-out banana republic authoritarian performance art.”
To what end, other to glorify himself and get himself re-elected? Oh, and to make some money, as we can assume a lot of visiting dignitaries sitting in the roped-off VIP seats will be staying in Trump’s Washington hotel.
Trump is a weak and cowardly man who craves to be seen as stong and heroic. So he is armoring himself in displays of military glory. Back to Greg Sargent:
The authoritarian nationalist leader typically rewrites the story of the nation in his own image. Our own homegrown authoritarian nationalist has proved particularly devoted to this fusion of national mythmaking and self-hagiography, often delivered in his own unique language of crass, gaudy spectacle.
The historians tell us that this is what authoritarian nationalists do. As Harvard’s Jill Lepore puts it, they replace history with tried-and-true fictions — false tales of national decline at the hands of invented threats, melded to fictitious stories of renewed national greatness, engineered by the leader himself, who is both author of the fiction and its mythic hero.
But at the core of Trump’s celebration there actually will be a vision of America — or, at least, of American greatness, and more to the point, of his own imagined restoration of that greatness. For you cannot disentangle Trump’s vision of both those things from his paeans to the strength of our military.
Trump campaigned on the false story of an America in steep decline. He embellished this story with endless lies and demagoguery about immigrants, and about how international engagement supposedly resulted in foreign leaders “laughing at” and “humiliating” us. Central to this tale was the constant refrain that our military has been “depleted,” the ultimate symbol of that national decline.
Trump’s claim to having rebuilt the military is also foundational to his tale of revived American greatness — and his own authorship of it. He pulled out of the Iran deal — international diplomacy had produced a “weak” solution — and will now force Iranian capitulation by threatening unilateral “obliteration.”
There is no doubt that Trump envisions this July 4th speech — delivered amid a show of military might — as a display of his own imagined role in “restoring” U.S. greatness.
Trump is all id and instinct; it’s possible he actually believes he somehow magically restored the military — in just two years — from ruin to greatness. I can’t tell if there have been any significant changes in U.S. military strength from what it was in 2016, and I can’t find anyone other than Trump and right-wing think tank “fellows” who say otherwise. But we know that Trump cares nothing about national defense, or he wouldn’t have insulted NATO and Japan, kissed Kim Jong Un’s ass for a photo op, and winked at Russian interference in our elections. The military exists only to reflect Trump’s glory.
There may be another reason Trump is surrounding himself with symbols of might. He’s afraid of being booed.
The Fourth of July celebration exposes Trump to the sort of crowd from which he has been traditionally insulated. The event is held in Washington, which (along with its surrounding suburbs) is heavily Democratic. It is also drawing protesters who will fly the famous Baby Trump blimp. Trump is also alienating nonpolitical attendees who might resent him turning a hallowed ritual that is a traditional venue for unity and a respite from politics into another divisive spectacle.
Trump’s efforts to control the rally should be seen in the context of his fear that the crowd will boo him. He is advertising the event on his Twitter feed, cordoning off the immediate area around his speech for ticket holders, and giving tickets away to Republican donors. Trump has “requested that the chiefs for the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines stand next to him.”
Get it? The service chiefs have to stand next to Trump as human patriotism bodyguards.
But does anyone on the planet look more ridiculous trying to be a Big Man? Not that I can think of.