As Trump gears up for his big July 4th bash, critics are slamming the president for politicizing the national holiday with the event, which includes military tanks lined up on National Mall, flyover jets, fireworks and a speech from Trump on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes-Norton, Colonel Jack Jacobs and Bloomberg View Executive Editor Tim O’Brien join Yasmin Vossoughian to discuss.
Pentagon officials have long been reluctant to parade tanks, missiles and other weapons through the nation’s capital like the authoritarian leaders of North Korea and China. They say the United States, which has the world’s most powerful military and spends more on defense than the seven next largest military spenders combined — China, Saudi Arabia, India, France, Russia, Britain and Germany — does not need to broadcast its strength.
But Mr. Trump believes that the inclusion of tanks and other weapons in the July 4 celebration, which was first reported by The Washington Post, would help to transform the capital city’s annual event into the kind of military celebration he has long wanted.
After watching the Bastille Day parade in 2017 in Paris, Mr. Trump said that “we may do something like that on July 4 in Washington down Pennsylvania Avenue.” He later raised the idea of a military parade on Veterans Day, but abandoned it in the face of public opposition from city officials, private dissent from the Pentagon and a price tag of more than $90 million.
.. “You’ve got to be pretty careful with the tanks because the roads have a tendency not to like to carry heavy tanks,” Mr. Trump said, acknowledging the damage that such heavy vehicles could do to Washington’s transportation network. “So we have to put them in certain areas.”
The president did not say where those areas would be.
.. Pentagon officials declined to comment on Monday as they wrestled with how to accommodate the president’s tank request only a few days before the event. Among the logistical concerns was how to transport tanks that weigh more than 60 tons into the popular downtown area where tourists gather to see the monuments. Moving and guarding the tanks would require staffing at a time when many troops are at home for the holiday.
Another problem is that Arlington Memorial Bridge, which spans the Potomac River and connects Arlington National Cemetery and the Lincoln Memorial, might not be able to hold the weight.
It was also unclear on Monday where the tanks would come from.
The closest Abrams tanks appeared to be a 350-mile drive away at the 150th Cavalry Regiment, a unit of the West Virginia National Guard in Bluefield, W.Va. If the military wanted to use assets under federal control, it would most likely have to bring tanks from the Marines’ 2nd Tank Battalion at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.
Either way, the tanks would have to be transported by rail or flatbed truck.
“We will be having one of the biggest gatherings in the history of Washington, D.C., on July 4,” he wrote. “It will be called ‘A Salute To America’ and will be held at the Lincoln Memorial. Major fireworks display, entertainment and an address by your favorite President, me!”
Critics of the president say his involvement amounts to a partisan hijacking of the Fourth of July event for his own political purposes.
“He’s taking an American — a national — holiday and making it about himself. And that is fundamentally wrong,” said Representative Gerald E. Connolly, Democrat of Virginia, whose constituents live a short drive from downtown Washington.
But supporters of the president scoffed at the idea that Mr. Trump’s involvement is a reason for concern. Newt Gingrich, a former House speaker and vocal Trump booster, said the president should have the right to celebrate the Fourth of July as he sees fit.
“What kind of idiot do you have to be to complain that the president wants to celebrate the founding of our country?” Mr. Gingrich said, adding that he supports the idea of having tanks and other military vehicles at the celebration to honor the country’s military.
“Other than the fact they have to pay to fix the streets, who cares?” Mr. Gingrich said.
Many of the tales of controversy to emerge from the Trump administration have been abstract, or complicated, or murky. Whenever anyone warns about destruction of “norms,” the conversation quickly becomes speculative—the harms are theoretical, vague, and in the future.
This makes new Washington Post reporting about President Donald Trump’s border wall especially valuable. The Post writes about how Trump has repeatedly pressured the Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Homeland Security to award a contract for building a wall at the southern U.S. border to a North Dakota company headed by a leading Republican donor.
The story demonstrates the shortcomings of Trump’s attempt to bring private-sector techniques into government. It shows his tendency toward cronyism, his failures as a negotiator, and the ease with which a fairly primitive attention campaign can sway him. At heart, though, what it really exemplifies is Trump’s insistence on placing performative gestures over actual efficacy. And it is a concrete example—almost literally—of how the president’s violations of norms weaken the country and waste taxpayer money.
The Post reports:
In phone calls, White House meetings and conversations aboard Air Force One during the past several months, Trump has aggressively pushed Dickinson, N.D.-based Fisher Industries to Department of Homeland Security leaders and Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, the commanding general of the Army Corps, according to the administration officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal discussions.
It may be a not-very-subtle sign of the frustration in the Army that the news leaked to the Post the same day that Semonite was called to the White House and Trump once again pressed him.*
In its latest futile gesture, the House Freedom Caucus sets its sights on ousting the man overseeing Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation...their public relations assault is not actually about his refusing to turn over this or that document related to the Russia investigation. It’s not really even about the lawmakers’ loathing of the broader investigation, though certainly President Trump’s congressional lackeys — Mr. Meadows and Mr. Jordan most definitely included — are increasingly desperate to derail it... For Freedom Caucus leaders, this impeachment resolution is about something at once much broader and far pettier: the need to make a huge, disruptive, polarizing political stink just as members head home for the long hot August recess. Especially with a critical midterm election coming, it never hurts to have some extra well-marbled meat to throw the voters. And it is unlikely a coincidence that, less than 24 hours after filing, Mr. Jordan — who, lest anyone forget, is multiply accused of overlooking rampant sexual abuse while an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State University — formally announced his candidacy for House speaker.Not to make Mr. Rosenstein feel any less special, but this is the fourth year in a row that Freedom Caucusers have pulled a summer-break stunt so nakedly self-serving that it would be comic if it weren’t so odious in its quest to erode public faith in government and in democratic institutions more broadly. Indeed, for all those wondering how the Republican Party reached the point where Donald Trump could swallow it whole with his furious everything-is-awful-and-everyone-is-out-to-get-you brand of demagogy, look no further than the nihilists in the Freedom Caucus... In 2015, Mr. Meadows became an overnight political celebrity when, on the day before break, he filed a motion aimed at overthrowing the House speaker, John Boehner. That effort eventually bore fruit... In 2016, Freedom Caucus members filed a pre-break motion to force a vote on the impeachment of the Internal Revenue Service commissioner, John Koskinen. (Impeachment is all the rage with these guys.)And last summer, they filed a discharge petition demanding a vote on a repeal of Obamacare... it has only nine co-sponsors, and Republican leaders, including Trey Gowdy, the chairman of the oversight committee, have expressed a distinct lack of enthusiasm for the effort... Mr. Meadows didn’t even attempt to file a “privileged motion,” as he and his colleagues did against Mr. Koskinen two years ago, which would have forced a vote before members decamped on Thursday... the issue won’t get taken up until lawmakers return from break in September, if then. (That’s the beauty of pre-recess antics: They cannot fail before members get to spend several weeks touting them back home.)
There is vanishingly little chance that House leadership will let this toxic nonsense advance — Speaker Paul Ryan already has publicly smacked down the effort — and
zero chance that the motion could amass anywhere close to the two-thirds support required for the Senate to actually remove Mr. Rosenstein.
.. This stunt is in fact so ridiculous, so unfounded, so poisonous to the Republic that Attorney General Jeff Sessions felt compelled not only to publicly defend his deputy, but also to suggest that the lawmakers involved find a better use of their time.
.. Sally Yates, the former acting attorney general who was fired in January 2017 for refusing to defend President Trump’s travel ban, tweeted a warning about the long-term damage of “using the Department of Justice as a prop for political theater.”
.. It’s not that the Freedom Caucus members don’t recognize the damage they’re doing — or even that they don’t care. It is that delegitimizing government is at the heart of their movement.
.. Conflict and obstructionism have always been their purpose, fueled by their relentless message that
- government is always the problem, that
- all experts are idiots, that
- cultural and coastal elites hate Real Americans and that
- all of Washington is corrupt and broken beyond repair.
.. As has often been noted, Mr. Trump did not invent the apocalyptic message that he has used to dazzle the Republican base. He merely distilled it to its essence. But the base had been groomed for his arrival for years, in no small part by lawmakers like Mr. Meadows and Mr. Jordan, who have repeatedly proved eager to tear down democratic institutions in the service of their own political aims.
.. So while the Freedom Caucus’s pitiful effort to oust Mr. Rosenstein should not be taken seriously on practical grounds, it is a tragic reminder of the bleak path down which the Republican Party has been slouching in recent years. The rot was there long before Mr. Trump showed up to exploit it, and it is likely to remain long after he is gone.