“All that was missing,” said Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post, “was a reviewing stand, like the one on Red Square where grim-faced Soviet leaders used to watch the tanks roll past.” On July 4, President Trump got the “big military extravaganza” he dreamed of: troop carriers, battle tanks, flyovers by various fighters and bombers—even a fenced-off VIP section for his party’s donors and bigwigs. In the midst of this authoritarian display, our “maximum leader” gave “a triumphalist speech” about America’s superiority that transformed a national day of celebration into “a made-for-television re-election event.” He also bungled history with some incredible gaffes that “inspired a storm of social media hilarity,” said Suhauna Hussain in the Los Angeles Times. Ensconced behind rain-streaked bulletproof glass while reading from a teleprompter, Trump proclaimed that George Washington’s Continental Army “manned the air, it rammed the ramparts, it took over the airports.” Airports, in 1781, more than a century before the Wright Brothers?
Of all the liberal freakouts since Trump took office, this might be “the stupidest,” said Marc Thiessen in The Washington Post. The president delivered “a deeply unifying speech that celebrated America’s accomplishments” as well as our military service members. With soaring rhetoric, he told America’s story, from its struggle for independence through the battles for women’s suffrage and civil rights. And not once, said Gary Varvel in USAToday.com, did Trump mention himself, the 2020 campaign, his opponents, or “the fake news media.” You want to know why this event ruffled Democrats? Because the president dared to embrace patriotism and note how “we are all made by the same almighty God.”
Let’s face it: Trump’s look-at-me approach to Independence Day is “a symptom of a bigger problem,” said Charles Cooke in National Review.com. Since the 1930s, the American presidency has become increasingly “overbearing and imperial, in structure and in style.” Every president is treated like a cosseted royal, with his own plane and a Marine to hold an umbrella over his head, and now dictates and dominates the national agenda. As a result, the chief executive is far more present in the lives of ordinary Americans than King George III was in 1775. So why would anyone be shocked when Trump places himself at the center of our Fourth of July celebration? The president is “the centerpiece of everything else.”