The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Trump made his critics look small during his ‘Salute to America’

TOPSHOT - U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, fly past the Washington Monument during the "Salute to America" Fourth of July event in Washington, DC, July 4, 2019. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP)MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

The “Resistance” warned us that if we elected an authoritarian such as Donald Trump, eventually there would be tanks in the streets of our nation’s capital. Well, on Thursday, their predictions finally came true.

I’m kidding, of course, but some on the left are not. Harvard Law professor Laurence H. Tribe tweeted a photo of tanks arriving in Washington for Trump’s “Salute to America” and declared, “The resemblance to days before Tiananmen Square is chilling.” At Tiananmen Square in Beijing in 1989, the Chinese regime broke up pro-democracy protests with tanks and troops in a military action that resulted in a still-uncertain number of deaths that is believed to range between several hundred and several thousand. Totally comparable situation.

Of all the stupid freak-outs we have experienced since Trump was elected, the hyperventilation over his Fourth of July address and celebration on the Mall may be the stupidest.

His critics called his decision to insert himself into the Independence Day celebrations virtually unprecedented. Sorry, but Trump is not the first U.S. president to give a major speech on the Fourth of July. Harry S. Truman once delivered an Independence Day address in front of the Washington monument. Presidents Woodrow Wilson, John F. Kennedy, Gerald Ford, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush all gave Fourth of July addresses from Independence Hall in Philadelphia. And, in 1986, Ronald Reagan delivered a Fourth of July address from the deck of an aircraft carrier, the USS John F. Kennedy, strategically placed in front of the Statue of Liberty.

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Trump’s address took this tradition to new heights on Thursday. Democrats complained before the speech that Trump was politicizing the Fourth of July. He did nothing of the sort. In a speech reminiscent of his outstanding remarks last month at Normandy, Trump delivered a soaring presidential address — a celebration of the greatness of our country. “As we gather this evening, in the joy of freedom, we remember that we all share a truly extraordinary heritage,” Trump said. “Together, we are part of one of the greatest stories ever told — the story of America.”

He went on tell that story — from our struggle for independence, the fight to abolish slavery and secure women’s suffrage and civil rights. He called out the many great Americans who “defined our national character” from the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman and Jackie Robinson. He celebrated our inventors and explorers — from Lewis and Clark to Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, the Wright brothers, Amelia Earhart and the Apollo 11 astronauts. And he vowed “we will plant the American flag on Mars” because “for Americans, nothing is impossible.”

He also called out modern-day heroes in the audience — such as Emil Freireich, a doctor who revolutionized the treatment of childhood leukemia, and Clarence Henderson, who helped lead the sit-in at a Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro, N.C. in 1960. And Trump celebrated each individual branch of the U.S. armed forces, telling stories of their heroism interspersed with dramatic flyovers by each service’s aircraft. It was a stunning combined display of presidential eloquence and American military might.

Karen Tumulty

counterpointDonald Trump is promising the apocalypse

Millions of ordinary Americans who tuned in to watch must have been wondering what the fuss was all about. Democrats promised they would witness a partisan address. But instead, they saw the president deliver a deeply unifying speech that celebrated America’s accomplishments, and the courage of our men and women in uniform. With each passing minute, the president looked larger while his critics looked increasingly petty and small.


President Trump is seeking to make Independence Day about himself, says The Post's Editorial Board. Americans should not be lured by the spectacle. (Video: The Washington Post)

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The Post’s View: George Washington’s story is worth revisiting this Fourth of July

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