If you were worried President Donald Trump would use his July Fourth “Salute to America” event as an opportunity to blast Democrats or the FBI in front of the Lincoln Memorial, you can rest easy. During the rain-soaked event, Trump avoided partisan politics, and instead focused on glorifying the US military — occasionally in amusingly ahistorical ways.
At one point, Trump, struggling to read his speech, claimed that the US military “took over the airports” during the Revolutionary War, which of course took place well over a century before airplanes were even invented.
“The Continental Army suffered a bitter winter of Valley Forge, found glory across the waters of the Delaware and seized victory from Cornwallis of Yorktown,” Trump said, before things went off the rails. “Our Army manned the air, it rammed the ramparts, it took over airports, it did everything it had to do. And at Fort McHenry, under the rockets’ red glare, had nothing but victory. When dawn came, the star-spangled banner waved defiant.”
As @kendallybrown points out, Trump, while struggling to read in this clip, claims that the American military "took over the airports" during a battle that took place well before airplanes were even invented pic.twitter.com/DiJDLWcDYb— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) July 4, 2019
The substance of Trump’s speech largely consisted of him detailing memorable moments from US military history, then pausing for flyovers while a military band played. The tanks he controversially demanded be a part of the event were parked somewhat inconspicuously around the stage.
Trump vowed to “plant the American flag on Mars” and urged young people to “join our military and make a truly great statement in life. And you should do it.” What Trump didn’t mention, of course, was that he infamously received a number of draft deferments that allowed him to avoid serving during his youth.
Downpours in DC earlier during the day on Thursday led some to surmise the “Salute to Service” event would draw a relatively small crowd and end up being a reprise of his inauguration. But in the end, a decent audience turned out.
Predictably, Trump took to Twitter to celebrate the crowd size shortly after his speech ended.
(Trump also retweeted a post featuring bizarre artwork by Dinesh D’Souza showing Abraham Lincoln’s face morphing into his.)
Still, however, the rain produced the less-than-ideal visual of Trump delivering a speech behind a wet protective enclosure.
Although Trump’s speech was inoffensive, he did boast that “our nation is stronger today than it ever was before” and touted his “Space Force.” And considering the Trump administration’s fight against reproductive and LGBTQ rights and his own equivocal comments about white supremacists, his invocation of the women’s suffrage movement and Martin Luther King Jr. as things Americans should be proud of on July Fourth fell flat.
As was the case with the D-Day commemoration speech he delivered last month in France, Trump’s “Salute to America” address wasn’t altogether terrible, but he was the wrong person to deliver it. His deification of the military also felt more like something you’d see in Pyongyang or Moscow than along the National Mall in Washington, DC.
But at least Trump didn’t use the Lincoln Memorial as a prop to deliver the campaign-style screed some expected. Such are the things that qualify as normal in the Trump era.