President Trump’s plan to tweak Washington, D.C.’s traditional July 4 celebration on the National Mall isn’t playing well with political leaders in neighboring Maryland.
According to The Washington Post Saturday, Trump ordered Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to begin organizing an event called “A Salute to America” three months ago.
The customary Independence Day fireworks would be moved from the center of the mall to a spot closer to the Potomac River, the Post reported. And the president, who is up for reelection next year, would break from tradition by giving a speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
Trump, who was repeatedly pushed aides to organize a military parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, only to be rebuffed by local officials and budget hawks at the Pentagon, foreshadowed his plans back in February when he tweeted that Americans should “HOLD THE DATE!” because July 4 would bring “Major fireworks display, entertainment and an address by your favorite President, me!”
In the capital region, where Trump was trounced by Hillary Clinton in 2016, reaction was uniformly negative.
“Most presidents have celebrated the Fourth of July without trying to corrupt it with propaganda and monarchical pageantry, but that’s obviously not his style,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) in an interview.
Independence Day is “a great holiday” that shouldn’t become “a state-organized propaganda event,” he added.
In a statement, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said, “The President’s decision to insert politics into a celebration of our nation is deeply concerning. The estimated cost would be significant, and would essentially amount to a taxpayer-funded campaign rally.
“I hope the House committees of jurisdiction will closely examine the President’s proposal. The Trump Administration ought to rethink this decision.”
District of Columbia officials opted not to be quoted in the Post article by name. But one official said the changes could make it more difficult for people to attend the fireworks display, because of the security restrictions that would be necessitated by Trump’s starring role in the reworked Independence Day gala.
Traditionally hundreds of thousands of people attend the fireworks and concert on the mall. Trump’s speech is planned to divert attention from the patriotic music and pop standards that are performed at a stage near the U.S. Capitol and broadcast to a nationwide audience.
“We have a lot of people come to the Fourth of July,” the D.C. official said. “Logistically, over the years, the kinks have been worked out. We don’t want to throw off what already works.”
Bernhardt defended the idea, telling the Post, “I think the president is excited about the idea, and we’re working hard on it, and I think it could be very, very meaningful.”
“The president loves the idea, as probably all Americans do, of celebrating America on the Fourth of July, or thereabouts.”
Raskin said the best response to Trump’s plan is for “everybody to go to hometown Fourth of July picnics and parades.”
Michael Ricci, communications director for Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R), had a similar take.
“Don’t fret, DC: Governor Hogan invites anyone looking for an old-fashioned parade and fireworks to our great Fourth of July celebration just up the road in Annapolis.”