President Donald Trump continues turning even the most anodyne presidential events into media circuses with his Fourth of July parade in Washington D.C., titled “A Salute to America.”
The event first attracted controversy with reports that tanks and jet flyovers would be part of the parade, which some found a dangerous new low for a president who loves to cozy up to authoritarians.
There was also the question of how much a military parade was going to cost the taxpayer. The Washington Post reported that the parade would cost the National Park Service $2.5 million, which would come from their budget for park maintenance. In comparison, last year’s show reportedly cost $250,000.
As America’s birthday rolled around amid grey skies and middling attendance on the National Mall, the traditionally neutral civic holiday turned nakedly partisan. The Daily Beast reported that common sights among the crowd were “MAGA hats, pro-Trump T-shirts and Trump campaign flags,” and even vendors selling “Trump 2020 shirts [and] buttons declaring that ‘Hillary Clinton sucks.’” Protestors scheduled public art displays (of Donald Trump as a baby and perched on a golden toilet, respectively) and a flag burning, the latter of which led to a violent clash with members of the far-right Proud Boys extremist group.
In a surprising turn of events, Trump’s speech ignored fanning the flames with campaign rhetoric. Instead, it dumped Trumpian critic-drubbing in favor of a jingoistic history lesson that touched on everything from Lewis & Clark to the Woolworth’s Lunch Counter sit-in, Abraham Lincoln to the space program, with a particular focus on America’s military history. Pointedly, the speech was given on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, where MLK Jr. gave his famous “I Have A Dream” speech.
“Today we come together as one nation,” Trump said, reading off a teleprompter. “With this very special salute to America. We celebrate our history by people, and the heroes who proudly defend our flag, The brave men and women of the United States military.”
But if the carefully planned speech was a Trump administration precaution for gaffes and blunders, it failed when the President veered off course in his discussion of the Revolutionary War. The 18th century war, Trump claimed, involved the Continental Army manning “the air,” ramming “the ramparts” and taking over “the airports.” The President went on to mistakenly imply that Fort McHenry, the battle described in The Star-Spangled Banner, occurred during the Revolutionary War; in fact, it occurred during the War of 1812. And those are just the most egregious errors.
Trump, for his part, has blamed these slip-ups on his teleprompter malfunctioning in the rain. His flubbing of the speech was merely the cherry on top of the long, expensive, divisive, chest-thumping spectacle that was this year’s federal Fourth of July celebration.
Watch the full video of Trump’s Fourth of July speech below.