Trump's July 4: Patriotic or self-promoting?

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Speed read

What's happening:

The Fourth of July is always a major celebration, especially in the nation's capital. This year, President Trump is planning a bigger event in Washington, D.C., than anything that's come before. The "Salute to America" will feature a massive fireworks display, military aircraft flyovers, music and an address by the president from the Lincoln Memorial. Trump has said tanks will be part of the proceedings as well.

The National Mall has featured a July 4 concert and fireworks display for decades, but Trump's planned festivities are expected to be much grander in scale. The president has reportedly been heavily involved in planning the ceremonies.

Why there's debate:

Critics argue that Trump is putting himself at the center of the celebration, making the event more about him than Americans as a whole. Others are concerned the celebration will serve as a de facto Trump campaign rally — a major change from what has traditionally been a nonpartisan occasion where previous presidents kept a lower profile. Making politically aimed remarks at the event may even be illegal, some say.

Some have made the case that Trump is dishonoring the military by centering himself in an event that's intended to honor their service. There are also questions about using taxpayer dollars to fund such a massive enterprise, especially when the president may personally make money from it.

Trump's defenders argue that, as president, he is free to mark Independence Day however he wants. They say Trump will only play a small part in what will be a larger celebration of the country and military. Some make the case that Trump has shown an ability to mute the bombastic tone he uses at rallies and speak in a style fitting the occasion, as he did with his remarks last month on the anniversary of D-Day.


The event is aimed at celebrating Trump, not America

"I think it's safe to say that President Donald Trump wants this July 4 to be all about him." — Dean Obeidallah, CNN

"Most presidents understand that the theme of the day is 'we the people,' not 'me, me, me.'" — Eugene Robinson, the Washington Post

Having one central spectacle is not the point of the Fourth of July

"What makes July 4 great is its very American localism. Each neighborhood has its own fireworks show. Small towns throw parades celebrating our veterans and our soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen. People gather with neighbors for barbecues full of hot dogs and pies. The capital city and the federal government aren’t what make the country great." — Jason Russell, Washington Examiner

The event can be a success if Trump strikes a tone worthy of the occasion

"Trump is the president, and the fact that he is unpopular with many Americans doesn’t mean he should absent himself from ceremonial occasions at which his presence is required. Sometimes he rises to such occasions." — Editorial, Los Angeles Times

The celebration risks becoming a Trump 2020 campaign event

"He wants to turn the annual Fourth of July celebration in Washington, D.C., into yet another Trump rally. — Editorial, York Dispatch

The event will be a celebration fitting Trump's flair for the grand spectacle

"From his now-famous Trump Tower escalator ride to announce his 2016 campaign to last weekend’s historic saunter into North Korea, President Trump has never been one to shy away from a spectacle. And the president, in full executive producer mode, is similarly putting his mark on this week's Fourth of July festivities in Washington, D.C." — Andrew O'Reilly, Fox News

The Fourth of July event has historically been free of politics

"But in hijacking America’s birthday party, Mr. Trump is doing more than merely indulging his petty narcissism. He is trampling a longstanding tradition of keeping these events nonpartisan — apolitical even — and focused on bringing the nation together." — Michelle Cottle, The New York Times

Trump's presence will stoke divisions among Americans

"If this President’s past rallies are any indication, a national address as part of the Fourth of July celebration — which will be taxpayer-funded — has the potential to divide and polarize and is the very opposite of what our nation should exemplify on the holiday." — Jeremy Tyler, Time

Military vehicles are typically only used in ceremonies run by authoritarian regimes

"It seems Pres. Trump wants a militarized Fourth of July celebration more similar to the kinds of events overseen by dictators like his buddy Kim Jong-un. I prefer the Boston Pops, hot dogs, and Uncle Sams on stilts." Dan Rather, Twitter

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