July 04, 2019

Trumps Salute to America was a second-rate Red Square rally - but one Democrat managed to find hope
DC isn’t built for tanks, but to a reality TV president with a keen eye for stagecraft, everything is a potential set.Donald Trump had wanted these war machines to rumble through the rarefied streets of the nation’s capital until he was thwarted by engineers.Send a fleet of these 60-ton monsters over the bridge from Arlington National Cemetery, they said, and it could crumble into the Potomac River.Plan B: they were plopped into static positions outside the Lincoln Memorial after being delivered by train at an estimated cost of around $750,000.He’d been inspired by France’s nationalism-soaked Bastille Day celebrations - a day during which a nation usually queasy about military might throws its arms around the troops - during a trip in 2017.And this could all have been a blockbuster Hollywood remake of a European classic - if he’d gotten his own way. Instead, after reported resistance to a full-scale military showcase from senior aides, this felt at times like a straight-to-DVD version of a Red Square parade.There were no legions of troops, no tanks rolling down the Mall, and some of the war machines that did end up on display - like the M4 Sherman - last appeared on the battlefield for the US in the 1950s.And while he surprised many with his avoidance of partisan political statements in his speech, his army of Maga hat-wearing fans had already painted the town red.Many July 4 regulars told The Independent that the mood was different as a result; politically charged on a day when Americans traditionally set that aside.At one point, a French news reporter asked an elderly woman in the crowd why July 4 was important to her. “Because we defeated tyranny and remained free,” she replied.[[gallery-0]] “Ah, the English,” he stated.“No, Hillary Clinton!”On one street street, a mother remonstrated with her Maga hat-wearing teenage son for refusing to apply sunscreen. “You won’t have any because you’re young and stupid,” she said, pointing at the cap on his head then yanking it backwards.On the same stretch of pavement a group of ‘Proud Boys’ shuffled through the crowd at one point, catching the eye of a young girl who looked up from a red-white-and-blue ice-lolly in time to spot the male chauvinist group known for their street fighting.But if Mr Trump’s supporters had arrived expecting some Democrat-baiting, they would have left sorely disappointed.Mr Trump stuck to the script, and on the rare occasions that he does that, he looks and sounds unnervingly presidential.A heavy downpour, which eased off to a drizzle during his speech left his bulletproof glass barrier streaked with raindrops.The usually inconspicuous shield protects his front and sides from any would-be assassins. His back was protected by mysterious figures with binoculars who lurked on the roof of the Lincoln Memorial.Those rain streaks resulted in unclear television broadcast images of Mr Trump, forcing aides to scramble around the media pen demanding cameramen turn off their LED lighting, because it was making visibility even worse.Meanwhile the hundreds of invited guests sat soaked - their umbrellas having been confiscated by the Secret Service on entry.The event they came for was slickly done, though. It began with a live video stream of Mr Trump leaving the White House and his trip towards the venue. I recall Dermot O’Leary did this once ahead of The X Factor final.Mr Trump then came on stage as the plane usually known as Air Force One [a callsign only used when the president is on board] roared over the Lincoln Memorial from behind.After that, the format was straightforward: praise for an arm of the military, corresponding flyover, tribute to a non-military field, guest of note from that field stands up.And, to give the scriptwriters their due, there were moments the made your hair stand on end - blunt but vivid depictions of the victory over the British in 1776, segueing into a soaring history of America’s best bits - from Hollywood to jazz to science to baseball.Given Independence Day is ultimately the celebration of a military victory, in the moment the event didn’t feel too jarring.Independent Minds Events: get involved in the news agendaBut a president with a soft spot for authoritarians deciding to co-opt the military pomp of the likes of Russia and North Korea frays the nerves regardless of his restraint.There was at least one Democrat in the crowd who found a way to enjoy Mr Trump shenanigans, though."The last time there was a military parade in DC was Bush senior in 1991," he told a friend. "And he lost the election the next year.""Can I quote you?" I asked."Nah, I don’t want to be blamed if I jinx it."



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