George Boardman: Trump wants to turn the Fourth of July into a partisan political rally
While it has its own political undertones, the Fourth of July has traditionally been a day when Americans can come together and celebrate their good fortune of being citizens of this great country.
But Donald Trump wants to change all that by turning a popular holiday tradition into a political rally. If you will, he seeks to cancel the nonpartisan celebration of America and celebrate himself instead.
Trump was first inspired to do something big on the Fourth when he attended the Bastille Day parade in Paris in 2017. But since he never makes a decision before answering the question, “What’s in it for me?,” the president quickly decided there are political points to be gained by wrapping himself in the American flag.
So we will be treated to a “National Independence Day” parade featuring marching bands, fife and drum corps, floats, military units, giant balloons, and equestrian and drill teams.
That will be followed by a “Salute to America” at the Lincoln Memorial in which Trump “leads a celebration of America’s military with music, military demonstrations, and flyovers,” according to the Interior Department, “and an address by your favorite President, me,” Trump added in a tweet.
You can bet Trump will remind everybody how much he has increased the Pentagon’s budget, but it’s unlikely he’ll touch on the multiple deferments he received during the Vietnam War.
Every president tries to use the military to his advantage because it is one of the few institutions left that most Americans respect, but Trump seems to love our armed forces only when they suit his purpose. At the same time he waves America’s powerful sword at our adversaries, Trump shows no reluctance to disparage our heroes or run roughshod over long-held military traditions.
Everybody’s familiar with the president’s dislike of the late Senator John McCain, who was being tortured in the Hanoi Hilton while Trump was using his daddy’s money to build his hotel empire. That dislike led to another petty controversy for which this White House is known.
In preparation for Trump’s recent trip to Japan, a White House advance man noticed the USS John S. McCain was in port and asked the Navy to move the ship “out of sight.” It was thought the destroyer named for three generations of McCains — two admirals and the senator — might trigger one of Trump’s well-known rages against his staff.
Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s acting chief of staff, blamed the action on some low-level member of the advance team, but said of the request: “That’s not an unreasonable thing.” Trump said he understood the motivations of the staff member and didn’t blame anybody for the slight.
The trip to Japan occurred during the Memorial Day weekend, when Trump was getting ready to issue pardons to several military personnel accused of high-profile war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq. He apparently backed down after vigorous protests from leaders of the military services.
Several of the accused received sympathetic treatment from Fox News, which has influenced more than a few Trump initiatives, and pardoning the accused would play well to Trump’s base — after all, these were our nation’s sworn enemies the Americans were accused of killing.
The Los Angeles Times reported Trump was considering a pardon for Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, a Navy SEAL currently being court marshaled for shooting unarmed civilians and stabbing a teenage Islamic State fighter in Iraq in 2012. The Navy has been accused of prosecutorial misconduct and a star witness for the prosecution testified he killed the teenager.
Other pardons Trump was said to be considering include an Army major accused of killing an unarmed Afghan in 2010, three Marine snipers prosecuted for urinating on the corpse of a dead Afghan fighter in 2011, and a former security guard for Blackwater Worldwide who was convicted of killing unarmed Iraqis in 2007.
But a couple of retired generals had a different take on the situation. “Absent evidence of innocence or injustice,” said retired General Martin Dempsey, “the wholesale pardon of U.S. service members accused of war crimes signals our troops and allies that we don’t take the law of armed conflict seriously. Bad message. Bad precedent. Abdication of moral responsibility. Risk for us.”
Retired General Charles Krulak, a former Marine commandant, had this to say: “If President Trump issues indiscriminate pardons for individuals accused — or convicted by their fellow service members — of war crimes, he relinquishes the United States’ moral high ground and undermines the good order and discipline critical to winning on the battle field.”
Unlike his political rallies, Trump’s operatives won’t be able to bar the president’s opponents from attending the Washington festivities, and that may lead to what occurred the last time something like this was tried 1970—“Honor America Day” in support of Richard Nixon.
Disillusioned Vietnam vets flooded the area. Some staged a marijuana “smoke in” on the National Mall, while others waded into the reflecting pool opposite the Lincoln Memorial. Police used tear gas on some of the protesters, but wind carried the gas into the crowd attending the ceremony.
Protests like that remind me of how fortunate I am to have been born in this great country.
George Boardman lives at Lake of the Pines. His column is published Mondays by The Union. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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