WASHINGTON (Reuters) – With U.S. fighter jets flying overhead, President Donald Trump praised the military and reveled in a present of pomp and patriotism on Thursday in a celebration of Independence Day that critics accused him of turning right into a political occasion.
Trump, a Republican who was impressed to stage the flashy affair after seeing the same show in France, dismissed considerations forward of the ceremony in regards to the expense and militaristic overtones of the occasion exterior the 97-year-old Lincoln Memorial, an emblem of nationwide unity.
“Our nation is stronger today than it ever was before. It is its strongest now,” Trump mentioned from a platform in entrance of the well-known memorial, echoing a theme he makes use of at marketing campaign rallies.
Flanked by Bradley preventing automobiles, Trump in any other case steered away from divisive political rhetoric, in a departure from the vast majority of his speeches. At occasions, an enthusiastic crowd might be heard chanting: “USA! USA! USA!”
Trump, 73, praised American military would possibly regardless of having himself prevented the draft throughout the Vietnam War with bone spurs in his ft. With well-planned choreography, he instructed tales about every military department earlier than separate, dramatic flyovers of their respective military plane.
“We celebrate our history, our people, and the heroes who proudly defend our flag: the brave men and women of the United States military,” Trump mentioned. “For over 65 years, no enemy Air Force has managed to kill a single American soldier. Because the skies belong to the United States of America.”
Not all of the choreography appeared to go off as deliberate.
A flyover by Air Force One, which Trump had teased earlier in the day on Twitter, occurred unannounced and with out fanfare. But a low and spectacular flyover by six F-18s often known as the “Blue Angels” on the conclusion of Trump’s speech thrilled the gang. Some individuals shouted “Four More Years!” in assist of the president.
Trump paid tribute to the U.S. Border Patrol and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, two companies which have performed main roles in finishing up his powerful immigration insurance policies.
He cited as nice Americans each Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass, African-Americans who campaigned for the abolition of slavery greater than 100 years in the past. That reward may draw criticism as Trump’s administration in May determined to maintain Tubman’s picture off the $20 invoice. He beforehand raised doubts about his information of Douglass by talking of the previous slave in the current tense as “somebody who’s done an amazing job.”
MILLIONS OF DOLLARS, WORRIES ABOUT CROWDS
Earlier in the day 1000’s of supporters sporting Trump’s signature “Make America Great Again” hats, together with opponents questioning the price of the occasion, poured into the U.S. capital regardless of scorching temperatures and intermittent rain, whereas a diapered “Baby Trump” balloon sat subsequent to a banner calling Trump a traitor.
Protesters burned a U.S. flag in entrance of the White House.
Ahead of the speech, Democrats accused the president of staging an out-of-place marketing campaign rally, conscious he has a historical past of veering off script with sharp partisan assaults even at occasions that aren’t meant to be overtly political.
Trump supporters and opponents carried American flags and wore pink, white and blue outfits.
“I think what Trump’s doing with the tanks, all the flyovers, I think it’s great,” mentioned Brandon Lawrence, his face painted with the colours of the American flag.
Some on the White House had apprehensive in regards to the crowd dimension, in line with an administration official.
In January 2017 Trump fumed about stories that the gang at his inauguration ceremony in entrance of the Capitol was smaller than it was for President Barack Obama.
Perhaps with the gang dimension in thoughts, Trump despatched out tweets urging individuals to attend and saying the occasion can be “one of the biggest celebrations in the history of our Country.” As it occurred, the gang lined each side of the reflecting pool in entrance of the memorial, and Trump later known as it a “great crowd.”
Opponents weren’t impressed.
“This is costing us millions and millions of dollars. We the taxpayers are paying for it, for Donald Trump to use our military as a prop. And that’s just not right,” mentioned Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the women-led peace group Code Pink, earlier than the occasion.
Republican political teams got prime tickets for Trump’s speech, and the Washington Post reported that the U.S. National Park Service diverted $2.5 million in park entrance charges to assist pay for the occasion.
Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders weighed in with criticism: “This is what authoritarians do: @realDonaldTrump is taking $2.5 million away from our National Park Service to glorify himself with a spectacle of military tanks rolling through Washington,” he wrote in a tweet.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, main in opinion polls in the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, mentioned in Iowa: “Donald Trump, I believe, is incapable of celebrating what makes America great, because I don’t think he gets it.”
Trump performed down the expense.
“The cost of our great Salute to America tomorrow will be very little compared to what it is worth. We own the planes, we have the pilots, the airport is right next door (Andrews), all we need is the fuel,” he posted on Twitter on Wednesday. “We own the tanks and all. Fireworks are donated by two of the greats. Nice!” Andrews is the identify of a close-by military base.
The July 4th vacation celebrates the U.S. founders’ declaring independence from Britain in 1776.
Reporting by Jeff Mason; extra reporting by Steve Holland, Greg Savoy, Valerie Volcovici, Lawrence Hurley and Makini Brice; enhancing by Howard Goller
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