WASHINGTON (Reuters) – With U.S. fighter jets flying overhead, President Donald Trump praised the army 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 an identical show in France, dismissed considerations forward of the ceremony in regards to the expense and militaristic overtones of the occasion outdoors the 97-year-old Lincoln Memorial, a logo of nationwide unity.
“Our nation is stronger in the present day than it ever was earlier than. It’s 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 combating autos, Trump in any other case steered away from divisive political rhetoric, in a departure from the vast majority of his speeches. At instances, an enthusiastic crowd might be heard chanting: “USA! USA! USA!”
Trump, 73, praised American army would possibly regardless of having himself prevented the draft in the course of the Vietnam Battle with bone spurs in his toes. With well-planned choreography, he advised tales about every army department earlier than separate, dramatic flyovers of their respective army plane.
“We have a good time our historical past, our folks, and the heroes who proudly defend our flag: the courageous women and men of america army,” Trump mentioned. “For over 65 years, no enemy Air Pressure has managed to kill a single American soldier. As a result of the skies belong to america of America.”
Not all of the choreography appeared to go off as deliberate.
A flyover by Air Pressure One, which Trump had teased earlier within the day on Twitter, occurred unannounced and with out fanfare. However a low and spectacular flyover by six F-18s often known as the “Blue Angels” on the conclusion of Trump’s speech thrilled the group. Some folks shouted “4 Extra Years!” in help of the president.
Trump paid tribute to the U.S. Border Patrol and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, two businesses which have performed main roles in finishing up his robust immigration insurance policies.
He cited as nice Individuals each Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass, African-Individuals who campaigned for the abolition of slavery greater than 100 years in the past. That reward may draw criticism as Trump’s administration in Could determined to maintain Tubman’s picture off the $20 invoice. He beforehand raised doubts about his data of Douglass by talking of the previous slave within the current tense as “someone who’s finished an incredible job.”
MILLIONS OF DOLLARS, WORRIES ABOUT CROWDS
Earlier within the day 1000’s of supporters carrying Trump’s signature “Make America Nice Once more” 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 “Child Trump” balloon sat subsequent to a banner calling Trump a traitor.
Protesters burned a U.S. flag in entrance of the White Home.
Forward 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 feel what Trump’s doing with the tanks, all of the flyovers, I feel it’s nice,” mentioned Brandon Lawrence, his face painted with the colours of the American flag.
Some on the White Home had nervous in regards to the crowd measurement, based on an administration official.
In January 2017 Trump fumed about studies that the group at his inauguration ceremony in entrance of the Capitol was smaller than it was for President Barack Obama.
Maybe with the group measurement in thoughts, Trump despatched out tweets urging folks to attend and saying the occasion could be “one of many largest celebrations within the historical past of our Nation.” Because it occurred, the group lined either side of the reflecting pool in entrance of the memorial, and Trump later referred to as it a “nice crowd.”
Opponents weren’t impressed.
“That is costing us thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of . We the taxpayers are paying for it, for Donald Trump to make use of our army as a prop. And that’s simply not proper,” 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 Submit reported that the U.S. Nationwide 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: “That is what authoritarians do: @realDonaldTrump is taking $2.5 million away from our Nationwide Park Service to glorify himself with a spectacle of army tanks rolling via Washington,” he wrote in a tweet.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, main in opinion polls within the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, mentioned in Iowa: “Donald Trump, I imagine, is incapable of celebrating what makes America nice, as a result of I don’t assume he will get it.”
Trump performed down the expense.
“The price of our nice Salute to America tomorrow might be little or no in comparison with what it’s value. We personal the planes, we now have the pilots, the airport is correct subsequent door (Andrews), all we’d like is the gas,” he posted on Twitter on Wednesday. “We personal the tanks and all. Fireworks are donated by two of the greats. Good!” Andrews is the identify of a close-by army base.
The July 4th vacation celebrates the U.S. founders’ declaring independence from Britain in 1776.
Reporting by Jeff Mason; further reporting by Steve Holland, Greg Savoy, Valerie Volcovici, Lawrence Hurley and Makini Brice; modifying by Howard Goller