The top stories on CNN as I write this are all about the planned celebration in Washington DC for the 4th of July. This year’s program is going to be different from previous years because President Trump is using this opportunity to celebrate America’s military. Naturally, CNN is deeply troubled by it. Chris Cillizza’s piece is headlined, “Donald Trump’s July 4 spectacle just keeps getting more and more absurd“:
With the festivities now only days away, the full picture of what Trump has planned is coming into focus. And boy, oh boy, is it over the top. Among the plans:
* There will be tanks (M1 Abrams) other armored vehicles. “You’ve got to be pretty careful with the tanks because the roads have a tendency not to like to carry heavy tanks so we have to put them in certain areas but we have the brand new Sherman tanks and we have the brand new Abrams tanks,” Trump said on Monday. (Sherman tanks haven’t been produced since 1957.)
Trump is taking a beating in the press for the reference to Sherman tanks. For instance, Military Times did a story on the gaffe. But Trump is right about there being a brand new version of the Abrams tank which was just revealed a few months ago. NBC reports that tanks have already arrived on railcars in Washington, DC:
NBC News captured video of the tanks — two Bradley and two Abrams tanks — purportedly en route to the National Mall for Thursday’s event. Also in transport are support vehicles, including an M88, used to help recover heavy armored vehicles.
A photographer for the Associated Press also spotted two M1A1 Abrams tanks along with four other military vehicles on a freight train in southeast D.C. on Monday night.
Here’s another glimpse of them:
Found ‘em! 5 military tanks on train tracks in southeast DC for the 4th of July celebrations pic.twitter.com/Nv8aTgR0no
— Elizabeth Landers (@ElizLanders) July 2, 2019
In any case, CNN’s Cillizza warns that the whole spectacle is a bit too…masculine:
The parading of military has long been the stuff of dictators and authoritarian regimes — from Iran to North Korea to Russia. The leaders — military and civilian — in the United States have avoided that sort of thing because, well, the strongest guy in the gym doesn’t need to go around telling everyone how strong he is. It’s understood. Yes, we have massive military might. But we also believe in diplomacy, avoiding military conflicts at all costs and using force as only a last resort.
Trump doesn’t seem to grasp that nuance. Or he grasps it and either doesn’t care or doesn’t agree.
There’s a second opinion piece at CNN headlined, “It’s Trump’s Fourth of July now.” A sample:
The regular fireworks launch point had to be moved to accommodate President Donald Trump’s new “Salute to America” event at the Lincoln Memorial. That, coupled with military flyovers, means DC airspace will be closed for more than two hours, when in normal years it isn’t closed at all.
One concern of critics who think the Fourth should be about commemorating national unity and independence is that Trump’s event, with its massive VIP section and tickets for political donors, has the sheen of a partisan affair.
The VIP section, it should be noted involves tickets but the tickets are free. The DC fireworks show, which is always great, is being expanded by 15 minutes thanks to donated fireworks. That sounds great to me but no one at CNN seems willing to see any positives because Trump is involved. He’ll be speaking in front of the Lincoln Memorial during the event.
It’s easy to suggest Trump is behaving like a banana republic dictator or that he’s turning this into a partisan affair. I suspect a lot of those criticisms would be leveled by the media at any Republican who wanted to celebrate America a little more loudly than they the left feels comfortable with. The message from the left these days (and the media is always leaning in their direction) is that maybe we shouldn’t get too excited about America at all. In fact, on the far left the general attitude is that we should only feel shame.
I’ll admit it’s possible this could be a disaster. Trump could say something to offend people on a day that really is about all Americans. He’s capable of blowing it. But it would be great if the national media could at least admit this could also be fun, and harmless, and not a huge scandal. It’s the presumption of failure and bad intent that bothers me. Maybe Trump just legitimately loves America and is proud of its military. Do we have to signal to everyone that all of this is terribly problematic in advance? At CNN, and elsewhere in the media, it seems the answer is yes.