Halloween is sugary. Thanksgiving is fattening and fraught. Christmas is expensive. New Year’s Eve is annoying. Memorial Day is laced with melancholy. George Washington’s Birthday isn’t even on his birthday anymore. Columbus Day has some issues.
But we could always count on the Fourth of July.
Such a nice carefree American celebration, smack in the middle of summer, redolent of cookouts and the Beach Boys crooning “Fun, fun, fun,” and still on the same day that those wicked-smart guys in Philadelphia pulled off that miracle.
It’s a great big national picnic, especially in Washington, where we have a sparkling, sprawling party every year on the Mall. Last year, I went to hear Jimmy Buffett sing with the remnants of the Beach Boys, surrounded by surf boards and beach balls, with pyrotechnics lighting up the monuments.
I must have taken 50 blurry pictures of the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial framed by red and green starbursts. It was one of those nights when you’re just happy to be an American.
But now Donald Trump, certified Roman candle, is spoiling America’s fireworks show. On a whim, he has decided to bollix up one of the better days in the nation’s capital.
Trump is going to turn a holiday that had somehow managed to remain nonpartisan and playful into a MAGA rally, dragging his perpetual resting bitch face and American carnage onto the Mall.
So much for Good Vibrations.
Trump tweeted in February that he was going to hijack the Lincoln Memorial on Independence Day for “Major fireworks display, entertainment and an address by your favorite President, me!” Like no one had ever thought of fireworks on the Mall before.
We got confirmation of his plan while he was in France, sitting by a cemetery full of white crosses for D-Day heroes who fought the Nazis, the scene of his interview with Fox’s Laura Ingraham.
Defiling the sacred with the profane, Trump offered his usual bag of arsenic cookies. He talked about what a “fool” Robert Mueller is — even though Mueller is a real war hero, not a bone spurs bloviator. Trump told Piers Morgan on “Good Morning Britain” that he didn’t want to fight in Vietnam because “it was very far away, and at that time nobody ever heard of the country.” The president is such a scaredy-fraidy that those around him think he can’t even summon the strength to look at a Navy destroyer with the name of a dead war hero who defied him.
Trump ranted to Ingraham that “Nervous Nancy” Pelosi is “a nasty, vindictive, horrible person” whose San Francisco district has “drug needles all over the place.”
Narcissistic, infantile and heedless of tradition, Trump is now yanking away the one day devoted to celebrating all Americans and rebranding it in his own image. It’s one thing to have the TRUMP sign on a hotel or winery. It’s another to slap it on the face of the nation.
As Kamala Harris chided: “I think the president needs to realize it’s America’s birthday, not his birthday.”
But patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel, as Samuel Johnson said. And Trump has to be first. As Michael D’Antonio writes in his Trump biography “Never Enough,” Trump displayed that compulsion early on. When he went with classmates at the New York Military Academy to march down Fifth Avenue in a Columbus Day parade, he found out that some Catholic schoolgirls were lined up ahead of the boys. Trump went to complain and pull strings and got the girls bumped so they marched behind the boys.
When European leaders joined together to endorse a D-Day commemoration, they all put their John Hancocks at the bottom, as expected, while Trump scrawled his signature alone at the top.
The president could have made a nice little speech from the White House and not messed up everything. But now the fireworks will be moved to a park on the Potomac River and the mood will be Yankee, stay home, not Yankee Doodle dandy.
Top House Democrats sent a letter to the White House on Thursday asking Trump to reconsider. “For decades, the Fourth of July on the National Mall has been nonpartisan and apolitical,” they wrote. “We respectfully call on you to look for ways to complement, not conflict with, the Fourth of July celebration, such as considering an earlier time or alternative location for your remarks.”
The one time we’d be happy to pay for one of Trump’s incessant golf trips — one estimate put the bill for taxpayers at over $100 million so far — he won’t leave.
Petula Dvorak wrote in The Washington Post that it’s unseemly to see Trump “stain” the Lincoln Memorial, “the place of reckoning for our great nation’s original sin — the practice of slavery and the segregation and racism that still rock this country today.” His speech there, she asserted, will be “an affront to President Abraham Lincoln’s spare brilliance, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s thundering oratory and Marian Anderson’s unforgettable contralto.”
The Post noted that past presidents have been far less intrusive: In 1825, John Quincy Adams went to Capitol Hill to listen to a reading of the Declaration of Independence; in 1841, John Tyler served guests soup made from a 300-pound turtle from Key West; and in 1902, Teddy Roosevelt went to Pittsburgh to make a speech.
When George H.W. Bush was a diplomat in China, the Chinese marveled at his energy and christened him “Ants on a hot pan.” Trump will have to settle for another moniker: “Ants at the national picnic.”