President Donald Trump’s July 4 plan to speak on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial is drawing bipartisan criticism.
Rep. Gerry Connolly, a Democrat who represents Virginia’s 11th District, and the Republican who Connolly replaced, Tom Davis, recently visited with WTOP about the still-uncertain plans, which Trump announced in a tweet nearly four months ago.
Given that large crowds will be on the National Mall for the traditional “Capital Fourth” celebration, presidential security measures would only further complicate July 4 logistics, Davis told WTOP’s Mark Lewis and Debra Feinstein.
“Anytime the president or the vice president travels, it creates a logistical problem,” said the former GOP congressman. “But on the Fourth of July, when you have hundreds of thousands of people that are coming down to have picnics and watch the fireworks, it creates some really logistical problems, I think, that inconvenience a lot of people.”
HOLD THE DATE! We will be having one of the biggest gatherings in the history of Washington, D.C., on July 4th. It will be called “A Salute To America” and will be held at the Lincoln Memorial. Major fireworks display, entertainment and an address by your favorite President, me!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 24, 2019
And time is running out to adequately plan.
Since Trump’s Feb. 24 tweet, details remain limited — aside from the National Park Service’s announcement that the July 4 fireworks display would be moved from the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool to West Potomac Park.
As of Tuesday afternoon, spokespeople for both the National Park Service and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office had no additional information for those planning to come to the Mall.
Adding to security issues is the potential for protests. (The “Baby Trump” blimp, for instance, is already a possibility.) It’s a potential dynamic reminiscent of President Richard Nixon’s “Honor America Day” in 1970, which protesters back then viewed as a pro-Vietnam War rally. Long story short, police used tear gas, and naked protesters filled the Lincoln Memorial’s Reflecting Pool.
“Look, I lived through the Vietnam era,” Davis said. “I was active in politics during that time. And it was very difficult — even when the country was in a war — for a president to try to give a speech without creating more disharmony, if you will, and opposition than what they were trying to convey. And we’re in those times again.”
“So, politically, is it the smart thing to do? I’m not sure it is, and that would be the argument I make: They have every right to do it, of course. And it may be a perfectly fine speech. Nobody really knows. It’s just we’re in such divided times now,” Davis added.
Connolly shares that wariness.
“I fear that he will, of course, draw protests. And instead of it being a holiday expressing our unity as one people — ‘e pluribus unum’ — he’s going to bring a lot of attention and a lot of protests, and highlight dissent and dissension that he’s helped create and foment,” the Democrat said.
Instead, Connolly recommends that Trump simply relax with the first family and enjoy the fireworks from his primo viewing spot.
“You know, most presidents have respectfully had their own events and watched the fireworks from the Truman balcony, or had a quiet picnic or celebration with veterans,” Connolly said. “They have not made themselves the center of the national holiday, because it’s bigger than any one president.”
He’s fearful, though, that the president doesn’t agree. “He’ll do what he wants to do — the consequences be damned,” Connolly said.