A Boost for Trump’s Ego Is a Loss for America’s National Parks
President Trump has long been thirsting for a military parade in Washington, D.C., and on Thursday he’s going to get it. The “Salute to America” extravaganza on the Fourth of July will feature Trump speaking from the Lincoln Memorial, a massive fireworks display, and, yes, a fleet of tanks positioned on the National Mall.
The National Mall is managed by the National Park Service, and according to a report from the Washington Post, the NPS is diverting nearly $2.5 million in park entrance fees, which are typically used to maintain and improve the nation’s parks, to help fund Thursday’s celebration. “We’ve never seen anything like this,” Sen. Tom Udall (NM), the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on the interior and the environment, told the Post. “No ticketed political event should be paid for with taxpayer dollars.”
Trump isn’t too concerned about the cost of the event, tweeting on Wednesday that the taxpayer money used to fund the “Salute to America” celebration “will be very little compared to what it is worth.” The $2.5 million the NPS will divert to help cover the expense only represents a portion of the event’s total cost, which is unknown.
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. We own the tanks and all. Fireworks are donated by two of the greats. Nice!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 3, 2019
This isn’t the first time the Trump administration caused harm to the NPS. After Trump shut down the government over the border wall late last year, national parks were left open but unattended when their employees were furloughed. So much garbage piled up that the Department of the Interior had to use park entrance fee money to clean up the refuse.
“Siphoning off desperately needed money from our national parks to pay for a spectacle on our National Mall is both reckless and a breach of the public’s trust,” National Parks Conservation Association CEO Theresa Pierno wrote in an email. “It was just a few months ago that this administration chose to rob entrance fee money to illegally operate our national parks during the longest shutdown in U.S. history. Our national parks paid the price, including lost fee revenue and irreparable damage.”
“Two and a half million dollars might not seem like a lot to this administration, but to a national park it’s everything,” Pierno added. “Fee dollars are meant to protect our parks’ irreplaceable resources and enhance visitors’ experiences, not fund Presidential stunt. The Park Service is already operating on a shoestring budget, and park staff have come to heavily rely on visitor fee dollars to fund law enforcement personnel, create educational programs for visitors, and address the nearly $12 billion in needed repairs for crumbling park buildings, trails and roads.”
Trump’s Fourth of July celebration will undoubtedly be the gaudiest in American history, and almost certainly the first to involve the president as the party-planner-in-chief. On Monday, the Post reported that Trump has demonstrated an “unusual level of interest” in the planning of the event, which, per his request, will feature numerous tanks, despite concerns over damage they could do to the city’s infrastructure.
On Tuesday, tanks were spotted rolling through Washington, D.C., including by baseball fans leaving the Nationals game.
Tanks arrive in Washington for #FourthofJuly celebration. More here: https://t.co/9FGRKfeXQK pic.twitter.com/COdouvzbs7
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) July 3, 2019
Just left the Nats game, and we were greeted by Trump's tanks rolling through just outside the ballpark @fox5dc @nbcwashington pic.twitter.com/O9VmDGFoMY
— Cole (@eloc8) July 3, 2019
The celebration will also feature a 35-minute fireworks show that will project an American flag and the letters “U.S.A.” across the sky, as well as a series of military flyovers featuring the Blue Angels, Marine One, Air Force One, and other aircraft. According to the Post, the White House is even trying to convince the NPS to let it project scenes from the Apollo 11 moon landing onto the Washington Monument, which would violate NPS policy by altering the state of the monument. “Big 4th of July in D.C. ‘Salute to America,'” Trump tweeted on Tuesday. “The Pentagon & our great Military Leaders are thrilled to be doing this & showing to the American people, among other things, the strongest and most advanced Military anywhere in the World. Incredible Flyovers & biggest ever Fireworks!”
Not only is Trump unconcerned with the exorbitant cost of the event, he’s doesn’t seem to mind politicizing it. The White House reportedly provided VIP tickets to the Republican National Committee and Republican Party donors, while freezing out the Democratic National Committee. The president’s speech from the Lincoln Memorial also isn’t likely to be much different from the ones he’s delivered at his campaign rallies, which means it’s likely to include several attacks against Democrats. Last month, at his “re-election kickoff rally” in Orlando, Trump portrayed Democrats as anti-American. “Our radical Democrat opponents are driven by hatred, prejudice and rage,” he said. “They want to destroy you, and they want to destroy our country as we know it.”
Trump’s address on the Fourth of July will come less than a week after the president praised Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un — three of the world’s most prominent opponents of the tenets of liberal democracy on which America was founded.
As of Wednesday afternoon, scattered thunderstorms are in the forecast for Washington, D.C., when the celebration is scheduled to take place.