EDITORIAL: Fourth of July no time for Trump rally

York Dispatch editorial board
U.S. President Donald Trump stands with World War II veterans during a ceremony to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day at the Normandy American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, France, Thursday, June 6, 2019. World leaders are gathered Thursday in France to mark the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings. (AP Photo/David Vincent)

"Donald Trump and the Never-Ending Campaign" continues.

This is the president who filed paperwork to begin his reelection campaign on the day of his inauguration. Who held his first campaign rally on Feb. 18, 2017, less than a month into his term. Who has continued to hold campaign rallies, a total of 56, since he entered the White House.

And now he wants to turn the annual Fourth of July celebration in Washington, D.C., into yet another Trump rally.

Someone needs to step up and convince him, somehow, that this is a bad idea. 

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The first sign that Trump intended to hijack the national birthday party came in February, when he tweeted about a special “Salute to America” on July 4 that would feature “an address by your favorite President, me!”

And now here we are, three weeks away from the yearly celebration of the country, and no one seems to know exactly what's going on.

Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C.'s representative in Congress, said planning meetings between the city and the National Park Service for July 4 usually begin up to three months in advance. But to her knowledge, none of those meetings has happened.

“The city is scrambling to figure out what to do, because all they have is the outline of what (the White House) wants,” Norton said. She said she approached the Park Service for details, but, “They wouldn’t tell us a thing. You know why? Because they don’t know a thing.”

FILE - In this July 4, 2018, file photo, fireworks explode over Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument and U.S. Capitol, along the National Mall in Washington, during the Fourth of July celebration. Independence Day is just over three weeks away, and nobody in Washington seems to know exactly what the July 4 celebrations in the nationâs capital will look like. President Donald Trump has stated he wants to reshape the annual event into a âSalute to Americaâ that would feature Trump himself speaking from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

The Fourth of July celebration draws hundreds of thousands of people to the National Mall every year for live music and speakers at the Washington Monument, ending with fireworks.

Trump reportedly wants to speak from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, and given that he tends to go off message, there's no telling how long he would be at the podium. 

Logistically, it's a difficult day for D.C. and the Park Service already, especially with security measures in place since 9/11. The added element of a POTUS speech, in a different venue than is normal, would throw security into a frenzy.

As York County saw last week when Vice President Mike Pence stopped by, everything shuts down when the highest members of the administration are on the move. Pence's motorcade had a rolling roadblock that closed exits on Interstate 83 and then Route 30 as he passed by on the way to JLS Automation, and it was repeated as he drove back north to an event in Carlisle.

Throwing the added security measures in place for the president in the midst of the July 4 celebration would mean shutting down roads and the Metro, along with locking down the National Mall after hundreds of thousands of people get there. 

No one seems to know yet if the crowd would be vetted the way Trump's rallies usually are, with only supporters allowed in. Since it's a national celebration of Independence Day, paid for by the federal government, we would hope anyone would be allowed.

Activists are planning for that. 

“It’s not that often that President Trump appears in a public venue in front of a crowd that’s not guaranteed to be friendly,” said Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the Code Pink movement of women who want to end wars and militarism, which is organizing a protest. “It’s going to be really hard for them to control. We’ll see what kind of trouble we can get into.”

President Donald Trump speaks during a Make America Great Again rally on Saturday, April 27, 2019, in Green Bay, Wis. (William Glasheen/The Post-Crescent via AP)

Maybe the prospect of giving a national audience to protesters will make Trump rethink his plans. Maybe he'll listen to House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., and other House Democrats who wrote a letter to the president last week saying the event “could create the appearance of a televised, partisan campaign rally on the Mall at public expense,” The Washington Post reported.

Or maybe that's exactly the image he wants to project. Trump gave up his military parade, but he loves being the center of a spectacle, and the Fourth of July is the biggest annual spectacle Washington has to offer for the showman-in-chief.

There's a reason no president since Harry Truman has appeared during the Independence Day celebration. It' a time to honor our country and come together as a nation to remember the values that unify us.

A speech from Trump is guaranteed to only highlight our divisions and has no place at this celebration of our nation.