President Trump is transforming Washington’s traditional Fourth of July celebration into a rally for America stamped with his personal brand, featuring displays of military might and a speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial. Here’s what to expect:
White House officials say President Trump plans a nonpolitical speech that honors the American military and celebrates — on behalf of everyone — the country’s 243rd birthday. He is scheduled to speak for about 20 minutes, interrupted by dramatic flyovers of military aircraft and one of the planes that serve as Air Force One.
But Mr. Trump is hardly known for sticking to the script at his “Make America Great Again” rallies, and he rarely talks for only 20 minutes. Will he treat his Fourth of July address differently? Or will the celebration of Independence Day become a celebration of the Trump administration, filled with the usual boasts and grievances that are becoming the centerpieces of his re-election campaign?
Only his speechwriters know — and even they may be surprised in the end.
The Military Gear
It’s hard not to be impressed by the military might of the United States armed forces, and the display of equipment — on the ground and in the air — is designed to be entertaining.
For those on the ground, the main attractions will be the two M1A2 Abrams tanks, not far from the Lincoln Memorial, and the M2A3 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles in front of the presidential stage.
In the air, fighter jets will include the F-35 stealth fighter and the Navy’s Blue Angels, who will perform in the sky. And one of the Boeing VC-25s that usually serve as the presidential aircraft will roar over the National Mall.
The Other Events
President Trump has a way of dominating the news and drawing attention from everything else. But three other unrelated Fourth of July events are taking place in the nation’s capital on Thursday.
The traditional parade will proceed down Constitution Avenue several hours before Mr. Trump’s arrival. It will consist of marching bands, floats, giant balloons, drill teams and military units.
At the west lawn in front of the Capitol, PBS will present “A Capitol Fourth,” a concert that has taken place for years, at 8 p.m. Organizers went out of their way to say that their event had nothing to do with the president’s rally at the other end of the Washington Mall, about two miles down the road.
After the concert, fireworks will explode above the Washington Monument, well after Mr. Trump’s event is over.
President Trump loves his crowds.
That was clear after he complained bitterly about the reporting that his inauguration crowds were not, in fact, the largest ever. And it’s clear every time he brags about the size of his crowds at rallies around the country.
So pay close attention to the size of the crowd that assembles to watch him deliver his speech. If reporting suggests it is small, Mr. Trump may express his anger, probably on Twitter.
Also keep an eye on the composition of the crowd. Organizers are expecting many Trump supporters wearing the president’s trademark “Make America Great Again” hats. But they are also bracing for the possibility of clashes between Trump supporters and protesters who have already said they will assemble Thursday as well.
Anyone who has lived in Washington knows what the weather is like on a typical July day. This year is not likely to be any different: steamy and hot in the morning, followed by intense periods of rain.
Forecasts suggest there is a 50 percent chance of thunderstorms at just the moment Mr. Trump is to take the stage in front of the Lincoln Memorial. If low clouds or high winds force the Pentagon to call off the flyovers by the military aircraft, that would leave the president with a soggy speech devoid of the dramatic moments he so craves.
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