Donald Trump speaking at the “Salute to America” ceremony in front of the Lincoln Memorial, July 4, 2019, in Washington, D.C.
Donald Trump speaking at the “Salute to America” ceremony in front of the Lincoln Memorial, July 4, 2019, in Washington, D.C.
Photo: Sarah Silbiger (Getty)

Donald Trump’s decision to insert himself in Independence Day celebrations in the nation’s capital resulted in a tale of two Fourths — and an erroneous, anachronistic reference to airports being present during the time of the Revolutionary War.


During what he hyped as an extravagant “Salute to America” July Fourth celebration, complete with military tanks and airplane flyovers, Trump, as rain fell, spoke in front of the Lincoln Memorial on the western end of the National Mall.

Before a crowd of supporters, many in MAGA attire, Trump was waxing poetic about the history of the U.S. military when he made reference to “airports” during the time of the Revolutionary War, USA Today reports:

“Our Army manned the air, it rammed the ramparts, it took over airports,” Trump said of the fighting force created by the Continental Congress in 1775.

There was no air travel in 18th Century America.

The flub — coming amid intense criticism of Trump departing from presidential norms and “politicizing” what historically has been the nonpartisan nature of July Fourth celebrations — had the hashtag #TrumpSpeechFail trending on Twitter some 24 hours later:


And while Trump was speaking on the western end of the Mall, a different group of Americans was preparing to gather on the Mall’s eastern end for a separate celebration of the Fourth in front of the Capitol.

As the New York Times reports:

On the Capitol side Thursday afternoon, a smattering of mostly local residents, some carrying picnic hampers, waited in the humid weather for the traditional Independence Day concert featuring singer-songwriter Carole King, the National Symphony Orchestra, a special guest appearance by the Muppets and fireworks at nightfall.

They were gathering for Washington, D.C.’s traditional “Capitol Fourth” celebration of Independence Day, which began, as the Washington Post recounts, just after Trump finished his presentation and left the Mall:

Soon after Trump departed one side of the Mall, the concert began on the other side. In between, near the Washington Monument, was a wide expanse of families on blankets, waiting for the fireworks. The mood was peaceful, save for a single locus of agitation. By a portable statue of Trump sitting on a giant gold toilet, a handful of protesters blew whistles until their faces were flushed pink. [...] They were blowing whistles to puncture the picnic vibe, to signal that America was in crisis, that the empire was not maturing but devolving.


As Wendy McHugh, wearer of the only visible red MAGA hat by early evening amid the spectators for the “Capitol Fourth, told the Post:

“There’s going to be controversy, there’s going to be division, but that’s OK,” McHugh said. “That’s how we grow.”


What, exactly, is growing in this nation may be the more important question.

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