Editor’s Note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM radio’s daily program “The Dean Obeidallah Show” and a columnist for The Daily Beast. Follow him @DeanObeidallah. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion articles on CNN.
I think it’s safe to say that President Donald Trump wants this July 4th to be all about him. At least that’s the impression I got reading his Sunday morning tweet about the summer holiday celebration he is planning: “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!”
While it’d be wonderful if Trump’s proposed event was actually about celebrating the founding of our country, given Trump’s tendency to make nearly everything about himself, this seems highly unlikely.
Trump’s tweet reveals details about the celebration he has in mind. He’s promising to organize “one of the biggest gatherings in the history of Washington, D.C.” at the Lincoln Memorial – complete with a “Major fireworks display” and “entertainment.” And if you had any doubt what this so-called “Salute to America” is really all about, Trump made it clear by telling us how this event will be headlined – with “an address by your favorite President, me!”
Trump’s tweet about his planned July 4th rally was followed a short time later by tweets about North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, a man who imprisons, tortures and kills those accused of “political crimes.” In one such tweet, Trump bragged that he has a “Great relationship with Chairman Kim!! ”
Trump’s call for the “biggest gathering in the history of Washington,” where he can address thousands of Americans at once, made me think of Kim’s massive rally in 2017, where thousands of North Koreans gathered to hear Kim speak and pledge their loyalty to him. Perhaps, come July 4th, Trump wants the American people to show him the same “love” and “great fervor,” as Trump put it, that North Koreans have for Kim?!
Beyond those concerns, this Trump-headlined event appears to be nothing more than a 2020 campaign rally. How can I say that? Well, just look at how Trump spent the last two July 4th weekends as President – back when the 2020 race was not yet top of mind. In 2017, Trump celebrated our nation’s Independence Day by playing golf at his exclusive country club in New Jersey, although he returned for one day to Washington to be a part of the “Celebrate Freedom” concert honoring our nation’s veterans. In 2018, Trump again played golf on July 4th, but this time he stayed closer to the White House by playing a round at his private country club in Northern Virginia.
But times have changed. Now we have numerous Democratic candidates seeking to take on Trump, and the media’s political coverage has increasingly shifted to the campaign. And Trump, too, has become more 2020 focused – as we’ve seen with his recent Twitter attacks on some of the leading candidates seeking to unseat him, such as Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senator Bernie Sanders, days after both announced their respective candidacies.
Of course, the big question is: Who will we be paying for Trump to headline his own event? It’s unclear as of now, but given that this idea was first discussed at a Trump cabinet meeting in mid-February, where Trump said the acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt would spearhead its planning, Trump may be plotting to saddle us – the taxpayers – with the bill for his celebration.
It is true that past Presidents have spoken at events on July 4th that received media coverage. President Barack Obama hosted an annual July 4th concert at the White House to honor our military service members that featured well-known entertainers, such as Kendrick Lamar and Brad Paisley. President George W. Bush, on the first July 4th after 9/11, spoke at a “salute to Veterans” event in Ripley, West Virginia, choosing the location to celebrate the patriotism of “small-town America.”
But what these past Presidents didn’t do was try to turn our nation’s Independence Day into a massive event designed to make themselves the center of attention. Such an event is not a “Salute to America” – it’s simply a salute to Trump.