As Independence Day arrives, the mainstream media has grown increasingly critical of the Salute to America that President Donald Trump has planned for Washington, D.C.
Willie Geist of MSNBC called it “an all-out show of power.”
Zachary Wolf of CNN complained that the event “has the sheen of a partisan affair.”
But the prize for bitterness toward the concept goes to Philip Bump of the Washington Post for “We get it, Mr. President” You’re into autocracy.”
There will be tanks on display, Bump wrote, “there to be pointed out and shown off like a vain bodybuilder offering tickets to the gun show.”
The president had gotten that idea in France, when he attended Bastille Day celebrations that included a full military display.
But “while Trump’s inspiration might be France, it’s hard not to get the sense that he’s also hoping to evoke military displays popular among some of the friends he met with over the past week in Asia, leaders like Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. Both of those leaders oversee regular displays of their nation’s military might, in part out of an insecure sense that they need to demonstrate their strength to the world.”
Bump recalled the time a year ago when an “expert” told him America’s military strength “is already well-known and our systems well-documented, making overt displays much less necessary.”
But the tanks are just icing on the cake of Trump’s erratic behavior, Bump wrote. “The cake itself? Trump’s embrace of autocratic leaders like Putin, Kim, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey during his trip to Asia,” Bump wrote.
“Past presidents have maintained some distance from leaders who were openly hostile to democratic values and individual freedoms; Trump offers them praise and friendship and echoes their rhetoric. Tanks on the Mall might be the most overt way in which Trump emulates these leaders, but his political arguments are the most alarming way in which he does so.”
What Bump found so “alarming” was Trump joking with Putin that “the U.S. had a problem with ‘fake news’ that doesn’t exist in Russia.” The two share a penchant for complaining about news outlets that criticize them, “especially when it’s accurate.”
Trump just doesn’t get it on this score, Bump wrote. “It’s not just about the media, but about an acceptance of the idea that those outside the government should have the right to weigh in publicly on what the government is doing. But for the media, Trump has claimed his approval rating would be over 70 percent.”
Bump goes on to say both Putin and Mohammed “have been linked to the murders of members of the media” and detailed how Trump has “praised Mohammed for taking the killing [of anti-government activist Jamal Khashoggi] ‘very, very seriously’ by prosecuting 13 people at Mohammed’s direction.”
What’s important to Trump, Bump charged, is that Saudi Arabia has “been a terrific ally” who is ‘ordering equipment, not only military equipment but $400 billion worth of – and actually, even more than that over a period of time – worth of different things.”
Bump also criticized Trump because “beyond simply rewarding autocratic leaders with handshakes and attention during his trip to Asia, Trump actively praised them. After inviting Kim to meet him at the border between North and South Korea, Trump smiled as the North Korean leader approached. Trump once derided Kim as a ‘madman’ who ‘doesn’t mind starving or killing his people.’ Upon seeing Kim at the border, Trump greeted him as ‘my friend.’”
He wrote that Trump “celebrated the Chinese Communist Party’s decision last year to eliminate term limits, allowing Xi to serve as president for live. It’s an idea that obviously appeals to the American president.”
It’s not about the power or getting his policies enacted, Bump wrote. “Instead, Trump likes the acclaim that comes from being president, the pomp and respect.”
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Author: Brian McNicoll