President Donald Trump has seized control of Washington, D.C.’s traditionally nonpartisan, nonpolitical July 4 celebration in an unprecedented fashion. An event that typically revolves around civic patriotism will take on an overtly military cast, with flyovers from military jets and tanks and other armored vehicles on display in a manner reminiscent of parades in dictatorships. A holiday that marks our nation’s independence will instead be all about Trump; he will give a campaign-style speech at the Lincoln Memorial at the height of festivities, whose ballooning cost required the National Parks Service to divert nearly $2.5 million originally earmarked for parks across the country. And in a clear sign of the day’s overt politicization, the Republican National Committee has access to a block of tickets to Trump’s remarks and is distributing them to high-dollar donors.
No quasi-authoritarian celebration would be complete without fawning commentary from state TV propagandists. The co-hosts of Fox & Friends, the Fox News morning program Trump adores for treating him as the hero of every story, played that role with glee on Wednesday.
“That big celebration is going to happen down in D.C.,” Ainsley Earhardt said at the top of the 7 a.m. hour. “The president's been talking about it on the Mall. And he is really fired up about it. He’s excited. He’s saying, ‘Let's bring in the tanks.’”
“His big Fourth is 'Salute to America.' That's what he is going to call it,” continued Brian Kilmeade. “The Pentagon and great military leaders are thrilled to be doing this and showing to the American people everything we’re paying for.” (In fact, as The New York Times has reported, “Pentagon officials have long been reluctant to parade tanks, missiles and other weapons through the nation’s capital like the authoritarian leaders of North Korea and China.”)
“He’s going to have fireworks, military bands, flyovers, tanks and more military vehicles, and I’m sure a lot of people,” Earhardt added.
“I’m very excited because I’m going to leave this couch, go back to D.C. today to be out there on the Mall for you guys tomorrow morning,” said Griff Jenkins, the Fox national correspondent who was filling in for Steve Doocy in a blatant breach of the network’s purported firewall between “news” and “opinion” programming. “I have been covering the Fourth of July for a while. I’ve never seen an M1A1 Abrams tank or a Bradley Fighting Vehicle or any planes flying over, so this is going to be quite exciting.”
“When you see those tanks rolling into your city, down into D.C., it gets you fired up, it gets you excited because you think about our military and that represents America,” replied Earhardt.
Every story needs a villain, and for this one, it’s those in the news media who are less enthusiastic about the president’s big show. After airing a clip reel of commentators on other networks criticizing the planned celebration, the hosts jumped in to smear anyone who doesn’t support the parade as hypocritical and framed the critique as an attack on the troops.
“What would they say if President Obama had done this, had brought in tanks?” added Earhardt. That statement comes so close to understanding the point -- before missing it entirely. Obama spent eight years in office without taking over the July 4th celebration in this way, presumably because he thought that would be a bad idea. And if he had taken it over, Fox assuredly would have denounced him for it rather than getting excited about the military hardware on display.
Fox & Friends returned to the story at the top of its third hour, opening the segment with video of tanks rolling through Washington, D.C. “They are just part of a magical event, which will include a parade and flyovers; the Blue Angels will be there and various other military aircraft,” explained Kilmeade.
After excitedly discussing the complicated effort needed to get 60-ton tanks into the center of the nation’s capital (it involved a crane), the hosts again played the clip reel of the parade’s critics.
“They say the same thing every day,” commented Kilmeade. “They find everything that he does just so repulsive and so ridiculous and so overblown.”
“Shouldn’t this be a bipartisan issue?” Earhardt replied in a baffled tone of voice. “We’re celebrating America.”
“The president tends to be a disruptor,” Kilmeade later added. “He tends to do things his way.”
“And he does it with a massive, big way,” replied Earhardt with a similarly sized grin. “You saw on our screen; it’s not just a few fighter jets that are going to be in the air. It was like ... six different aircraft.”
“It’s awesome. I love it,” she concluded.
No state TV broadcaster could have put it better.
Update (7/3/19): Fox & Friends isn’t the only Fox show that can’t get enough of Trump’s militarized July 4 celebration.