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Analysis

Happy Fourth: Donald Trump’s Bastille Day-style travesty is actually happening.

He's been longing for the opportunity to play with the vast military assets at his disposal. Now, he finally gets his wish.

US President Donald Trump arrives to speak after touring the Lima Army Tank Plant at Joint Systems Manufacturing in Lima, Ohio, March 20, 2019. Credit: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
US President Donald Trump arrives to speak after touring the Lima Army Tank Plant at Joint Systems Manufacturing in Lima, Ohio, March 20, 2019. Credit: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

The Flagrant Overcompensation for Unusually Rotund and Tiny Hands™ — or F.O.U.R.T.H. — of July celebration being put on by Donald Trump hit all kinds of snags in the days before Thursday’s federal holiday.

First, his insistence on having tanks put the infrastructure of the nation’s capital in jeopardy, including an hours-long shutdown of the city’s major domestic airport on the first day of a four-day summer weekend. Then it was reported that the event itself will violate any number of provisions of the Hatch Act.

Now, weather forecasts are calling for thunderstorms and heavy rain throughout the day, potentially rendering the planned flyovers by military jets uninspiring, if they happen at all.

The U.S. president has longed for an opportunity to play with the vast array of military assets at his disposal. Even before he took office, he floated the idea of staging a parade featuring armored vehicles, missiles, and tanks, and lashed out on Twitter when his 2018 plan for a Bastille Day-style display of militarized pomp did not come to fruition.

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Now, he appears poised to finally get his way. The White House hosts its own parade of military weaponry Thursday, in one of the most brazen, un-American acts ever carried out by a sitting president.

Naturally, it’s being marketed to the public as just the opposite: A patriotic show of force meant to showcase American greatness. Make no mistake though, Donald Trump is about to do to the United States military what Donald Trump does to everything he touches — cheapen it.

Donald Trump’s disrespect for the military is well-documented and stretches back decades. As a young adult, he made up an illness to dodge the draft during the Vietnam War, risking the life of someone else’s son in his place.

As a businessman, he celebrated owning the tallest building in lower Manhattan on the afternoon of September 11, 2001, as firefighters, police officers, and military volunteers valiantly risked and lost their lives amid the smoldering rubble of the World Trade Center.

As a politician, he has attacked Gold Star families, insulted American war heroes, denigrated the memories of fallen soldiers, refused to stand in honor of the war dead because of a rain shower, targeted enlisted service members for criminal prosecution, and forced 40,000 members of the armed forces to work for more than a month without pay during his federal government shutdown.

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It’s no surprise then, that he continues to demonstrate no regard for the sanctity of the U.S. military. When and how the country’s military might is deployed is a matter for reasonable political disagreement, but there is near universal agreement that those who volunteer to serve their country are afforded a degree of reverence and respect, and are not to be wielded as a political bludgeon.

At least, that was the understanding until Donald Trump became commander-in-chief. Even as he made his contempt for veterans and enlisted service members clear, he was happy to rope the military into his racist political agenda, deploying troops to the southern border in a failed attempt to spread his own xenophobia to American voters shortly before the midterm elections.

For anyone who’s followed Donald Trump’s career at all, Thursday’s military boondoggle follows a very familiar script — take something once thought to possess some kind of intrinsic value or inherent wealth and turn it into tawdry kitsch.

In his previous life, the public could largely afford to laugh at or ignore the Trumpification of higher education, corporate board rooms, steak, high fashion, and real estate. As president though, his Midas-touch-in-reverse is causing lasting damage to the country’s sacred institutions, and eroding whatever moral standing in the world we once possessed.

The military is but one example. Court orders are now routinely ignored. Federal laws are rendered meaningless. Bigotry in all its forms is now exalted in the halls of government.

Donald Trump has infected all of these things with his special brand of tacky, tasteless, corruption. On a day meant to celebrate our country’s independence, the public is left to wonder whether the country can celebrate at all.