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Trump serves red, white and blue, not red meat, for his 'Salute to America'

President Donald Trump speaks Thursday evening at the

President Donald Trump speaks Thursday evening at the "Salute to America" Fourth of July event at the Lincoln Memorial. Credit: AFP/Getty Images/Mandel Ngan

Trump's 'happy birthday' to you

As Donald Trump walked to the microphone at front of the Lincoln Memorial, his "Salute to America" had the look of a campaign rally. Many of the invitees in the VIP area wore "Make America Great Again" hats.

But for the most part, Trump served up red, white and blue maxims of American pride instead of partisan red meat, giving critics one less complaint about the taxpayer-funded event of still-undisclosed cost that shifted the character of Washington's traditionally nonpolitical Independence Day celebration. "We will always be the people who defeated a tyrant, crossed a continent, harnessed science, took to the skies and soared into the heavens because we will never forget that we are Americans and the future belongs to us," the president said.

Speaking from behind rain-streaked bulletproof glass, Trump offered tributes to each branch of the military, punctuated by flyovers, and hailed achievements by past and present Americans in science, medicine and the arts. "The spirit of American independence will never fade, never fail, but will reign forever and ever," Trump said.

Trump praised heroes he seldom mentions, including suffragettes who won women the vote a century ago, civil rights protesters who integrated lunch counters in the 1960s and even abolitionist Harriet Tubman, though his administration has stalled plans to put her visage on the $20 bill.

He slipped in an indirect self-congratulation: "Our nation is stronger today than it ever was before."

Elsewhere on the sprawling National Mall and in Washington's streets, the divisions of the Trump era played out. Protesters who brought the 20-foot "Trump baby" balloon exchanged words, polite and otherwise, with supporters of the president. Brawls broke out between a far-left group burning an American flag outside the White House and the far-right "Proud Boys."

Only those in the VIP section had a view of the much-hyped tanks Trump insisted on showing off, and Democrats panned him for the display of military hardware and himself. “Reducing our nation to tanks and shows of muscle just makes us look like the kind of loudmouth guy at the bar instead of the extremely diverse and energetic nation that we are,” said presidential contender Pete Buttigieg.

TSA lines in 1776 were murder

While Trump seemed to stick to the script, there was an unfortunate mashup in which he spoke of American forces seizing airports during the Revolutionary War. His flight of fancy also fast-forwarded to the War of 1812.

The quote: “The Continental Army suffered a bitter winter of Valley Forge, found glory across the waters of the Delaware and seized victory from Cornwallis at Yorktown. Our Army manned the air, it rammed the ramparts, it took over airports, it did everything it had to do and at Fort McHenry, under the rocket’s red glare, had nothing but victory. When dawn came, the Star-Spangled Banner waved defiant.”

Census scramble

Now that Trump has ripped down the surrender flag his administration hoisted on getting a citizenship question added to the 2020 census, what next?

Axios reported Trump is considering trying to add the question in an executive order after the Supreme Court ordered the query removed, but there is skepticism within the administration that an Oval Office directive would succeed.

Trump tweeted Thursday that it is "so important for our Country" that the question is included and wrote: “Department of Commerce and the Department of Justice are working very hard on this, even on the 4th of July!”

Over the bus

Kamala Harris staggered Joe Biden in last week's debate when she attacked his 1970s record on busing for school integration. But her comments since then on her own position have grown more nuanced and not significantly different from Biden's stance.

On Wednesday, Harris characterized busing as a choice local school districts have, not the responsibility of the federal government. “I think of busing as being in the toolbox of what is available," she said. Biden has insisted he only opposed busing ordered by the federal Education Department.

Biden deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield tweeted, “It’s disappointing that Senator Harris chose to distort Vice President Biden’s position on busing — particularly now that she is tying herself in knots trying not to answer the very question she posed to him!”

An adviser to Buttigieg, Lis Smith, also jumped into the fray. "The story of the 2020 Democratic primary shouldn’t be how individual candidates used debates to deep six rivals and push litmus test policies they’re gonna disavow once they get a poll back," Smith tweeted.

Scratch one Republican

The only Republican in Congress to call for Trump's impeachment isn't a Republican anymore.

Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan said Thursday in a Washington Post op-ed that he is leaving the GOP because he has become disenchanted with partisan politics and “frightened by what I see from it.” He planned to seek re-election as an independent.

Trump's parting shot was as amicable as usual: "Great news for the Republican Party as one of the dumbest & most disloyal men in Congress is 'quitting' the Party.” Trump called Amash a “total loser.”

What else is happening:

  • The Trump-ordered display of military hardware was mocked on Russian state TV, where a members of a panel concluded, "Trump attempts — but fails — to keep up with Putin."
  • An Ohio retailer who donated $750,000 worth of fireworks for the Washington display has lobbied the White House against expanded tariffs on Chinese imports, ABC News reported.
  • Buttigieg faced down a questioner at an Iowa event who said a way the South Bend, Indiana, mayor could solve racial tensions is to "just tell the black people of South Bend to stop committing crime and doing drugs." Buttigieg responded: "Sir, I think that racism is not going to help us get out of this."
  • Customs and Border Protection officials have been aware for up to three years that a secret Facebook group for current and former agents was posting offensive messages, Politico reported.

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