Democrats and pundits went ballistic Wednesday over President Trump’s planned Fourth of July extravaganza on the National Mall, but some tourists visiting Washington cheered the president’s call for a bigger show of patriotism featuring the military on Independence Day.
As House Democrats started an investigation of government spending for the president’s grand plans, Alan Patterson of Palm Bay, Florida, was touring George Washington’s estate at Mount Vernon in Virginia and preparing to attend the epic fireworks show on the Mall on Thursday night.
“I think he’s making a point to celebrate American history,” Mr. Patterson, a Republican, said of the president. “I don’t think it’s political. It’s just to show appreciation to the armed forces and the troops.”
Margie McCarthy of Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, who was touring Mount Vernon with her daughter and husband, said Mr. Trump “seems like a ‘go big or go home’ kind of person.”
“That’s what it is with everything,” she said of Mr. Trump. “It’s not unexpected.”
Mr. Trump said the “Salute to America” at the Lincoln Memorial, featuring Army tanks, a flyover by the Navy’s Blue Angels and a presidential speech, will be “really big.”
“It will be the show of a lifetime!” the president tweeted.
On Wednesday, military vehicles were positioned at the Lincoln Memorial in preparation for the festivities.
Democrats and much of the media are furious, accusing Mr. Trump of politicizing the annual celebration of the country’s founding. MSNBC host Chris Matthews said Mr. Trump’s vision for Independence Day “bears a closer resemblance to the chest-thumping displays put on by authoritarian regimes like China.”
MSNBC pundit Jeremy Bash said Mr. Trump’s tribute to the military is “dangerous.”
“It’s fundamentally un-American,” Mr. Bash said on “Hardball.” “It politicizes a nonpartisan celebration of ‘We the People,’ of our Declaration of Independence.”
The top House Democrat with oversight over the National Mall said Wednesday she will probe the administration’s decision to shift money to pay for the celebration. Rep. Betty McCollum, Minnesota Democrat and chairwoman of the subcommittee that oversees National Park Service spending, called the president’s plans to tap park user fees “absolutely outrageous.”
“These fees are not a slush fund for this administration to use at will,” Ms. McCollum said. “They are meant to improve our national parks, keep them safe and protected for Americans to enjoy, and are clearly not to be used for a political rally.”
Mr. Trump downplayed the cost of the event, tweeting that the expense “will be very little compared to what it is worth.”
“We own the planes, we have the pilots, the airport is right next door (Andrews), all we need is the fuel,” the president tweeted. “We own the tanks and all. Fireworks are donated by two of the greats. Nice!”
Rep. Don Beyer, Virginia Democrat, said the president’s plan reveals an “insecure man” displaying his “need for celebrity.”
“I grew up here in Washington and I’ve been to the salute on the Mall many, many times and it’s always been nonpartisan,” Mr. Beyer said on CNN. “This must be the most insecure man I’ve ever seen, because everything has to be about him. This bringing in the military, we’ve never seen something like that. It reminds me of some small autocratic country.”
Trump campaign national press secretary Kayleigh McEnanany tweeted, “Leave it to the left to find a reason to hate on the ‘Salute to America’ July 4th celebration!”
“Literally ANYTHING involving @realDonaldTrump they resist & obstruct — from humanitarian aid for illegal immigrant[s] to a 4th of July celebration featuring our military,” she tweeted.
Liberal and conservation groups criticized the diversion of about $2.5 million of National Park Service funds, saying the money is badly needed for the maintenance backlog — estimated at $12 billion — of the chronically underfunded park system.
Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said Mr. Trump is “stealing nearly $2.5 million from the country’s people and parks.”
“On a day intended to celebrate America’s freedom from tyranny, Donald Trump is putting on an authoritarian circus for his wealthy circle of donors — once again showing his complete lack of understanding of who and what America is and should be,” Mr. Brune said. “Trump is putting himself above the people, the future of the lands Americans have fought for, and our history.”
A new Gallup poll this week found that only 22% of Democrats feel “extremely” proud of the U.S., the lowest reading in the survey’s 19 years of measurement. Gallup found that 76% of Republicans feel extremely proud of their country.
Overall, 45% of U.S. adults said they are extremely proud to be Americans, also the lowest since Gallup started asking the question in 2001.
“Record-low American patriotism is the latest casualty of the sharply polarized political climate in the U.S. today,” Gallup said. “The decline reflects plummeting pride among Democrats since Trump took office, even as Republican pride has edged higher.”
Most Republicans have remained extremely proud of their country over the years. Even when Barack Obama was president, Republicans’ “extreme” pride never fell below 68%, Gallup said.
• Bailey Vogt contributed to this report.