Everything about President Trump’s White House event “Celebration of America” yesterday was bizarre – including the steps that led up to it.
The Philadelphia Eagles, after winning the Super Bowl, planned on visiting the White House, but after several players balked, the President canceled the visit and began spreading lies about the team. Trump’s team accused them of pulling a “political stunt.”
How richly ironic. Trump World then replaced the team event with a flashy display of overly dramatic patriotism – an issue with which Trump, who has deeply criticized the United States, has always struggled – which featured the President gushing about his love for the Star-Spangled Banner and the military.
He didn’t stop there. Dana Milbank of the Washington Post said, “Trump used his solemn patriotic address to give a campaign speech from the White House: urging the election of a Republican Senate candidate from Pennsylvania, taking credit for low unemployment and boasting that he has the approval of deceased Americans.”
A rare display of patriotic spite from the President was the result. Trump whined about the Eagles not loving their nation as much as he pretends to, all because a lot of the team views him as so odious, they didn’t want to associate with him.
Apparently the confused president didn’t realize their objections didn’t involve the military or the national anthem.
But the particularly interesting thing was the press briefing at the White House immediately before the South Lawn event.
April Ryan asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Press Secretary, whether Trump understands that athletes protesting racial injustice aren’t disrespecting American troops or the flag. Sanders said, following a combative back and forth:
“The president has made his position crystal-clear on this topic. He feels strongly that standing for our national anthem is something that we should do, something that matters to what makes our country special and unique, and what sets us apart. He’s not going to waver on that. He’s not going to apologize for it.”
Sanders had it backwards: our freedoms of expression and speech are what make us unique. In this nation, people who stand up – or kneel down – against racial inequality shouldn’t suffer politically imposed punishments, particularly those enforced by a president who has ranted about “how bad the United States is.”