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Is Trump Politicizing The 4th Of July? Critics Say Yes


We want to return now to NPR's Brian Naylor. He is at the Lincoln Memorial. That's where the president just wrapped up his speech. We were able to get Brian back on the line.

Can you hear me, Brian?

BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: Hi, Audie. Yes, I can. You're coming in fine - loud and clear.

CORNISH: All right. Well, as we mentioned earlier, there was a lot of criticism for the president getting involved in the celebrations this year. In the end, what kind of speech did he give? All right. Hold on one moment. We're going to see if we can try and get a better line for Brian Naylor.

NAYLOR: OK. Hi, Audie.

CORNISH: OK. There you go.

NAYLOR: Can you hear me?


NAYLOR: There we go. So he - the president delivered a basically nonpolitical, nonpartisan speech. He stuck to the script on the teleprompter. It was a very pro-military speech. He cited military victories and military heroes. And there was a lot of boosterism, talking about great U.S. inventions and inventors. He talked about the civil rights movement. He pledged to plant the U.S. flag on Mars. The closest to an overt public appeal was perhaps this line, which we can expect to be repeated during his campaign rally.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Our nation is stronger today than it ever was before. It is its strongest now.


CORNISH: Another aspect of the celebration that was up for debate was the president's promised air show and military might. What did you see?

NAYLOR: Well, yeah, I saw a lot of planes flying over and a lot of helicopters. The president was flanked onstage by his acting secretary of defense, Mark Esper, along with the Joint Chiefs Chairman General Joseph Dunford. And he listed all of the Armed Forces branch by branch, and after each recitation, there was a flyover. So we saw Navy jets. We saw Army and Marine Corps helicopters. You saw the Air Force's Blue Angels. It was - along with a B-2 bomber. It was a very, very strong show of U.S. military might. In fact, he talked about - essentially wrapped up his speech after these flyovers with this line.


TRUMP: We are Americans, and the future belongs to us.


CORNISH: Brian, can you talk about the crowd that turned out and their reaction? On screen, you saw the president standing behind glass, still some rain at some point, but how did people react to aspects of what he had to say?

NAYLOR: Well, it was a very pro-Trump crowd. It was lining both sides of the reflecting pool along - and there was a large crowd in front waving flags, Trump T-shirts. There were some chants of Trump, Trump, other chants of USA, USA. They loved the speech. They sat through and stood through the on-and-off rain this afternoon, and I think they all went home maybe a little soggy but very happy.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Brian Naylor speaking to us from the Lincoln Memorial, where President Trump has just wrapped up his speech. Thanks so much, Brian.

NAYLOR: All right, Audie. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR News' Brian Naylor is a correspondent on the Washington Desk. In this role, he covers politics and federal agencies.