243 years after the Declaration of Independence was ratified, Trump put on a display worthy of a dictatorship. Tanks and other war vehicles sat on the National Mall, where previous presidents have been scrupulous about keeping the 4th of July free of such symbols. Three times the normal number of National Guard troops were required for the event. Warplanes flew overhead. Tickets were given to Republican backers and appointees; passes were distributed by Trump's reelection campaign, giving the event a nakedly partisan aura. Trump emulated the dictators we generally point and laugh at.

And the National Park Service got stuck with a large portion of the bill.

The National Park Service is diverting nearly $2.5 million in entrance and recreation fees primarily intended to improve parks across the country to cover costs associated with President Trump’s Independence Day celebration Thursday on the Mall, according to two individuals familiar with the arrangement.


By tapping entrance fees to cover the presidential event, Interior is siphoning money that is typically used to enhance the visitor experience either on the Mall or at smaller parks across the country, with projects ranging from road and bridge repair to habitat restoration. The transfer amounts to nearly 5 percent of the funds that less-profitable parks used last year for upgrades, according to budget documents.

The entrance fees you and I pay for access to our nation's heritage areas and natural treasures are being mined to pay for the kind of ostentatious posturing other presidents have wisely avoided.

Diverting those fees is an intolerable drain on an already stressed agency:

“Two and a half million dollars might not seem like a lot to this administration, but to a national park it’s everything,” Pierno added. “Fee dollars are meant to protect our parks’ irreplaceable resources and enhance visitors’ experiences, not fund Presidential stunt. The Park Service is already operating on a shoestring budget, and park staff have come to heavily rely on visitor fee dollars to fund law enforcement personnel, create educational programs for visitors, and address the nearly $12 billion in needed repairs for crumbling park buildings, trails and roads.”

Trump has already caused substantial harm to our National Park system. His belligerent shutdown of the federal government last winter led to vandalism and trash overrunning the parks, damage which  may take some hundreds of years to recover from. Diverting entrance fee money to fund his party just seems like salt vigorously rubbed in the wounds.

Meanwhile, the way our government treats children seeking asylum on our borders qualifies as an atrocity.

If this is what it takes to "make America great again," it's past time for us to rethink our definition of greatness.