Trump: Airports, Rocket’s Red Glare During Revolution

President Donald Trump speaks during an Independence Day celebration in front of the Lincoln Memorial, in Washington Trump Fourth of July, Washington, USA – 04 Jul 2019 (Photo by Alex Brandon/AP/Shutterstock)

President Trump went off-script during his odd Independence Day celebration yesterday, introducing airports and Francis Scott Key into the American Revolution.

USA Today, which noted that most of the speech stuck to the prepared remarks, has the offending passage:

In June of 1775, the Continental Congress created a unified Army out of the Revolutionary Forces encamped around Boston and New York, and named after the great George Washington, commander in chief. The Continental Army suffered a bitter winter of Valley Forge, found glory across the waters of the Delaware and seized victory from Cornwallis of Yorktown.

Our Army manned the air, it rammed the ramparts, it took over the airports, it did everything it had to do, and at Fort McHenry, under the rocket’s red glare it had nothing but victory. And when dawn came, their star-spangled banner waved defiant.

—“Donald Trump trips up on history in 4th of July speech, mentions airports during Revolutionary War

Obviously, there were no airports in 1775. The Wright Brothers’ historic flight came in 1903 and the first facility that can properly be called an “airport” came only a century ago, in 1919.

Fort McHenry wasn’t built until 1793 and the “rocket’s red glare” of Star Spangled Banner fame was in September 1814 during the War of 1812.

All Presidents—hell, all people who do a lot of public speaking—make mistakes of this sort. But Trump does it so often (his recent talk of “Sherman tanks,” a World War II stalwart, as though they were the cutting edge of US Army armor comes to mind) genuinely makes one question whether he’s that ignorant of history or suffering from serious mental decline.

Update (Doug Mataconis): Not suprisingly, Trump’s mistake was a subject of humor on Twitter, including from yours truly:

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Humor
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. The Sherman tanks remark can at least be dismissed as someone speaking extemporaneously.

    The stuff from last night’s speech was part of the prepared text and likely written by a speechwriter who should have known better.

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  2. Jen says:

    It’s obviously mental decline, and we’ve seen evidence for years. My guess is that he saw the word “ports” on the teleprompter and assumed “airports.” He’s been very clear that he doesn’t read and I’ve often wondered if he’s an undiagnosed dyslexic.

    RevolutionaryWarAirport is trending on Twitter, if someone needs a laugh to relieve the utter exhaustion this presidency seems to create every day.

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  3. grumpy realist says:

    ….and the “biggest fireworks display EVAH!!!” went over like a wet fart as the smoke from the first few quickly spread throughout Washington D.C. and blocked the view for everyone.

    Typical Trumpian chaos and lack of planning. It’s not surprising that Trump’s only supporters are those who are similarly incompetent in their own lives.

  4. MarkedMan says:

    The saying goes that A level people hire other As but B level people hire Cs, and I’ve often remarked that Trump will show us what a D level person would hire. But it beggars the imagination to believe he hired a speechwriter capable of turning out this confused mess. I can only think of two possibilities: he ad libbed here, or Javanka wrote it.

  5. MarkedMan says:

    The airports quote is bad, but the whole thing is a mess. Is he trying to say that the Continental Congress named the army “The George Washington Army”? Was he trying to say the British General Cornwallis was born in Yorktown or that he was stationed there? Even Fox News wouldn’t put this drivel on a TelePrompTer.

  6. CSK says:

    “The British Airways are coming” made me laugh out loud.

  7. Teve says:

    And when dawn came, their star-spangled banner waved defiant.

    Ugh ‘defiant’ is the adjective, you need the adverb ‘defiantly’, you dumb dumbass.

  8. Kathy says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    The stuff from last night’s speech was part of the prepared text and likely written by a speechwriter who should have known better.

    Imagine having that on your resume just when you get fired…

    The other possibility is that Dennison had the speechwriter put it there.

    But don’t worry, by mid-morning today the gaffes tons of people saw live and which are on record will be fake news.

  9. Arnold Stang says:

    @MarkedMan: “Over? Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?!!”

    – Senator John Blutarski

  10. gVOR08 says:

    They probably shouldn’t schedule speeches after his sundowning starts.

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  11. Teve says:

    You all laugh, but when Washington took LaGuardia it was a turning point and the British never recovered.

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  12. michael reynolds says:

    @Teve:
    As George Takei tweeted, we took La Guardia from the British in 1776 and we’ve been trying to give it back for 243 years.

  13. @James: “All Presidents—hell, all people who do a lot of public speaking—make mistakes of this sort. ”

    I think that is awfully kind. I will concur that all of us who communicate in public have made gaffes and even made serious mistakes, but airport in the Revolutionary War?

  14. michael reynolds says:

    I would bet my house (and I like this house) that Trump could not tell you the date of the Declaration within 50 years. As a matter of fact, I’d bet my car (and I like it, too) that Trump could not arrange the Civil War, the Spanish-American War and the Mexican-American war in order by date, largely because I guarantee he has no idea those last two wars occurred.

    Even by the very low standards of historical knowledge which are the depressing norm in this country, Trump’s a dim third grader.

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  15. gVOR08 says:

    @michael reynolds: But, but. He went to WHARTON.

    They kept Reagan pretty well out of sight after he started to fail. Apparently they can’t keep a good trumpy Trump down. Will there come a point that the 25th becomes unavoidable?

  16. Joe says:

    So, Doug and Jen, the question is whether the written text of the speech is available in the form that was put in front of him (not later corrected) so we can see whether this dipshittery was a writing or a reading error. I am truly curious. I have similar questions about the points raised by MarkedMan. If “they” really wanted a non-political speech, they surely wouldn’t let Trump write it himself. How many ahistorical clueless 3rd graders do they have up there?

  17. Teve says:

    @michael reynolds: Prescient of them to name it LaGuardia 100 years before the eponymous mayor was born!

  18. Scott F. says:

    When I think of how badly he could have embarrassed the whole country with a politicized and militant NK-style July 4th spectacle, I’m a bit relieved that he mainly just embarrassed himself.

  19. James Joyner says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I think that is awfully kind. I will concur that all of us who communicate in public have made gaffes and even made serious mistakes, but airport in the Revolutionary War?

    Were this a one-off, I could concoct plausible explanations. “Maybe the teleprompted said ‘ports’ and he filled in ‘airports’ because that more naturally comes off his tongue.” I mean, Obama had his “53 states” gaffe.

    The difference, of course, is that only the most extreme partisan hack thinks Barack Obama doesn’t know how many states there are whereas, as @michael reynolds notes, it’s not only possible but probable Trump has no idea when the country was founded.

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  20. gVOR08 says:

    For me the high point is “ramming the ramparts”. The mental picture is of Revolutionary, or 1812, whatever, soldiers imitating Trump, doing to their earthworks whatever it is Trump does to those poor flags.

    @Doug Mataconis:

    The stuff from last night’s speech was part of the prepared text and likely written by a speechwriter who should have known better.

    Making the rather large assumption that what he said was anything like what was on the teleprompter. Was there a text distributed before he spoke?

  21. @Scott F.:

    When I think of how badly he could have embarrassed the whole country with a politicized and militant NK-style July 4th spectacle, I’m a bit relieved that he mainly just embarrassed himself.

    True.

  22. @James Joyner:

    I mean, Obama had his “53 states” gaffe.

    Not to re-litigate, it was 57, and from the clip he clearly meant 47 (contextually he indicated he was going to visit all the continental US and had one state to go).

    In re: Trump, it is less that this nonsense is revelatory in some sense–I just think it is less a slip of the tongue than it is evidence that not only does he not know what he is talking about (as you note) but that he just rambles on without any heed to accuracy. It goes beyond just misspeaking.

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  23. MarkedMan says:

    @Joe:

    they surely wouldn’t let Trump write it himself.

    We will probably never know what happened (all involved are no doubt Republicans and most are probably Trumpers so, congenital liars) but one thing I’m willing to bet a large sum on: Trump did not write this himself. The only things we have that show Trump can write at all are the diatribes he would send to various reporters, usually scrawled in felt tip pen in the margins of some article or some newspaper photograph that he felt showed he had normal sized hands, and consisted of a phrase or at most a couple of sentences. Even back in the 80’s they resembled a tweet written in the 140 character era more than an actual piece of intentional writing.

  24. Teve says:

    Not to re-litigate, it was 57, and from the clip he clearly meant 47 (contextually he indicated he was going to visit all the continental US and had one state to go).

    Huh. I didn’t know the continental angle. I just assumed he said 57 because he was tired and grew up poor and eating lots of Heinz 57 sauce like I did. 🙂

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  25. Joe says:

    @gVOR08:

    “ramming the ramparts”

    That is just atrocious writing, no matter the source or logic.

  26. CSK says:

    @michael reynolds: I’m not taking that bet. My dog is more knowledgeable than Trump

  27. @Teve: Yep, here’s the quote:

    It is wonderful to be back in Oregon,” Obama said. “Over the last 15 months, we’ve traveled to every corner of the United States. I’ve now been in 57 states? I think one left to go. Alaska and Hawaii, I was not allowed to go to even though I really wanted to visit, but my staff would not justify it.”

    In the video clip there is a pause/uh between “fifty” and “seven.” Link.

  28. James Joyner says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: @Teve: I’d forgotten the exact context and had somehow filled in that he was including non-states like DC, PR, and other places where Democratic primaries and caucuses were held. Regardless, the point is the same: a slip-of-the-tongue that clearly didn’t indicate ignorance of the number of states in the union. (Indeed, a denizen of the 50th state would be especially well-informed on that point.)

  29. @James Joyner: Agreed (and yes, I initially thought he was confusing the number of states with the number of primaries/caucuses).

  30. James Joyner says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I actually found my contemporaneous post, “Obama Wants to be President of all 57 States,” and my reaction was the same:

    Presumably, he meant to say “47 states.” Whether he was just tired, thinking of something else, or just someone who shouldn’t do math in public, I don’t know. I’m pretty sure he’s aware of the correct number, in any case.

  31. Jen says:

    @Joe: I doubt we’ll ever know. I don’t think that they ever release the speech ahead of time anymore…there was some flap IIRC when Trump complained that his speech had been “leaked” to the media. And they won’t release the original version now, after the fact, because people would do a line-by-line comparison and we might get a view into how bad things *really* are.

    What we do know: 1) he dislikes reading; 2) he has made an almost uncountable number of errors that demonstrate he quite often has no idea what he’s talking about; 3) he/his campaign threatened all of his previous schools against releasing his grades; and 4) he often just ad-libs during his speeches.

    I think he probably lost his place, realized this isn’t a topic where he could go off script, and during this he saw “ports” and went directly to “airports,”–logic collapsed and hilarity ensued.

    I’d like to remind everyone how often he made fun of Obama for using a teleprompter…

  32. michael reynolds says:

    @Teve:
    The Founders, man, what couldn’t they do?

  33. MarkedMan says:

    @James Joyner: It’s actually pretty revealing that whenever Trump makes an especially egregious demonstration of his lack of brain-power, this “57 states” thing gets trotted out by the Trumpers. Given time, I could probably list hundreds of incredibly stupid things that Trump said. I could probably list many dozens that Bush 2 said. Dozens and perhaps many dozens by Clinton. Several dozen by Bush 1. Reagan… OK, we won’t go there. But with Obama, who spent a lifetime knowing he would be savaged for any mistake on account of his race, they just keep coming back to this one example.

    FWIW, the one example they always use for an Obama lie is the one that I think really did show his lack of awareness: “You can keep your plan”. The fact that he seemed truly unaware just how often people were/are forced to change plans spoke to being a poor college student without health insurance followed by a long career as a government employee with excellent (and politically untouchable*) health insurance.

    *By this I mean that insurance companies, who are regulated at both the state and federal level, know better than to try to play claims shenanigans with government employees and most certainly with powerful government employees. When do you think was the last time a sitting state or federal Senator had a claim denied?

  34. Kathy says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I would bet my house (and I like this house) that Trump could not tell you the date of the Declaration within 50 years. As a matter of fact, I’d bet my car (and I like it, too) that Trump could not arrange the Civil War, the Spanish-American War and the Mexican-American war in order by date, largely because I guarantee he has no idea those last two wars occurred.

    Ah, your trying to trick our Most Stable Cheeto!

    we’re wise to you’re Libtard tricks, libtard! The Mexicans speak Spanish, not Mexican! So the two last wars are the same! And they all happened in the civil war, when the St. Patrick Battalion beat the French at Yorktown!

    You think you’re so smart.

  35. CSK says:

    @Kathy: Great imitation of a Lucianne.com poster, Kath. But it should have been “your so smart.”

  36. Jen says:

    LOL, he’s claiming that the teleprompter fritzed out because of the rain (even though he’s rather obviously trying to see what’s on it), and that because he knew the speech “so well,” he was able to give the speech without the teleprompter.

    Jennifer Rubin’s response was “so ‘airports’ was in the original text?”

  37. Kathy says:

    @CSK:

    There are plenty of other intentional typos. I assumed they’d make a mistake and get one right.

  38. CSK says:

    @Kathy: Once in a blue noon, maybe.

  39. Teve says:

    @Jen:

    I’d like to remind everyone how often he made fun of Obama for using a teleprompter…

    How right you are, I just saw an hour ago that he’s blaming the teleprompter.

  40. Teve says:

    @CSK:

    Great imitation of a Lucianne.com poster, Kath. But it should have been “your so smart.”

    And leaving no space after a period or comma would also have worked. 😛

  41. @MarkedMan: Spot on. For Obama is always “57 states” and “you can keep your doctor” as the two examples that are supposed to equalize the him with Trump.

  42. Gustopher says:

    I’m still trying to figure out what “Our Army manned the air” means. Surely he means the Revolutionary Air Force, right?

  43. James Joyner says:

    @MarkedMan and @Steven L. Taylor: While Reagan and Bill Clinton were arguably better communicators, better able to connect on an emotional level with the mass audience, Obama was uncanny in his ability to speak, seemingly off the cuff, in paragraphs. Most people write like they talk. He talked like he wrote.

    And I actually think he meant it when he said “You can keep your doctor.” The program, which even I call “ObamaCare,” really wasn’t his program in a meaningful sense* and he didn’t really foresee the consequences.

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    *It’s his in the sense that it wouldn’t have happened were it not for his leadership. But I think he erred in leaving it to Congress to come up with the outlines of the program. I get that he was trying to avoid the fiasco that happened when the Clintons tried it a few years earlier. But the result was a Frankenstein’s monster.

  44. @James Joyner:

    I actually think he meant it when he said

    I do as well. I think of that statement, therefore, as a mistake and not a lie.

  45. James Joyner says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Yes. A couple months back, I observed,

    “If you like your health care plan you can keep it” wasn’t a lie at all. It was a slogan, implicitly a promise, and one that I believe—as one who voted for Obama’s opponents in both 2008 and 2012 and who opposed the Affordable Care Act for a variety of reasons—was made in earnest. And, indeed, most of us kept our health care plan.

    Obama won the dubious “award” for continuing to spout the slogan after many plans that didn’t meet ObamaCare standards vanished. He himself admitted as much and apologized for it, “There is no doubt that the way I put that forward unequivocally ended up not being accurate,” he said. “It was not because of my intention not to deliver on that commitment and that promise. We put a grandfather clause into the law, but it was insufficient.”

    But, again, even as a critic of Obama and his signature law, it’s absurd to call it a lie, much less on par with the Russian influence campaign during the 2016 election.

  46. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Teve: From Yahoo News

    Trump blames rain and teleprompter for his July 4 speech gaffe
    Dylan Stableford 2 hours 13 minutes ago
    Reactions Reblog on Tumblr Share Tweet Email
    President Trump on Friday blamed inclement weather and a malfunctioning teleprompter for flubbing part of his Independence Day speech. During the rain-soaked “Salute to America” event, Trump made a reference to nonexistent airports during the American Revolution, a comment he walked back a day later.

    “We had a lot of rain,” Trump told reporters on the South Lawn. “I stood in the rain. The teleprompter went out. The teleprompter kept going out and then at the end it just went out. It went kaput.”

    I would really have liked to believe that he inserted the gaffe deliberately to demonstrate that he can get people to applaud for anything he says, even ridiculous crap like Revolutionary War airports. But…

  47. MarkedMan says:

    @James Joyner:

    Most people write like they talk. He talked like he wrote.

    Well said.

    But the result was a Frankenstein’s monster.

    If you mean the ACA and the… (dang, I can’t remember the name of the other act that contained a lot of the health reform stuff and couldn’t find it with a quick google. It’s something like the 2009 America Recovery Act) … is monstrously bad, then I disagree. But if you mean that it was the best that could be done with the grab bag of disparate parts and tools Democrats had available given Republicans mindless hatred of insuring people or using government regulation to improve outcomes then I wholeheartedly agree.

  48. Monala says:

    @CSK: I also like

    “One if by land,
    Two if by sea,
    Three if by Delta from LaGuardia.”
    -Paul Revere

  49. James Joyner says:

    @MarkedMan:

    If you mean the ACA […] is monstrously bad, then I disagree. But if you mean that it was the best that could be done with the grab bag of disparate parts and tools Democrats had available

    I mean that it was a weird collection of disparate policy ideas with no real coherent vision and thus inherently contradictory. It had the virtue of increasing coverage for a handful of groups but it had the predictable effect of a lot of existing plans going under because they were unprofitable with the various mandates ACA attached. It was just a hot mess.

  50. Teve says:

    @Monala: Dangit i just came here to post that 😛

  51. MarkedMan says:

    @James Joyner:I don’t want to get into it but for the record I think that collectively Obamacare did a whole lot more than that. It’s non-insurance aspects were gigantic and long overdue. It probably directly and indirectly got north of 20M more people covered. And it was astoundingly well crafted given that it was a giant piece of legislation and the Republicans have ensured that it has not had one line of adjustment since first enacted. Like most things related to post Civil War governance, they want to abuse it until it fails with nothing but instinctive and angry nihilism to take its place.

  52. An Interested Party says:

    There really is no comparison between any flubs made by Obama and the garbage that comes out of Trump’s mouth…Obama would have completely understood what Putin meant by “Western-style liberalism” and not thought that he was talking about LA and San Francisco…

  53. James Joyner says:

    @An Interested Party:

    There really is no comparison between any flubs made by Obama and the garbage that comes out of Trump’s mouth…Obama would have completely understood what Putin meant by “Western-style liberalism” and not thought that he was talking about LA and San Francisco…

    We’re in agreement on this. My opening was throat-clearing to an extent–an acknowledgment that even brilliant men who are accomplished speakers make mistakes. Once upon a time, I think Trump was at least quite bright. But we’re seeing a man who’s never been curious about anything that didn’t have the potential to make him richer who seems to be in serious cognitive decline.

  54. Barry says:

    @Teve: “Prescient of them to name it LaGuardia 100 years before the eponymous mayor was born!”

    The Deep State lays Deep plans.

  55. Scott O says:

    I think it was “hare ports”. Everybody knows how much the British love rabbit stew. Or “hair ports”. Without their powdered wigs Washington knew they wouldn’t last long.

  56. James Joyner says:

    @Scott O: Victory through Hare Power!

  57. dazedandconfused says:

    @Jen:

    If the statement was supposed to be the Continental Army seized the ports then it was wrong too. The Brits had most of them throughout the war. “Nothing but victory”?? Historical word-salad. He has always gotten away with making stuff up, so why should he stop?

  58. MarkedMan says:

    @James Joyner:

    Victory through Hare Power!

    Hare Power? Harry Power? Harry Potter? Coincidence? Or does the Deep State lay really deep plans?!!!

  59. MarkedMan says:

    He has since claimed that the teleprompter screwed up but he knew the speech so well he was able to go on without it. This sounds exactly like some cut rate 30 minute sitcoms “funny” scene where the class goofball gets caught out and has to describe, say, Moby Dick. “Of course I read it! I know Moby Dick, better than anyone! There was a whale, and it was hunted by this guy, Dick, who was in that guy’s band, Moby! And it was in that book that Star Bucks was invented! And Pequod!”

  60. Jen says:

    @dazedandconfused: Sigh. I was grasping for the only conceivable, potential explanation…but yeah.

    One would have thought that the “military school” he went to would have drilled on this stuff so he’d never forget it but…yeah.

  61. @James Joyner:

    I think Trump was at least quite bright.

    I suppose it depends on what you mean. Even when I used to see Trump regularly on Letterman back in the 80s and 90s, I never thought of him as bright.

    He clearly has some innate gifts for a certain kind of showmanship and con artistry–beyond that, I am not so sure.

    Being born wealthy and having his father’s wealth to cover up for his business blunders have clearly helped cover a multitude of sins (in more ways than one).

  62. dazedandconfused says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Intelligence is over-rated. In business ruthlessness is more frequently rewarded.
    Malignant narcissists nothing if not ruthless. They seem to have their own Peter Principle: “You will rise to a position where character matters, and there you will fail. Spectacularly.”

  63. @dazedandconfused: I won’t argue.

  64. Owamay says:

    @Teve:
    Actually, since the written script wasn’t seen, it could be entirely accurate with a comma. “…waved, defiant.”
    Either way, the entire blathering bit was embarrassing but predictable.