WASHINGTON, Aug 11 — President Donald Trump said yesterday he will choose either the White House or the Civil War battlefield of Gettysburg as the stage for his acceptance speech for renomination as the Republican candidate in the coming election.
“We will announce the decision soon!” he said in a tweet.
Either site would be unprecedented, following the cancelation of traditional nomination conventions for both Republicans and Democrats, who had been planning to host thousands of people indoors until the coronavirus pandemic struck.
The locations are also sure to stir huge controversy — not that the abrasive and media-savvy Republican businessman is likely to mind the attention.
Trump had initially insisted on going ahead with plans for a large-scale convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, despite coronavirus fears. When local authorities denied permission, the Republicans secured a new location in Jacksonville, Florida, which also later had to be abandoned for health reasons.
The Democrats have not only cancelled Joe Biden's in-person nomination convention but are moving the entire event online, including the acceptance speech, which Biden will give from home.Gettysburg
Trump, a fan of grandiose, made-for-TV optics, is going instead for a big speech in one of two of the most iconic locations in the United States.
Gettysburg, a small town in Pennsylvania near Washington, was the site of the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, in 1863, with more than 50,000 killed or wounded.
While it is seen as a major turning point leading ultimately to victory for the North over the slave-owning South, the battle is as much remembered for the short, eloquent speech given soon after by the president, Abraham Lincoln, to reaffirm American democratic ideals.
That oratory would present Trump's speech writers with a tough act to follow.
The decision to link himself so explicitly to the Civil War would also likely reignite attacks on Trump's frequent support for Confederate flags, Confederate statues and other increasingly controversial reminders of the rebel South.
The White House grounds offer another stunning backdrop, but the idea has already met stiff resistance from Trump's critics, who say it is inappropriate and may run afoul of a law separating official duties from campaigning efforts.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Trump, who frequently revels in stirring tribal Democratic-Republican antagonisms, would go to Gettysburg as a uniter.
“The president has done a lot to bring this country together. We've faced unprecedented challenges and he's worked to make sure that the American people are the best equipped and taken care of to rise above the challenges,” she told reporters.
It would not be Trump's first speech there. During a campaign event at the battlefield in 2016, he said that the country was again deeply divided.
But he did little to reach out to opponents, calling journalists “corrupt” and claiming that his opponent Hillary Clinton could only beat him because of the “rigged” system. — AFP