WASHINGTON ― Irked by President Donald Trump’s plan to hold his own July Fourth event on the National Mall, veterans plan to give out thousands of USS John S. McCain T-shirts to make the president face a crowd of people honoring the McCain family’s legacy and the idea of putting one’s country before oneself.
VoteVets, a left-leaning nonprofit group founded in 2006 by Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, is organizing the effort in response to Trump’s unprecedented “Salute to America” celebration. While Americans will still be able to catch the annual fireworks display on the National Mall, Trump is hosting his own event at the Lincoln Memorial, where he will give remarks and has set up a ticketed area for VIPs, friends, family and members of the military. Trump’s event will include military flyovers and possibly tanks.
“Today, we learned the news that Donald Trump is turning the national 4th of July celebration into a 2020 campaign event, complete with a ticketed VIP section for friends and supporters,” reads a Sunday email from VoteVets. “That’s not what America is about.”
VoteVets has already raised enough money to make more than 5,000 T-shirts, which veterans will hand out to people on the National Mall and, before that, deliver to members of Congress. All of the shirts, which feature an image of the Navy destroyer named after three generations of John S. McCains — including the late Arizona senator and Trump critic — are being made by Rags of Honor, a company that employs homeless veterans.
Here’s what the shirt looks like, via Rags of Honor’s website:
“Big Bad John” is the nickname of the ship, which the White House absurdly asked to have moved out of sight during Trump’s visit to Japan in May because of his contentious relationship with McCain.
“It’s really a way to honor a family that, through multiple generations, has shown that the country is bigger than any one individual,” said Peter Kauffmann, vice chair of VoteVets and a Navy veteran. “July 4 has never been about who is president. The idea that Donald Trump can come in and sell VIP tickets so you can get good seats while the regular old people have to stay back from the area is antithetical to the whole idea of America.”
The VIP tickets are actually free, but it’s not clear how they are being allocated.
A White House spokesman did not respond to a request for comment about veterans giving out McCain T-shirts for the president’s event.