Did you wake up this morning thinking that President Trump’s desperate need to feed his fragile ego and imagine himself the possessor of dictatorial powers were not absurdly comic enough? Well, you’re in luck:
President Trump’s vision of soldiers marching and tanks rolling down the boulevards of Washington is moving closer to reality in the Pentagon and White House, where officials say they have begun to plan a grand military parade later this year showcasing the might of America’s armed forces.
Trump has long mused publicly and privately about wanting such a parade, but a Jan. 18 meeting between Trump and top generals in the Pentagon’s tank — a room reserved for top-secret discussions — marked a tipping point, according to two officials briefed on the planning.
Surrounded by the military’s highest-ranking officials, including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., Trump’s seemingly abstract desire for a parade was suddenly heard as a presidential directive, the officials said.
“The marching orders were: I want a parade like the one in France,” said a military official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the planning discussions are supposed to remain confidential. “This is being worked at the highest levels of the military.”
We should note that while Trump was impressed with the Bastille Day parade he attended in France, he has been hoping for a military parade for a lot longer. As Trump told The Post before taking office a year ago:
“That military may come marching down Pennsylvania Avenue. That military may be flying over New York City and Washington, D.C., for parades. I mean, we’re going to be showing our military.”
The news of this urgent parade mobilization comes just after Trump complained at a rally that Democrats who failed to applaud sufficiently for him during the State of the Union address had committed a crime punishable by death. “Shall we call that treason? Why not? I mean, they certainly didn’t seem to love our country very much,” he said.
It can be hard not to get inured to the stupid, appalling and despicable things that come out of Trump’s mouth, but linger for a moment on that. The president said that not applauding him is treason against America. Stalin would have approved. Had Barack Obama said that, Republicans’ heads would have positively exploded, so enraged would they have been. But how many Republicans condemned what Trump said? Jeff Flake did, but I haven’t seen any others.
And why is that? It’s because the GOP isn’t just tolerating Trump’s brand of personality cult authoritarianism. Many Republicans are embracing it.
Numerous Republicans have launched an assault on the FBI, for the sin of not being enthusiastic enough in support of Trump. They’ve learned that the president’s fragile ego requires a steady supply of praise and compliments, and they are accommodating that need with vigor. Accusing his opponents of treason for not applauding him? Sure, they say, why not? Rolling tanks and missiles through the streets of Washington so Trump can review them like he’s Kim Jong Un? Sounds great!
This parade is surpassingly dumb for any number of reasons both practical and symbolic. It will not only cost millions of dollars, it will divert the participants and planners from their actual jobs defending the country. How many hours of practicing, how many personnel pulled from their duties to handle the logistics, how much in transport costs and cleanup costs and repairs to streets ripped up by tank treads will the whole thing involve?
We don’t know yet. But The Post quotes a source saying: “This is being worked at the highest levels of the military.” After all, it’s not like they have anything better to do.
And just who are we trying to impress? Is there any adversary, current or potential, who believes America’s military is weak but would be convinced otherwise by a bunch of troops and materiel traveling up Pennsylvania Avenue?
We all know what the real purpose of a parade is: not to show that the American military is big and strong, but to make Donald Trump feel big and strong. Don’t be surprised to read afterward that Trump had to be talked out of appearing in a military dress uniform complete with decorative medals and a golden sash.
The parade will of course be presented as “honoring the troops,” as though we have a real problem these days with people not making a public show of praising the troops often enough. Along with that assertion will be the insistence — not even implied, but directly stated — that if you say it’s a stupid idea, then it means you hate the troops, and America to boot.
In reality, like everything Trump orders, this will be about him, not about the troops or America or anything else. He is the most self-focused president we’ve ever had. This is a man who regularly refers to “my generals and my military” and says things such as “I’ve created over a million jobs since I’m president,” who slaps his name on everything in sight, who is so childishly self-centered that his national security briefers make sure to mention him every few paragraphs in any document they give him, knowing that’s the only way he’ll read it.
And many Republicans can’t get enough of it. They cheer his attacks on any media outlet that doesn’t give him glowing coverage, they join in the assault he launches on whoever he decides is his enemy today, they pretend it’s no big deal when a hostile foreign power meddles in our elections so long as it helps Trump, they proclaim him the great and noble leader America has been thirsting for. They do all this for a man who possesses not a single identifiable human virtue.
So yes, Trump will get his parade. Perhaps he’ll even get to wear that sash. But Republicans shouldn’t fool themselves: when this presidency is over, they won’t be able to turn around and act like it never happened and they weren’t enthusiastic participants in the crass degradation of our government and our political system. This is on them, every bit as much as it’s on Trump himself.