Propagandists do their best work in preparation for gaudy national holidays. That, anyway, is the takeaway from an extraordinary segment Wednesday morning on the set of “Fox & Friends.” There was an apparently genuine struggle to understand how folks could have issues with a military show on the streets of Washington.

Behold the transcript of the exchange among co-hosts Ainsley Earhardt, Brian Kilmeade and Griff Jenkins:

Earhardt: The celebration is going to happen down in D.C. The president has been talking about it on the Mall. And he is really fired up about it. He is excited. He is saying, “Let’s bring in the tanks.”
Kilmeade: His big Fourth is ‘Salute to America.’ That’s what he is going to call it. The Pentagon and great military leaders are thrilled to be doing this and showing to the American people everything we are paying for. The military hardware. We got the best military in the world. He has put $770 billion into it over the last two years. And probably another $700 billion into it this year.
Earhardt: He is going to have fireworks. Military bands. Flyovers, tanks and more military vehicles and, I’m sure, a lot of people.
Jenkins: I’m very excited because I’m going to leave this couch, go back to D.C. today to be back out there on the Mall for you guys tomorrow morning. And I have been covering the Fourth of July for a while. I’ve never seen an M1A1 Abrams tank or a Bradley fighting vehicle or any planes flying over, so it’s going to be quite exciting.
Earhardt: When you see those tanks rolling into your city, down into D.C., it gets you fired up. It gets you excited because you think about our military and that represents America. But you’ve had critics! There are so many critics out there saying it’s going to ruin the sidewalks. It’s going to damage our roads. I’m like, what?
Kilmeade: I have always said keep the tanks off the sidewalks. That’s always been my pet peeve. Here is some critics saying that they’re making this too partisan.

The show then played clips of various commentators saying of the military dimension of the celebration: “It’s very Soviet"; that it reflects the “tyrant” in Trump; and that it puts “politics over patriotism.”

Kilmeade: So I guess they’re against it? I’m sensing? It’s going to be a little bit different. Salute the military and salute the veterans. You want a military parade. [Former defense secretary Jim] Mattis said it would be too costly. [Trump] is asking the parks department to give him $2.3 million. They want to get an exact number.
Earhardt: He loved it because when he went to France for Bastille Day, he saw what they do over there. And he was like, ‘We need to have a celebration like this.’ That’s awesome. Never expected the critics, never expected for people to say we shouldn’t have a parade like this.
Jenkins: It’s hard to get to the Soviet criticism. I’m not sure exactly what she was thinking about there.
Earhardt: What would they say if President Obama had done this, had brought in tanks?

Well, gee: Obama had eight opportunities to call in the tanks for Independence Day. So we will never know what people might have said about Obama forcing the National Park Service to divert $2.5 million in fees from parks to an ego-boosting show of force, which is exactly what Trump is doing.

Gobsmacked at the notion that there would be critics of such a proposal, Earhardt may not have remembered that polling showed a high degree of public skepticism toward Trump’s original idea of besting the military display that he saw in a Bastille Day visit to France in 2017. Nor did those critics hail exclusively from the liberal precincts commonly treated to derision on “Fox & Friends.” Republican Sen. John Neely Kennedy (La.) said, “I don’t think it’s a particularly good idea. Confidence is silent. Insecurities are loud.”

To properly do her work, Earhardt needs not only to read up on current events; not only to consider the nonpartisan history of Independence Day; not only to consider the trade-offs involved in mustering a military display in the nation’s capital. She also needs to grasp the difference between a tank and, say, a Mitsubishi Mirage. Just to correct her astonishment that, yes, critics might just cite the impact of tank treads on asphalt, here’s a passage from a 2018 Associated Press story on “How Trump’s big military parade turned into a big nothing":

By the time planning was underway at the Pentagon, one thing became clear: the tanks had to go.
Old U.S. Army tanks can weigh more than 60 tons. In the 1991 [Desert Storm] parade, the military put rubber covers on the tank treads but there were still reports of tread marks and damage done to city streets. There also was the cost involved with shipping the mammoth vehicles.

Correct: A June 1991 story in The Post noted that the chief of operations for the 1991 celebration had found that “the 67-ton M1A1 tanks had left tread marks in the asphalt of Constitution Avenue.”

There’s nothing like a little information to cure clueless astonishment. Then again, history and context are tools deployed by actual news organizations. Not ones that employ someone like Earhardt.

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