The White House is forging ahead with plans for the latest Trump-inspired spectacle: a huge military parade through the streets of Washington.
You know, tanks rumbling down the streets. Missiles poised atop launchers. Soldiers saluting the fearless leader perched imperiously in his viewing box as a marching band plays. Generals standing smartly in black convertible limousines proceeding at a somber pace ... oh wait, that's the annual Russian "Victory Day" celebration in May.
And it's nothing to emulate.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the parade plan reflects Trump's respect for the armed forces. But we're with the skeptics, including members of Congress from both parties, retired military leaders and veterans who brand this as a misguided exercise in chest-thumping. "Confidence is silent and insecurity is loud," says Sen. John Kennedy, a Louisiana Republican. How did North Korea tyrant Kim Jong Un celebrate the opening ceremony of the Olympics in neighboring South Korea? With a big honking military parade.
Seems to us this Trumptastic idea falls more in line with the president's unseemly bragging about the size of his ... nuclear arsenal. The mightiest military in the world doesn't need to peacock its weaponry to intimidate enemies and comfort citizens.
We hope Mattis and his Pentagon planners tell Trump that a vein-popping display of military might isn't the way to show his respect for the nation's soldiers. Beefing up health care for veterans is. Making sure soldiers have the latest gear and a clear mission when put in harm's way is. Updating and streamlining the nation's nuclear arsenal as a deterrent is.
Don't get us wrong. We like parades. Floats, marching bands, kids twirling batons, or precision-marching dads and their lawn chairs or lawn mowers. And sure, a muscle-flexing display of America's amazing military arsenal appeals to the 8-year-old in all of us who eagerly climbed on fire engines at the local fair.
That's one reason that every summer, hordes of Chicagoans flock to the lakefront for the Chicago Air & Water Show. The show is a tribute to balletic flying skills and daredevil stunts. It doesn't feature B-52s on simulated bombing sorties over enemy territory or a parade of amphibious assault vehicles and howitzers down Michigan Avenue.
There have been other similar military parades in the U.S. In 1991, for instance, President George H.W. Bush staged a victory celebration after the Gulf War.
We would remind President Trump, however, that there's nothing more embarrassing than a politician overstepping in his zeal to show he's with the troops. Remember the 1988 photo-op that devastated Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis' presidential campaign? Dukakis, uneasily poking his awkwardly helmeted head out of an M1 Abrams tank, reaped a payload of national ridicule that might have doomed his campaign.
Will a big parade backfire on Trump? Not likely. This could be a brilliant way for the president to seize huge hunks of TV airtime, as Matt Latimer writes for Politico. And to cast naysayers (and Democrats) as unpatriotic parade scrooges who hate the military. It is likely to be another opportunity for Trump to preen and pose and deflect attention from controversies. That Russian probe thing? Who wants to talk about that? Look at that shiny tank. Wouldn't you love to climb in?
Trump might get his parade. And yes, there will be big crowds to ooh and ahh. A threat to the republic? Nah. Just a huffing-and-puffing waste of time and money.
Editorial by the Chicago Tribune