Pentagon officials have long been reluctant to parade tanks, missiles and other weapons through the nation’s capital like the authoritarian leaders of North Korea and China. They say the United States, which has the world’s most powerful military and spends more on defense than the seven next largest military spenders combined — China, Saudi Arabia, India, France, Russia, Britain and Germany — does not need to broadcast its strength.
But Mr. Trump believes that the inclusion of tanks and other weapons in the July 4 celebration, which was first reported by The Washington Post, would help to transform the capital city’s annual event into the kind of military celebration he has long wanted.
After watching the Bastille Day parade in 2017 in Paris, Mr. Trump said that “we may do something like that on July 4 in Washington down Pennsylvania Avenue.” He later raised the idea of a military parade on Veterans Day, but abandoned it in the face of public opposition from city officials, private dissent from the Pentagon and a price tag of more than $90 million.
.. “You’ve got to be pretty careful with the tanks because the roads have a tendency not to like to carry heavy tanks,” Mr. Trump said, acknowledging the damage that such heavy vehicles could do to Washington’s transportation network. “So we have to put them in certain areas.”
The president did not say where those areas would be.
.. Pentagon officials declined to comment on Monday as they wrestled with how to accommodate the president’s tank request only a few days before the event. Among the logistical concerns was how to transport tanks that weigh more than 60 tons into the popular downtown area where tourists gather to see the monuments. Moving and guarding the tanks would require staffing at a time when many troops are at home for the holiday.
Another problem is that Arlington Memorial Bridge, which spans the Potomac River and connects Arlington National Cemetery and the Lincoln Memorial, might not be able to hold the weight.
It was also unclear on Monday where the tanks would come from.
The closest Abrams tanks appeared to be a 350-mile drive away at the 150th Cavalry Regiment, a unit of the West Virginia National Guard in Bluefield, W.Va. If the military wanted to use assets under federal control, it would most likely have to bring tanks from the Marines’ 2nd Tank Battalion at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.
Either way, the tanks would have to be transported by rail or flatbed truck.
“We will be having one of the biggest gatherings in the history of Washington, D.C., on July 4,” he wrote. “It will be called ‘A Salute To America’ and will be held at the Lincoln Memorial. Major fireworks display, entertainment and an address by your favorite President, me!”
Critics of the president say his involvement amounts to a partisan hijacking of the Fourth of July event for his own political purposes.
“He’s taking an American — a national — holiday and making it about himself. And that is fundamentally wrong,” said Representative Gerald E. Connolly, Democrat of Virginia, whose constituents live a short drive from downtown Washington.
But supporters of the president scoffed at the idea that Mr. Trump’s involvement is a reason for concern. Newt Gingrich, a former House speaker and vocal Trump booster, said the president should have the right to celebrate the Fourth of July as he sees fit.
“What kind of idiot do you have to be to complain that the president wants to celebrate the founding of our country?” Mr. Gingrich said, adding that he supports the idea of having tanks and other military vehicles at the celebration to honor the country’s military.
“Other than the fact they have to pay to fix the streets, who cares?” Mr. Gingrich said.
“I encourage the debate on immigration; there is great merit in its reasonable outcome,” her father, Rob Tibbetts, wrote in an opinion column in the Des Moines Register. “But do not appropriate Mollie’s soul in advancing views she believed were profoundly racist.”
Rob Tibbetts said his family still needs time to mourn, and he asked for continued privacy. But he said he felt compelled to speak because politicians were using his daughter’s name to promote views that she would be opposed to, actions he called “heartless,” “despicable” and “shameless.” The piece expanded on some of the comments he made at his daughter’s funeral defending the Hispanic community.
“My stepdaughter, whom Mollie loved so dearly, is Latina. Her sons — Mollie’s cherished nephews and my grandchildren — are Latino,” Rob Tibbetts wrote in the piece, which ran a day after a column by Donald Trump Jr. in the same publication. ” . . . To knowingly foment discord among races is a disgrace to our flag.”
The press used to uncover government wrongdoing. Today’s press is defending it.
The Watergate scandal of 1972–74 was uncovered largely because of outraged Democratic politicians and a bulldog media. They both claimed that they had saved American democracy from the Nixon administration’s attempt to warp the CIA and FBI to cover up an otherwise minor, though illegal, political break-in.
In the Iran-Contra affair of 1985–87, the media and liberal activists uncovered wrongdoing by some rogue members of the Reagan government. They warned of government overreach and of using the “Deep State” to subvert the law for political purposes.
.. The new FBI director, Christopher Wray, has also reassigned the FBI’s top lawyer, James Baker, who purportedly leaked the Steele dossier to a sympathetic journalist.
.. Once again, an administration is being accused of politicizing government agencies to further agendas, this time apparently to gain an advantage for Hillary Clinton in the run-up to an election.
.. There is a similar pattern of slandering congressional investigators and whistleblowers as disloyal and even treasonous.
.. This time around, the press is not after a hated Nixon administration. Civil libertarians are not demanding accountability from a conservative Reagan team. Instead, the roles are reversed.
.. Barack Obama was a progressive constitutional lawyer who expressed distrust of the secretive “Deep State.” Yet his administration weaponized the IRS and surveilled Associated Press communications and a Fox News journalist for reporting unfavorable news based on supposed leaks.
.. Progressives are not supposed to destroy requested emails, “acid wash” hard drives, spread unverified and paid-for opposition research among government agencies, or use the DOJ and FBI to obtain warrants to snoop on the communications of American citizens.
.. Liberal and progressive voices are excusing, not airing, the excesses of the DOJ and FBI.
Apparently, weaponizing government agencies to stop a detested Donald Trump by any means necessary is not really considered a crime.
For at least the past seven presidential election cycles, candidates on both sides have sought to use veterans, military leaders and the military itself to validate their credentials as potential commanders in chief.
In 1992, Bill Clinton received the endorsement of retired Adm. William Crowe, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Each election cycle has escalated this use of veterans as stage props, or useful attackers, such as in 2004 with the deployment of Swift boat veterans to attack John Kerry. To some extent, this politicization of the military has carried forward into office, with presidents from each party carefully using military audiences or imagery to frame policy statements or political activities.
.. In a public speech shortly after his inauguration, Mr. Trump delivered a blistering attack on the press before an audience of intelligence officers at the C.I.A. headquarters.
.. Seven days later, Mr. Trump used the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes, with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis standing by, to sign his controversial travel ban. Last February, he politicked before a crowd of troops at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla., the home of the military’s headquarters for Middle East operations and special operations. In July of last year, during the commissioning of the aircraft carrier Gerald Ford, Mr. Trump told the assembled sailors that “I don’t mind getting a little hand, so call that congressman and call that senator and make sure you get it,” referring to his budget, adding, “And by the way, you can also call those senators to make sure you get health care.”
.. Vice President Mike Pence followed the president’s lead last month in a speech before American troops in Jordan, on the border with Syria, attacking Democrats in the middle of a budget fight that caused a brief government shutdown.
.. Mr. Trump’s proposed parade fits this pattern of politicizing the military and using it to further his political interests — not those of the military or the nation.
.. But beyond the costs and distraction of a parade, we should be wary of its long-term corrosive effects on our military, which must continue to serve and defend our country long after the Trump presidency ends.