In the Trump presidency, some controversies are appalling, some are terrifying, and some are just plain stupid. Today we have an update on one that falls into the last category from Amanda Macias of CNBC:
“President Donald Trump’s military parade this fall is shaping up to cost $80 million more than initially estimated.
“The Department of Defense and its interagency partners have updated their perspective cost estimates for the parade, according to a U.S. defense official with firsthand knowledge of the assessment. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity.
“The parade, slated for Nov. 10, is estimated to cost $92 million, the official said. The figure includes $50 million from the Pentagon and $42 million from interagency partners such as the Department of Homeland Security. An initial estimate last month pegged the prospective cost for the parade at $12 million.”
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I realize that “Trump is a ridiculous narcissist” is not exactly breaking news. But what’s so exasperating about this parade is that it isn’t just Trump being Trump on his own. It requires taxpayers to shell out $92 million, which may not be very much from each one of us but is still a significant sum. It requires the time, attention, and energy of the armed forces (more on that in a moment). And most of all, it’s happening at all because it required the cooperation of Republicans in Congress, which they happily gave.
To review how we got here, Trump has been talking about having a military parade since he was inaugurated, but it was mostly ignored by Pentagon officials who had better things to do. Then, as The Washington Post reported, in a meeting in January, “Surrounded by the military’s highest-ranking officials, including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr., Trump’s seemingly abstract desire for a parade was suddenly heard as a presidential directive.” So they had no choice.
When the news broke, the reaction from both current and retired servicemembers was overwhelmingly negative. They all made similar arguments: That this looked like nothing more than a tribute to Trump’s ego, the expense wasn’t worth it, and most importantly, the men and women in uniform should be doing their actual jobs rather than mounting a show for the president’s aggrandizement.
There was even some criticism from Republicans in Congress. “I don’t think it’s a particularly good idea,” said Sen. John Kennedy. “Confidence is silent. Insecurities are loud. When you’re the most powerful nation in all of human history, you don’t have to show it off.”
But when it came time to write a bill authorizing military spending — a $716 billion behemoth that Trump signed earlier this week — Republicans included a provision authorizing the parade. They inserted a caveat saying individual units shouldn’t participate if doing so harmed their readiness, but the show will go on.
And yes, it’s true that many Democrats ultimately voted for the bill, too. But Republicans run the process, and they’re the ones responsible for giving Trump what he wants. They didn’t have to — they could simply have left it out, and there’s zero chance Trump would have vetoed the bill if it didn’t have his parade. But they made a choice to indulge him.
While we’re on the subject, we should note that whenever a Democrat says we should spend more to provide health care or education, conservatives (and journalists as well) immediately demand, “How will you pay for it?” But nobody asks how we’ll pay for the $716 billion in military spending. The answer, of course, is that we’ll add it to the deficit, because that’s what we do with things Republicans want to spend money on.
There’s a common line that Republicans, both officeholders and voters, often give about Trump. I wish he’d stop with the tweeting and the petty squabbles, they say, but I like the things he has delivered, like conservative judges and corporate tax cuts. It’s a reasonable position to take if those are your priorities.
But this $92 million parade shows that they go an extra step further. It’s one thing to put up with an egomaniac because he’s giving you things you like. It’s quite another to actively cater to his egomania. That’s what Republicans have done all along, and they show no signs of stopping.