Trump Wants Pentagon To Stage Military Parade Down Pennsylvania Avenue : The Two-Way The president has directed the Pentagon to look into a parade, possibly to take place on Veterans Day. He was apparently inspired by the Bastille Day parade he saw last summer during a trip to Paris.
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Trump Wants Pentagon To Stage Military Parade Down Pennsylvania Avenue

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Trump Wants Pentagon To Stage Military Parade Down Pennsylvania Avenue

Trump Wants Pentagon To Stage Military Parade Down Pennsylvania Avenue

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

President Trump wants a military parade. He wants a show of might in the middle of Washington, D.C. Big showy parades with tanks and missiles are more commonly associated with Russia, North Korea and China. But the White House insists if one happens here, the goal will be to honor U.S. troops. In a moment, we'll have reaction to this from veterans. First, here's NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith.

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TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: During the annual Bastille Day parade in Paris, President Trump sat next to French President Emmanuel Macron as jets flew overhead and heavy military equipment, troops and marching bands passed by. It was, Trump said, one of the greatest parades he had ever seen.

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KEITH: Even two months later, he was still talking about it when he met with Macron in New York.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: To a large extent, because of what I witnessed, we made do something like that on July 4 in Washington down Pennsylvania Avenue.

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TRUMP: I don't know. We're going to have to try and top it.

KEITH: People in the room laughed. But it turns out, Trump wasn't kidding.

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TRUMP: I came back, and one of my early calls were, I think we're going to have to start looking at that ourselves.

KEITH: Planning remains in the early stages. It's still not clear when it would happen, what military hardware would actually be part of it or how much it would all cost.

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JIM MATTIS: We've been putting together some options. We'll send them up to the White House for a decision.

KEITH: That's Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis speaking today in the White House briefing.

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MATTIS: The president's respect, his fondness for the military, I think, is reflected in him asking for these options.

KEITH: Trump, who attended a military academy growing up, got multiple deferments during the Vietnam War and didn't serve. But as a candidate and now as president, he has wrapped himself in the military, pushing for more funding and talking about the troops and veterans with great reverence. He frequently refers to military leaders and aides with military backgrounds as, quote, "my generals." If such a parade were to happen, it would be the first since the end of the Gulf War in 1991, says presidential historian Michael Beschloss.

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: During the inaugural parades for Harry Truman all the way to John Kennedy, you had tanks, you had Pershing and Nike missiles and things like this. And at the end of many of our wars - Civil War, World War I and II, Gulf War - you would have parades in Washington and sometimes in New York. But to have a parade like this in Washington without an event like that, that's a little bit outside our tradition.

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Speaking Korean).

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KEITH: It is more in the tradition of countries like North Korea, which held a parade showing off its newest ballistic missile in April. In the 1950s, the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev presided over large military parades flaunting the latest in Soviet military might. Beschloss says that prompted White House aides to go to President Eisenhower, himself a decorated former general, and suggest perhaps the U.S. should do the same.

BESCHLOSS: Eisenhower said absolutely not. We, the United States, are seeking peace. We are the preeminent power on Earth. For us to try to imitate what the Soviets are doing in Red Square would make us look weak.

KEITH: And there's another concern, one that Beschloss says Eisenhower was acutely aware of - the risk that in glorifying the military, it slips into glorification of the president in his role as commander in chief. Tamara Keith, NPR News, the White House.

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