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Why Trump’s parade will lead Republicans over a cliff

Why Trump’s parade will lead Republicans over a cliff

Markets are careening all over the place. Congress is struggling, again, to keep the Capitol open. The White House is at war with the FBI, and the special counsel’s investigation into Russian influence is about to touch off a constitutional crisis. If you’re the president, what’s your next bold move?

A parade, obviously.

Not just any parade. What President Trump has in mind — what he has, in fact, ordered the Pentagon to spend weeks of time and millions of dollars planning, if the fake Washington Post can be trusted — is a garish show of military power, with tanks and missiles followed by warriors in full regalia marching up Pennsylvania Avenue for no apparent reason, except I guess that parades are super-fun and often involve things like cotton candy and sparklers, and that’s a hard thing for a grown man to resist.

Actually, Trump got this particular idea in Paris back in July, when he visited Emmanuel Macron and witnessed a similar display. Because you know, when you think about military might, your mind immediately goes to France.

Critics of the president see in this the aspirations of a strongman. They point out that the whole thing has a certain Kim Jong Un feel to it, with Trump and his ruling generals solemnly reviewing the troops as they high-kick it past the White House. It’s a show of force that could only be interpreted as threatening toward adversaries abroad, if not to the investigators working a few miles away.

But I give Trump more credit than that. I don’t actually think he’s motivated by some secret agenda to install himself as a small-handed dictator. I doubt he’s read enough history to understand why a parade like this might make a lot of thinking people nauseous.

No, I think Trump’s real agenda is getting clearer every day, and his silly parade fits in perfectly. His goal is to govern at the dawn of the Cold War, in the 1950s America he knew as a boy, when it wasn’t so uncommon for presidents to march alongside tanks and batteries.

He’s stuck in a moment most Americans can’t remember, and he wants the rest of us stuck there with him.

You can see it in Trump’s approach to foreign policy generally. A year into office, he’s moving to restart the nuclear arms race that darkened the second half of the 20th century, and he’s seeking billions more to ramp up conventional forces, rather than modernize them, in case we have to fight another land war on the Korean Peninsula.

Trump’s personal taunting of the North Korean leader, his boast about the superior size of his “nuclear button,” brings to mind America’s bygone fixation with Khrushchev or Castro. All that’s missing is the black-and-white TV.

About the only way Trump’s foreign policy isn’t lifted directly from the Cold War is that he just can’t summon any real antipathy for the Russians, no matter how menacing they become. Go figure.

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