Trump’s Military Parade: All About the Ego

Eugene Robinson has a column about Trump demanding that the Pentagon put on a military parade, complete with tanks and missiles driving down the streets of Washington, DC. He says the same thing I’ve been saying, that this is all about building up his already massive and incredibly fragile ego.

Well, of course the president who claimed bone spurs to dodge the Vietnam War wants the biggest, bestest military parade ever, with lots of tanks and rockets and flags — zillions of flags — and fighter jets screaming overhead. Why is anyone surprised?

We should have seen it coming. And be careful, parade-watchers: As far as Dear Leader Trump is concerned, anyone who fails to cheer as the bands play and the troops march by will surely be guilty of treason…

Trump is more a creature of instinct than calculation. My guess is that both his narcissism and his authoritarianism are at play in his need to honor himself with a parade.

Despite his boastful tweetstorms, the president clearly realizes that his approval ratings are historically low. He is so unpopular that he will not even risk a state visit to London to open the new U.S. Embassy there for fear of being humiliated by mass protests. The campaign-style rallies he so enjoys do not appear well-designed to advance a political agenda; they do, however, boost his spirits and massage his ego.

Imagine all the love he would feel while reviewing a miles-long parade whose participants all had the sworn duty to show him respect as commander in chief. He would be saluted and serenaded to his heart’s content. It would be an egomaniac’s heaven.

Trump’s big parade would also be a massive display of power — not so much the nation’s as his own. There is not a soul on Earth who doubts the overwhelming strength of the U.S. military. I can think of one soul, however, who is insecure enough in his own authority that he accuses members of Congress who do not stand and applaud him of treason.

Trump seems shocked to learn that the legislative and judicial branches do not have to do whatever he says. The military marching bands do, though.

And of course, he and his underlings will paint anyone who objects to this ego-boosting spectacle as being “against the troops” (whatever that means). It’s an age-old political tactic in this country to substitute oneself for the military, especially for presidents, who have the benefit of being designated the commander-in-chief by the Constitution. They get to put themselves up as the symbol of America’s military might and paint their critics as critics of the troops (as opposed to the military; those are not the same thing).

Partly this is done in order to silence dissent when it comes to America’s military misadventures — read: invasions of countries full of dark-skinned people — and partly because they get some measure of reflected glory out of it. But most presidents have at least had the good sense to avoid authoritarian-style military parades, at least unless there’s some military victory to be celebrated. But Trump’s ego is absolutely insatiable, so a parade he must have.

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