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Trump orders American military be put on display, breaking with decades of precedent

It was a show of French military might that left a lasting impression on President Trump. Inspired by a Bastille Day parade, Trump recently gave the Pentagon marching orders to organize one in Washington, and it has begun working on the details. Aside from the cost and pragmatic challenges, such a display could draw comparisons to regimes like North Korea. Yamiche Alcindor reports.

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  • John Yang:

    Top White House and Pentagon officials confirm that the president wants a military parade in Washington, and that plans are being drawn up.

    As White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor reports, those marching orders from Mr. Trump have some raising their eyebrows, while others are rising to salute.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    It was a show of military might that left a lasting impression. President Trump was the guest of honor at France's Bastille Day parade last July.

    It was still on his mind two months later, when he saw French President Emanuel Macron at the U.N. General Assembly.

  • President Donald Trump:

    It was one of the greatest parades I have ever seen. We may do something like that on July 4 in Washington down Pennsylvania Avenue.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    In January, Mr. Trump gave marching orders to do just that. It happened at a meeting with Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and General Joseph Dunford, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

    Last night, The Washington Post's Greg Jaffe reported on what the president said about a parade.

  • Greg Jaffe:

    He made no secret of the fact that he wanted one. When you say that in front of a room of generals, I think they tend to take it as an order, and I think that's what happened there.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Now the Pentagon confirms it has begun working on the details.

    The last large-scale military parade in Washington was in 1991. President George H.W. Bush ordered that one to celebrate the end of the Gulf War. It featured almost 9,000 troops and attracted 200,000 bystanders. The price tag, $8 million, or more than $14 million in today's dollars.

    Today, Democratic Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland said it would be the wrong way to use taxpayer money.

  • Sen. Ben Cardin:

    First of all, there's a cost issue involved here. Secondly, America doesn't have to display its military might. The world understands our strength.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    At the White House, Secretary Mattis was asked about the cost. He has been saying the military is short on funds.

  • James Mattis:

    We're all aware, in this country, of the president's affection and respect for the military. We have been putting together some options. We will send them up to the White House.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Greg Jaffe says a parade also presents a logistical challenge for the Pentagon.

  • Greg Jaffe:

    It involves taking equipment offline, so they're not training with it. It's costly. So I think there's not a lot of enthusiasm for this idea, especially among the rank and file in the Pentagon.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    But Republican Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama welcomes the chance to celebrate the military.

  • Sen. Richard Shelby:

    It's probably good for the country always if we praise our soldiers, whether it's Washington, D.C., or Birmingham, Alabama, or New York City. We have had that in the past.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Throughout the Cold War, the United States refrained from public displays of military force. It avoided comparisons with Soviet soldiers and tanks routinely parading through Moscow.

    In 2018, a U.S. military parade could draw comparisons with North Korea. Kim Jong-un makes a show of parading his weapons, as his military did last April. But Greg Jaffe suggests that, for President Trump, breaking with precedent could be part of the appeal.

  • Greg Jaffe:

    Other presidents don't hold parades, and I think Trump views himself as a different kind of president. He wants to show to the country, hey, I'm rebuilding the military, I care about the military, that sort of thing.

    So, I think that is where his focus is, and maybe preparing for the midterm elections or for 2020.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Indications are the Pentagon could aim to stage the parade around Veterans Day in November.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I'm Yamiche Alcindor.

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