The 2nd-highest-ranking US general told Trump his idea for a big military parade in DC was 'what dictators do,' book says

The 2nd-highest-ranking US general told Trump his idea for a big military parade in DC was 'what dictators do,' book says
US President Donald Trump delivers remarks with (2nd L-R) Vice President Mike Pence, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Paul J. Selva, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Army Deputy Secretary Pat Shanahan at the White House on December 11, 2017.Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
  • During his presidency, Trump wanted to hold a big military parade in the nation's capital.
  • After attending France's Bastille Day celebration, he said he wanted a parade for July Fourth.

The second-highest-ranking US general at the time told then-President Donald Trump that his idea for a big military parade in Washington, DC, was "what dictators do," a new book says.

Trump, as has been previously reported, crafted the idea for a military parade after witnessing a lavish Bastille Day celebration in Paris in 2017. He wanted to top it with one of his own during the Fourth of July holiday.

Top US generals and officials were less thrilled about the idea, according to an excerpt from a forthcoming book by journalists Susan Glasser and Peter Baker that was published Monday by The New Yorker.

James Mattis, Trump's defense secretary at the time, said he would "rather swallow acid," and other officials said it would cost millions and damage the roads.

At one White House meeting, when Trump addressed his idea with Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, then the second-highest-ranking general as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Selva suggested the idea was reminiscent of something often seen in dictatorships.


According to the book, when Trump asked Selva what he thought of the parade, Selva said he grew up in Portugal, which "was a dictatorship — and parades were about showing the people who had the guns."

"And in this country, we don't do that," Selva said. "It's not who we are."

Trump then asked Selva whether or not he liked the idea, to which he responded: "No." He added, "It's what dictators do."

The US has held some military parades in Washington, DC, most recently in 1991 after America's victory in the Gulf War. After facing pushback on his plans, Trump held a "Salute to America" event on the Fourth of July in 2019 that prominently featured a military flyover and some static military-vehicle displays but no tanks in the streets.

Throughout his time in the White House, Trump often expressed admiration for dictators or authoritarians like Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping — leaders who hold massive military parades each year. Political scientists who specialize in authoritarianism often said Trump's rhetoric and lack of respect for democratic norms emboldened such leaders.


Fiona Hill, who served as the top Russia expert on the National Security Council under the Trump administration, said in comments to The Daily Beast last year that Trump had a bad case of "autocrat envy."

"He also really liked kings and queens," Hill added of Trump.