In 1900, Theodore Roosevelt, then governor of New York, wrote in a letter what became his presidential philosophy: “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” If only Donald Trump had the judgment to heed TR.

Trump wants to hold a grand military parade in Washington. The U.S. last held one in 1991 after a U.S.-led coalition drove Iraq’s Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. I suggest that the parade under the auspices of President George H.W. Bush sought not only to honor our troops victorious in a 100-hour war but also make amends for the terrible treatment of American military personnel during and after the Vietnam War.

Why a parade now? Trump was impressed with the Bastille Day parade he attended in Paris last summer. But France long has been a secondary military power. In 1914, Germany overran much of France. In May 1940, Germany outflanked the heralded Maginot Line. France fell in six weeks. In 1954, the Vietnamese defeated the French at Dien Bien Phu. France bid adieu to its Indo-Chinese colonies. French forces have fought well in Afghanistan, Iraq and its former African colonies. But French military parades honor ancient glories.

What other countries hold military parades? Dictatorships and autocracies. Vladimir Putin loves seeing soldiers, tanks and rockets roll through Moscow’s Red Square. Kim Jong Un shows off the same in Pyongyang. China also gets in on the act. And Iran, under supreme leader Ali Khamenei, showcases rockets and missiles to menace America and Israel.

All draw on precedent. Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler loved military parades and being worshiped at enormous theatrical rallies. So, too, Josef Stalin. Dictators believe in speaking loudly and brandishing their big sticks. This enables them, they believe, to both cow other nations and intimidate internal opposition.

All of which paints Donald Trump as something of a junior Mussolini. Like Il Duce, Trump struts, glowers and preens. Hurls insults with abandon. And equates dissent with treason. Duce Jr. demands personal loyalty at home while disdaining America’s allies and eschewing diplomacy. This provokes hostile nations and troubles our friends, all of whom understand that America’s stick is very big indeed.

Still, even the biggest (read nuclear) stick can be challenged. Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq taught us how critical it is to know when to hold back. And that small nations and non-state actors can vex us with asymmetric warfare and terrorism.

But Duce Jr.’s bloated ego demands showing off his big stick—a sign not only of U.S. military might but of his own manliness. When the troops pass the reviewing stand, Trump will applaud not them but himself. He will believe that the troops are saluting him personally. And he will, again, be wrong. They will salute his office. That’s how the Constitution rolls.

A lover of our military, Trump never served (military school doesn’t count) unlike Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), whom he publicly disparaged as a prisoner of war. During Vietnam, Trump received five deferments—four for college and one medical deferment after graduation.

Last Saturday, U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) referred to Trump as “Cadet Bone Spurs.” She earned the right, having lost both legs flying combat helicopter missions in Iraq. I might rephrase that, “Cadet Bone Spurious.” This all would be funny if it wasn’t so frightening.

To respond, click on “comments” to the right just below the title of this post. Then go to the response space at the bottom of the post.


  1. Ron Laupheimer on February 9, 2018 at 3:03 am


    I love your new name for our President–Duce, Jr! How perfect! Your article should be sent around the country so the name can catch on. His actions are so stupid that you want to laugh. Unfortunately, as you said, they are so frightening that you cannot ignore them. We need to get rid of him as our President ASAP by taking over control of Congress so he will become disenchanted with how tough life as President has become and quits or not run for re-election.

    • David on February 9, 2018 at 5:53 am

      Any number of things could happen, Ron—or not. We’ll see what the Mueller commission comes up with. But we can’t take over control of Congress. It’s ours. Well, it belongs in great part to the Koch brothers and their ultra-right, ultra-rich friends. But this I do know: Donald Trump is a disgrace to the United States of America precisely because he models so much of his behavior after a tyrant like Benito Mussolini.

  2. Tracy on February 10, 2018 at 3:55 pm

    At least under the real Duce the trains ran on time. Here, we just get 1000 point drops in the stock market. Is it 2020 yet?

    • David on February 10, 2018 at 10:50 pm

      Tracy, let’s see what happens in the 2018 midterms. And hopefully before that with a report from the Mueller commission. If Trump runs in 2020, the election will be most interesting.

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