WASHINGTON — Every year in the fall, my American Legion Post – Virginia 176 – takes part in a "bridge walk." Boy Scouts, local politicians and merchants join in. There are no weapons deployed, except for a ceremonial rifle or two; there are no tanks. Just real veterans, survivors of our terrible wars.
Flags waving, they march across a small arterial bridge near I-95 to say thank you to the neighborhood's veterans, living and dead. It is modest, and very American. This scene is played out in thousands of cities and villages from the Tonawandas to Manhattan every year.
Now President Trump, according to the Washington Post, wants a really big parade down Pennsylvania Avenue with massive military vehicles maybe missile launchers and armed soldiers to "honor our military." Really. The kindest thing one can say about it is that it is totally unnecessary. We have our parades with real veterans all across the country.
Trump wants it because France has one. France hasn't won a war on its own since 1872. These obscene displays mimic the grand parades staged by Hitler, Stalin and Mao and their successors and North Korea's Kim family.
There are probably some American veterans, along with Trump's base, who are going to want it. But flexing military might under the shadow of our glorious Capitol dome is a thick slice of intimidation. It shouldn't happen. Until ancient Rome became fatally corrupted, no military commander appeared in that capital at the head of his armed legions.
Yet our defense secretary James Mattis says the military will give Trump "the parade he wants." Under law, the military has no choice.
Trump is commander in chief. But Congress does not have to lie down for it and pay for it. But Congress is so whip-sawed and so spun around by cable news, social media and hand-held "news" that it seems to have mislaid what was left of its soul.
A better example of Congress not only mislaying its soul but its own law books is the Russia sanctions legislation. Remember the Russia sanctions? Last August, the Senate passed by a vote of 98 to two and the House passed 419 to three legislation imposing severe sanctions on Russia, North Korea and Iran. The legislation also tied President Trump's hands – supposedly – in lifting any American penalties against these regimes.
The penalties – so-called – on Russia were for its seizure of Crimea from Ukraine, its surrogate war in Eastern Crimea, and for its well-established interference in our presidential election of 2016. There is no doubt Russia meddled with the 2016 campaign. Special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia in this effort.
Trump reluctantly signed the bill last summer, with no fanfare, realizing that any veto would be easily overridden. Later, Trump said the law was "significantly flawed." The law set deadlines for Trump to impose penalties, mainly on Russia. The deadlines for Trump to implement the sanctions have come and gone, with no action.
They would be U.S. actions against those Russian oligarchs and organizations that have worked against American interests, interfered with our elections, and profited from the seizure of Ukranian properties and interests. The actions would including barring these Russian entitles from doing any business with this country, including Russian energy combines.
Trump's solution to the Russia sanctions law is to ignore the Russia sanctions law. On the last deadline for Trump to implement the sanctions, Jan. 29, the White House told Congress that actions are "not needed because the bill is already serving as a deterrent" to Russians who would work against U.S. interests, according to Politico.com.
Perhaps, the Mueller team may unlock the secret power that Russia plies in the era of Trump.