WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump said Friday he would attend a November celebration in Paris marking the end of World War I — hours after the Pentagon announced it was postponing the much-maligned military parade that Trump had ordered.
The Pentagon late Thursday said the controversial event, originally scheduled for November 10 in Washington, was being pushed back to a possible date in 2019, after it emerged costs could soar as high as $92 million.
Trump on Friday said he had in fact pulled the plug because local politicians were charging a “ridiculously high” price, and he vowed to go to a different event already scheduled for a military base near Washington and “go to the Paris parade, celebrating the end of the War, on November 11th.”
“Maybe we will do something next year in D.C. when the cost comes WAY DOWN,” the US president said, adding: “Now we can buy some more jet fighters!”
Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser hit back at Trump, sarcastically emulating his characteristic Twitter tone in a message of her own.
“Yup, I’m Muriel Bowser, mayor of Washington DC, the local politician who finally got thru to the reality star in the White House with the realities ($21.6M) of parades/events/demonstrations in Trump America (sad),” she tweeted.
Trump had ordered a show of military prowess after marveling at France’s Bastille Day parade last year — but the idea drew scorn from critics, who said it would be a waste of money and akin to events staged by authoritarian regimes such as North Korea.
A US official told AFP on Thursday the planning estimate had gone as high as $92 million, though no final figure has been reached.
“The local politicians who run Washington, D.C. (poorly) know a windfall when they see it,” Trump said Friday.
“When asked to give us a price for holding a great celebratory military parade, they wanted a number so ridiculously high that I cancelled it.”
“Never let someone hold you up!” he added.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis scoffed at the cost estimate and attacked the media for reporting the number.
“Whoever told you that is probably smoking something that’s legal in my state but is not in most states,” said Mattis, from Washington state where pot is legal.
“Whoever wrote it needs to get better sources… I guarantee you there’s been no cost estimate to me,” he told reporters traveling with him in South America.
Even before becoming president, aides reported that Trump had considered a military parade to mark his inauguration — although that idea was eventually scrapped.
Trump has also embraced military backdrop for several speeches and presidential visits. He however received deferments from carrying out military service of his own during the Vietnam War.
US media were quick to highlight how the ballooning costs of the proposed parade stood in contrast to his concern about the expense of conducting joint military exercises with South Korea.
“We will be stopping the war games, which will save us a tremendous amount of money,” Trump said in June after meeting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
It later emerged that the drills cost about $14 million, a fraction of the price of a military parade.
Others suggested the money could be better spent improving the lives of destitute veterans.
“Until such time as we can celebrate victory in the War on Terrorism and bring our military home, we think the parade money would be better spent fully funding the Department of Veteran Affairs and giving our troops and their families the best care possible,” said the American Legion’s national commander Denise Rohan.