When signaling a retreat from a sketchy or unpopular proposal, President Donald Trump tends to sound off loudly in public against someone else or something else.
Once reported in the news media, the matter then plays out like a charged battle rather than the zero-sum fiasco it's more likely to be.
Recent collapse of the "zero-tolerance" family separation policy for immigrants in this country without proper documentation led Trump to blame Democrats for laws he'd said his administration had no choice but to enforce.
Earlier this year, as he wavered briefly on gun rights after the infamous high-school massacre in Parkland, Florida, Trump accused members of Congress of fearing the National Rifle Association.
The latest item on the list is the cancellation of the big, foreign-style military parade for November that Trump — but apparently few others — wanted.
Months ago, its cost was pegged at $12 million. This week, a defense official let it be known it would cost nearly $92 million, including all the armored vehicles, aircraft flyovers and period uniforms.
So with reliable timing, Trump blamed his loss of a pomp-filled photo op on "the local politicians who run Washington, D.C.," who "know a windfall when they see it. 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.”
But this deflection wasn't confirmed — and it didn't go unanswered.
The D.C. mayor shot back on Twitter: "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 was, of course, citing only the portion of the cost to be reimbursed for security, traffic maintenance, cleanup and other municipal tasks.
Bowser plausibly added: "It’s pretty clear that the president is upset about the parade, and it appears that he didn’t want to take on his own agencies or the Pentagon, so he decided that we were a good target.”
Back in February, when the Nov. 10 date for the parade was announced, even congressional promoters of significant military budget increases shrugged at the idea.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told reporters that a parade aimed at simply demonstrating American military might was “kind of cheesy and a sign of weakness.”
Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) said: “America is the most powerful country in all of human history, everybody knows it, and we don't need to show it off.”
Even military officials who have attended many military ceremonies on occasions such as Memorial Day, Independence Day and Veterans Day were heard echoing that view.
But Trump saw the parade they hold in France and declared that the United States should do a bigger one.
That whim has now been put off, if not vaporized.