February 24, 2019
There are two ways to evaluate Donald Trump as President. We can tote up his lies, boasts, evasions, fabrications and delusions, note his impulsiveness and dangerously bad ideas, then add the evidence of foreign influence and possible collusion leading to his semi-election, and reach the unavoidable conclusion that he should be removed from office. Alternatively, we can shorten the list, simplify the task and reach the same result by recognizing that Trump is intellectually and emotionally a child, attempting to get his way through tantrums. (The Nation ran a column entitled “Trump at Two,” referring to the midpoint of his term, but it could as well describe his level of maturity).
Making all reasonable allowance for party loyalty, political ambition and fear of reprisal, how can Congressional Republicans not conclude that, under either analysis, leaving Trump in charge is an unacceptable risk?
His current tantrum is the declaration of a national emergency to allow him to take funds from other programs, which he has discovered have money to spare, to build a wall. He is so incompetent that he has declared that the wall isn’t urgently needed: “Well, I got $1.4 billion. . . . I was successful, in that sense, but I want to do it faster. I could do the wall over a longer period of time. I didn’t need to do this. But I’d rather do it much faster.” He’d rather do something wasteful and unnecessary, requiring condemnation of private land and prompting multiple law suits, faster; that’s the basis for his seizure of more power.
The current plan is to spend the $1.375 billion authorized by Congress, plus these transfers from other funds: $600 million from the Treasury Department’s drug forfeiture fund, $2.5 billion from drug interdiction activities of the Department of Defense and $3.6 billion from the military construction budget. All this to build a wall we don’t need.
The national-emergency ploy was bad enough when Trump pretended that there was an urgent need for the wall. Now that it’s just his whim, Congress should be in revolt. Some Republicans indeed may rebel, but not all the movement relative to Trump has been away. In 2015, Senator Lindsey Graham called Trump a “race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot,” and said that the way to make America Great again was to “tell Donald Trump to go to hell.” In February 2016, Graham said of Trump “I think he's a kook. I think he's crazy. . . . He's not a conservative Republican, he's an opportunist. He's not fit to be president of the United States."  In March 2016, Graham offered this prediction: “We're going to lose. You'll never convince me that Donald Trump is the answer to the problem we have with Hispanics. . . . Here's what I want to tell people when we lose to Hillary: I told you that the immigration issue is killing us. We're doubling down on the problem we have with Hispanics. We went from self-deportation to forced deportation. . . . So here's what I'm going to say in November when we lose: I told you so."
The new Graham has seen the light: recently he tweeted, “If White House and Congress fail to reach a deal then President @realDonaldTrump must act through emergency powers to build wall/barrier.” One segment of funds to be lifted from the military construction fund was to have built a new Fort Campbell Mahaffey Middle School in Kentucky. Graham’s response: “I would say it’s better for the middle school kids in Kentucky to have a secure border. We’ll get them the school they need, but right now we’ve got a national emergency on our hands.”
Apparently the fact that Trump — unexpectedly — won transformed him from a race-baiting, xenophobic bigot into a statesman who recognizes that “the problem we have with Hispanics” is that there are too many of them, that any more would bring the country to its knees, that hordes are poised to pour across the border and that only a wall will save us. Graham is an extreme example of the attitude that has kept Congressional Republicans in line.
20. From his rambling, incoherent Rose Garden press conference February 15.
22. https://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2015/12/08/lindsey-graham-donald-trump- xenophobic-bigot-interview-newday.cnn/video/playlists/lindsey-graham-2016/
25. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/transcript-sen-lindsey-graham-on-face-the-nation-February-17- 2019/