THEIR VIEW: A terrible precedent

Published on Wednesday, 11 September 2019 14:34
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President Donald Trump is going to get his wall on our nation’s border with Mexico -- or at least some sections of replacement fencing -- even if he has to stick it to the U.S. military to secure the funds for his vanity project.

On Wednesday, the day after the Pentagon began to inform members of Congress about previously approved military projects that would be put on hold, perhaps indefinitely, the White House released a list of the efforts that would see funding diverted to the wall. You know, the one that Trump had long said Mexico would pay to construct. As it turns out, proposed military projects in 23 states, three U.S. territories and in 20 countries will actually be raided to build that wall.

Though one might be quick to point out that such a move is an obvious unconstitutional usurpation of Congress’ power of the purse, the current Supreme Court, with five of the nine justices having been appointed by Republican presidents, has already shown that it probably wouldn’t see things that way. Sadly.

So Trump will be able to campaign for re-election touting his big, beautiful wall while our nation’s military suffers as a consequence. Seems an awfully strange definition of making America great, doesn’t it?

Because our president is unable ever to admit that he may be wrong, about anything under the sun, and is consequently unable to change course, even when doing so would make the most sense, Trump, still fixated on the need for a wall, declared an emergency at the border early this year. It’s that declaration, and the Supreme Court’s acquiescence with a previous maneuver to divert military funds to wall construction, that has paved the way for the newest move. But just because the high court may well deem the move constitutional does not mean that it’s right. This court, as currently constituted, is made up of a majority of right-wing ideologues, with Chief Justice John Roberts, no one’s idea of a centrist, the de facto swing vote on the Republican-leaning court. When the rubber meets the road, it’s politics, not jurisprudence, that too often takes precedence.

Trump’s use of emergency powers sets a terrible standard. Imagine, some years down the line, that there’s a Democrat in the White House and that the Supreme Court has a majority of Democratic-appointed justices. What would stop that president from declaring climate change a national emergency and diverting funds that had been otherwise appropriated to remediate the danger from carbon and methane emissions? Or suppose the president decided that income inequality was an emergency and moved to act on that score?

In our government, which is a system of divided powers, Congress, not our nation’s chief executive, decides how taxpayer money is spent. But in the mind of would-be King Donald, such constitutional niceties just get in the way and keep him from winning. Or something like that.

Even if the military loses as a result.

Posted in The Bristol Press, Editorials on Wednesday, 11 September 2019 14:34. Updated: Wednesday, 11 September 2019 14:36.