The Corner

Politics & Policy

We’ll Regret This

President Trump delivers a televised address to the nation from the Oval Office about immigration and the border, January 8, 2019. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Mitch McConnell says the president will sign the budget deal and he will also declare a national emergency to build the wall, as I expected.

We’ll see the legal justifications he uses, but as a political and constitutional matter this is a long-term disaster. Oh, it might be good for Trump according to the metrics he cares about. But it will also be good for Democrats. That was my argument all along: The incentive structure on both sides made the declaration all but inevitable. Trump gets to say he fights. The fact that courts will likely stymie much from being done will give Trump the issue of the wall (and those horrible liberal judges), which he cares about more than the wall itself. It will absolve Republicans from most of the criticism that would have been heaped on them for having done next to nothing until now. And it will allow the Democrats to turn up the volume on Trump’s supposedly dictatorial and democratic-norm-bending tendencies.

The simple fact is that failing to get the budget you want from Congress isn’t a national emergency, regardless of how much you invoke national security and talk about invasion. And it is palpably obvious that most of the people cheering the news aren’t relieved that a pressing national-security threat is about to be averted. They’re cheering because they see this as a political triumph for the president. Again, the lack of a political triumph for a president isn’t a national emergency.

Meanwhile, this is a long-term gift to progressives. They hate the Senate’s legislative filibuster and now they have an easily exploitable precedent to declare an emergency when some future Democratic president doesn’t get what she or he wants from Congress and invokes the exact arguments already being used to justify the Green New Deal. Climate change is the new “moral equivalent of war” for progressives — and they believe it. What will senate minority leader Mitch McConnell say in opposition to a future emergency declaration beyond “The wall was different”? Good luck with that.

Nancy Pelosi just minutes ago, said “The Republicans should have some dismay about the door they are opening, the threshold they are crossing. She isn’t thinking Green New Deal, she’s thinking guns. But whatever.

I’m reminded of a line from Democratic senator Alan Cranston in 1973 during the Watergate hearings.“Those who tried to warn us back at the beginning of the New Deal of the dangers of one-man rule that lay ahead on the path we were taking toward strong, centralized government may not have been so wrong.” I fear Republicans won’t have to wait 40 years to come to similar realization.

And here’s Paul Begala:

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Jonah Goldberg, a senior editor of National Review and the author of Suicide of the West, holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute.

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