I’m often confused by the English language.
We speak a language that can soar (“ask not what you can do for your country…”) and that can also be quite pedestrian (Nixon’s “it is indeed a great wall,” while visiting China.) We have cute little sayings that must give non-English speakers quite a difficult time. And don’t get me started on kids today. I once referred to a person as “a good egg” and the look of complete bewilderment in the faces of my 20-something colleagues caused me to yet again demand that they stay out of my yard with their loud music.
For example, I’ve never really understood the truism, “have your cake and eat it too.” It seems quite logical to me that you almost always get to eat a cake, if you had it already. But the way the phrase is used in our language implies that often there are people who get their cake and are somehow tragically denied the pleasure of consumption.
Which brings me to Colorado's 5th Congressional District U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn.
Regular readers of this column (I have some, right? Ed: well…) know that I ran against Mr. Lamborn in the 2008 campaign, and that while I strongly and nearly universally disagree with him on, well, everything, I do think he is a respectable type of GOP member, because he is consistent in his hard-right positions, as opposed to folks like, well, Mitch McConnell, who (as Hamilton once said of Burr) “is for or against nothing that doesn’t suit his interests or ambitions.”
But a story in Colorado Politics suggests that Mr. Lamborn may be having a “Burr-ian” moment based on his words and deeds regarding Mr. Trump’s so-called emergency declaration. It seems that a day before voting to support the president’s plan to take money from the Pentagon to build his wall, Mr. Lamborn sent the very same DOD a letter. In that letter, Mr. Lamborn expresses real concern over the plan to re-direct DOD money to the wall. As a man with no less than five major military bases and facilities in his district, cuts to Pentagon spending directly impact his folks back home. Numbers as high as $100 million from Fort Carson construction alone have been floated.
Now, frankly, either action — vote in support of Mr. Trump or tell the DOD not to take any money from his district – would have made sense for Mr. Lamborn. But I’m not quite sure how he can hold these two seemingly orthogonal thoughts at the same time, but apparently, he can. Put another way, Mr. Lamborn wants his cake (being a good Trumpian) but he wants to eat it too (no cuts to his bases).
I’ve remarked before that the GOP these days depends on anger, apathy and amnesia. Mr. Lamborn’s actions would seem to be consistent with the GOP’s three A’s. But most of us recall that Mr. Trump’s mantra, repeated endlessly at his rallies, was that he was going to build the wall and (oh, you know this one, fill in the blank!) ___________ will pay for it. Well, Mexico is most assuredly not paying for the wall. Hence Mr. Trump’s emergency and Mr. Lamborn’s letter.
Before I get out my “hypocrite” stamp, let’s think about the wall for just a second? During my 25-plus-year military career, I had the privilege of taking a course at Sandia National Labs on perimeter security. Later, as a military advisor to an ambassador at the State Department, I dealt daily with border security issues, fences, and more (landmines, for example, which happily have not come to the president’s attention yet). So, the rant you are reading has at least a veneer of expertise on borders. And you know what turns out to be really, really hard?
It is very hard to construct a secure perimeter, let alone a massive and impenetrable international land border. You need, at a minimum, lots of different technologies and border guards. In some places, a wall makes sense, which is why several hundred miles of wall is already in place. But in other places, you need very different tools and technologies. The president regularly claims that Democrats want “open borders,” which is obviously not true, but which tests well with his base.
The analogy of the home builder is apt: When the only tool you have is a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail. Mr. Trump seems to think a wall is the solution everywhere, and Mr. Lamborn seems to agree, except when his own district is directly impacted. I’d respectfully suggest to the congressman that his usual pattern of at least being consistent is better than trying to be a Trump toady and the defender of the faith in CD-5. Time will tell. Stay tuned.
Hal Bidlack is a retired professor of political science and a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who taught more than 17 years at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.