Former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Tip O’Neill famously remarked that ultimately, all politics is local politics. I think it might have been a bit more accurate to say that some politics is local and national. A case in point can be found in a recent Colorado Politics story about Colorado 5th Congressional District U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn’s announcement that Peterson Air Force Base, located in Colorado Springs, will lose roughly $8 million in funding so that the money can be diverted toward the $3.6 billion President Trump is raiding from the military construction budget to start building his wall.
Note that I said “start building.” I said that on purpose, because to date, the most famous promise made by then-candidate Trump was to quickly build a magnificent wall and that Mexico would pay for it. In spite of the Republican Party controlling all three branches of government (yes, I said all three) for the first two years of his presidency, Mr. Trump and his allies have built, to date, exactly ZERO miles of new wall. You read that right, zero. He’s continued some sprucing up efforts on existing walls and has put up his odd “sample” wall sections for everyone to admire, but he’s built nothing new. (I can’t help but wonder a bit if in some distant future, aliens will visit the Earth and see those demo wall segments and will try to figure out their religious significance, but I digress…)
Let’s leave aside the argument about Mr. Trump’s vision for the wall. The simple truth is, there are places a wall makes sense (and is largely already in place) and there are places where a wall does not make sense, much to Mr. Trump and his supporters’ frustration. But even if you accept the need for a wall, and you somehow think that Mexico will pay for it (just like China is paying the tariffs, sigh), you should be troubled by the flat-out raiding of the DOD construction budget to fund a dubious undertaking on the border.
At Peterson, the money was to be used toward building a new space control facility. Recall that only in the last couple of weeks we saw Mr. Trump proudly squawking about his new “Space Force” because space is so important. What a difference a week makes.
I’m not surprised by Lamborn’s acquiescence to yet another foolish Trump dictum, but it is disappointing that he didn’t stand up for military construction in his own district. Mr. Lamborn is a true believer. He was when he smacked me down in the congressional election of 2008, and he remains a true believer in GOP orthodoxy to this day. But in 2019, the GOP canon has morphed into blind adherence to whatever Mr. Trump is tweeting about at the moment, and that’s really a shame. Oh, and let’s not forget the estimated 36,000 U.S. jobs that will be lost. But don’t worry, I’m sure a construction worker in Colorado Springs would be happy to relocate to a remote Texas border region to build the wall, right?
How did we get here? Well, first there were the two years when the GOP could do what it wanted, no matter how shameful (cough…Merrick Garland…cough), and yet his own Republican majorities would not deliver massive wall spending. So, the president used the emergency powers previously held for presidents in time of war to simply change the funding passed and signed into law in the form of the DOD budget and took money slotted for other uses and is spending it on the wall. So, if your military friends stationed in, say, Germany don’t get the new base daycare facility built, if other military folks must deal with substandard housing, no worries, because, you know – the wall!
It would be simpler and cheaper if Mr. Trump simply used the same sharpie he used to “fix” the hurricane chart to draw in some walls on a picture of the border. He could even draw in lots of dollar symbols flowing up from the south to simulate Mexico paying for the wall.
We are being led, so to speak, by a man who thinks it’s ok to simply draw a new line on a hurricane forecast map to make sure that his early tweet was still “correct.” We have a Senate led by Mitch McConnell, who has refused to even bring up for debate over 250 bills passed by the House. Perhaps Speaker O’Neill was correct, but in 2019 his truism needs updating: All politics is local, even when it is national. I’m quite sure the person who was going to do the drywall in the new space center would agree. I’ll see if I can get ahold of him, but he may already be heading for the border.
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.