President Donald Trump loves the military. Just ask him. He loves North Carolina, a state that helped elect him in 2016. Just ask him when he’s at a rally here. And he loves N.C. Sen. Thom Tillis, who supports just about everything Trump wants. Ask Trump about that, too.
What the president wouldn’t want us to ask him is why, then, he is taking millions of dollars designated for projects on military bases in North Carolina to build his border wall with Mexico, in a move that hurts the military and the state. The loss of funds could also hurt Tillis, who is up for re-election next year, and who in March voted to support the dubious emergency declaration that Trump is using to justify his raid on military construction funds.
North Carolina won’t be the only state suffering because of Trump’s tantrum, but it’s one of the hardest hit. There’s Camp Lejeune, the huge Marine base at Jacksonville, which is struggling after being hit hard last year by Hurricane Florence. Trump is taking $40 million that was supposed to go to a new battalion complex and ambulatory care center there. He’s also taking $6.4 million for a storage facility at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base at Goldsboro.
Elsewhere, the list of hits goes on, including Puerto Rico, which is still devastated by last year’s hurricane. More than $400 million is being taken from needed projects there.
Across the country and at vital bases in Guam and in Europe, projects won’t be getting money that officials were counting on. And for what? For Trump’s ego and his bragging rights to his base, which loved his loud promises to build a wall but seems to have forgotten the part about making Mexico pay for it.
Failing to persuade Congress to pay for his wall, Trump hit upon the idea of declaring a national emergency so that he could use funds intended for the military. It doesn’t matter that desperate refugees crossing the border from Mexico — many of them children — are hardly the threat to national security that, say, the Russians or Chinese or the North Koreans are.
Don’t be fooled by Pentagon officials’ statements that they are justified in shifting $3.6 billion in military construction funds to the wall to support the troops that have been sent to the border. Trump is notorious for ordering his subordinates to make such statements, as we’ve just seen with NOAA and the Alabama hurricane story. And it’s questionable whether all those troops are needed at the border.
Probably worse than the damage being done to military readiness is the longer-term damage Trump is inflicting on the Constitution. Congress, not the president, is supposed to control the purse strings. Congress, realizing the wall would be more symbol than deterrent, refused to appropriate money for it.
For Trump to declare a phony “emergency” under a Cold War-era law just to get the wall he wants is childish, but worse, it’s a dangerous precedent. Future presidents may be tempted to declare emergencies, ignoring Congress and the Constitution, to get money for their pet projects. And those projects may not be so appealing to Trump’s base.
This editorial has been updated to reflect that a Fort Bragg elementary school project on the list of cuts had previously been canceled.