In 2015, Graham said Donald Trump was a “jackass.” In February 2016, he said: “I’m not going to try to get into the mind of Donald Trump, because I don’t think there’s a whole lot of space there. I think he’s a kook, I think he’s crazy, I think he’s unfit for office.” And: “I’m a Republican and he’s not. He’s not a conservative Republican. He’s an opportunist.” Today, Graham, paladin of conservatism and scourge of opportunism, says building the border wall is an existential matter for the GOP: “If we undercut the president, that’s the end of his presidency and the end of our party.” Well.After marveling that any Republican thinks the party of Lincoln could be ended by disloyalty to Trump, Will continues:
During the government shutdown, Graham’s tergiversations — sorry, this is the precise word — have amazed. On a recent day, in 90 minutes he went from “I don’t know” whether the president has the power to declare an emergency and divert into wall-building funds appropriated by Congress for other purposes, to “Time for President . . . to use emergency powers to build Wall.” The next day, he scrambled up the escalation ladder by using capitalization: “Declare a national emergency NOW. Build a wall NOW.” Two days later, he scampered down a few rungs, calling for his hero to accept a short-term funding measure to open the government while wall negotiations continue. Stay tuned for more acrobatics.The partisan leanings of Senators and Representatives used to be somewhat balanced by loyalty to their own institutions, but over the past 25 years this seems to have completely disappeared. Leaving us, as Will says, with nothing but loyalty to the party and its leaders of the moment.
But stay focused on this: Anyone — in Graham-speak, ANYONE — who at any time favors declaring an emergency, or who does not denounce the mere suggestion thereof, thereby abandons constitutional government. Yes, such a declaration would be technically legal. Congress has put on every president’s desk this (to adopt Justice Robert Jackson’s language in his dissent from the Supreme Court’s 1944 Korematsu decision affirming the constitutionality of interning of U.S. citizens and noncitizens of Japanese descent) “loaded weapon, ready for the hand of any authority that can bring forward a plausible claim of an urgent need.” Or an implausible one. However, an anti-constitutional principle would be affirmed. The principle: Any president can declare an emergency and “repurpose” funds whenever any of his policy preferences that he deems unusually important are actively denied or just ignored by the legislative branch.