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Krull: A Slow Learners Guide to National Emergencies

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These folks don’t learn.

Maybe they can’t.

Both houses of Congress have arrived at a compromise deal that averts another federal government shutdown. It contains only about a quarter of the $5.7 billion President Donald Trump wanted to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

For that reason, the loudest and least thoughtful voices on the right – Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh – have yapped that Trump shouldn’t sign the measure. That would mean another shutdown.

Given that the last shutdown sent the president’s and the Republican Party’s public approval numbers not just into the toilet but all the way down to the sewer, there was no way the GOP stalwarts in the U.S. Senate were going to go along with another shutdown.

This created a political problem for the president.

He can’t afford another shutdown, but he also needs the support of the people to whom Hannity, Coulter and Limbaugh speak. If his base abandons him now, as the investigations of Special Counsel Robert Mueller and other law enforcement agencies circle closer and closer, Trump will be like a hunk of fresh, bleeding meat in a tank full of sharks.

So, to get out of the mess he’s made for himself, the president has decided to declare a national emergency and redirect $8 billion to building the wall.

It’s an end run around the budget process, one that’s unprecedented.

But it seems to have the blessing of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky. Perhaps condoning the national emergency stunt was the price McConnell had to pay to keep Trump from engaging in another shutdown, which would have created needless hardship for millions of Americans and been a disaster for the GOP.

Other Republicans have been less sanguine. They have expressed misgivings about the president’s attempt to circumvent the budget-making process, which the Constitution clearly leaves to Congress.

They should be concerned.

The president’s trumped-up national emergency should be and will be challenged in court.

The best-case scenario for both the nation and the GOP is that Trump’s trick loses there.

If it doesn’t lose in a court – if it stands and establishes a precedent – where we will go is no place good.

Thoughtful Republicans have said they worry the president’s plan to declare a national emergency to build a wall would create a justification for a Democratic president to declare an emergency regarding climate change.

That’s wishful thinking on their part.

Climate change never would have been the target of such a plan, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, made clear.

“You want to talk about a national emergency? Let’s talk about today. The one-year anniversary of another manifestation of the epidemic of gun violence in America. That’s a national emergency. Why don’t you declare that emergency, Mr. President?” Pelosi asked in her weekly press conference.

“A Democratic president could,” she added.

It would be worse than a mistake for a Democratic president to declare a national emergency to deal with our horrific national tragedy of gun violence.

It would be wrong.

I say this not out of sympathy for the gun lobby.

One of the problems we have in this country involves stifling honest debate and respect for the process. Legislators with a slavish obeisance to the gun lobby tout their devotion to the Constitution through selective readings of the Second Amendment. They use that as justification for denying other Americans the constitutional right to petition government for redress of grievances.

Like Trump, they use stunts to thwart the process.

As a result, we have government at the federal and state levels that exacerbates divisions as often as it bridges them.

Republicans should have learned by now how costly this sort of game-playing can be in the long run.

Their presidential candidate, Donald Trump, lost the popular vote in 2016 by nearly 3 million ballots. Two years later, in the congressional races, that number swelled to 10 million – and the GOP lost long-time conservative bastions such as Orange County in California, where residents voted for Democrats out of desperation.

A wise man once told me, “Most people can learn from their own mistakes. Smart people learn from others’ mistakes.”

Democrats now would be wise to heed that counsel.

John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism,t and publisher of, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.


John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism and publisher of, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.