Opinion | Government by Hannity

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President Trump’s emergency declaration for a border wall is based on an obvious falsehood: There is no emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border. And because he was goaded into the declaration by Sean Hannity, the episode makes a mockery of the federal government.

But in the relative scheme of Trump’s misbehavior, the emergency declaration doesn’t rank very high. It’s not corruption or obstruction of justice. It’s not an attempt to undermine America’s alliance with Western Europe. And it doesn’t even matter much for immigration policy. If you’re trying to calibrate your Trump-related outrage, you can take a deep breath this morning.

“A presidential declaration of emergency in order to construct a wall would be stupid,” Lawfare’s Quinta Jurecic wrote. “It would be wasteful. It would test the limits of the president’s authority under the law in question. But it would not, in itself, be a step toward authoritarianism.” (Here’s the longer version of her case.)

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“This will be challenged in courts immediately, and it will be pretty easy to throw this thing out,” Neal Katyal, a former acting solicitor general, predicted on Lawrence O’Donnell’s MSNBC show last night.

“Trump’s fake emergency is a sign of weakness not strength,” tweeted The New Yorker’s John Cassidy. “He ran on the wall, he had two years of Republican control of Congress, and he still couldn’t get it financed. Weak president.”

And Philip Klein of The Washington Examiner made the conservative case against the declaration: “The only hope for limited government conservatives is that any emergency declaration gets quickly enjoined, and eventually nixed, in federal court. At least then, the silver lining would be that a legal precedent would be set that the president cannot attempt such an end around Congress.”

The China rivalry

“I’ve always thought Americans would come together when we realized that we faced a dangerous foreign foe,” my colleague David Brooks writes. “And lo and behold, now we have one: China. It’s become increasingly clear that China is a grave economic, technological and intellectual threat to the United States and the world order.”

I agree that the United States has been too complacent about the geopolitical challenge that China poses.

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David Leonhardt is a former Washington bureau chief for the Times, and was the founding editor of The Upshot and head of The 2020 Project, on the future of the Times newsroom. He won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, for columns on the financial crisis. @DLeonhardt Facebook

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