No Mr. Pence, “Rebuilding the Military” Was Not Trump’s Number One Priority

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Congressional Republicans offered up a lame budget this week, funding sanctuary cities and Planned Parenthood, but not the wall on our southern border. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer are giddy with excitement, realizing that despite being electorally trounced over the past eight years, they still run Congress. Leading me to ask the question, “Why bother voting for Republicans?” Others are asking as well.

Rush Limbaugh had a rare guest on his radio program this week, Vice President Mike Pence. Discussing the budget deal, Rush asked, “Mr. Vice President, why vote Republican? What is the point of voting Republican if the Democrats are gonna continue to win practically 95% of their objectives, such as in this last budget deal?” Good question.

VP Pence, good soldier for the Trump administration, attempted to put whipped cream and a cherry on top of the pile of budget excrement and call it a hot fudge sundae. Mr. Pence emphasized the “$21 billion increase in defense spending” as the big win for Republicans and Americans.

Rush responded by pointing out some of the glaring deficiencies. “That’s a small price to pay for continuing to fund refugee resettlement, continuing to fund Planned Parenthood, continuing to fund sanctuary cities, continuing to fund the EPA, and not build the wall.”

VP Pence didn’t flinch, nor did he answer Rush, instead proclaiming, “The number one priority of President Trump is to rebuild our military, to restore the arsenal of democracy.” Really?

Was this Candidate Trump’s number one priority? At packed campaign rallies, were his supporters chanting “Build that military” or were they shouting, “Build that wall”? Not only at campaign events but at post-election rallies including the one in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania last week. I don’t recall any chanting about building up the military, but did hear calls to “Build that wall” and “Lock her up.”

What were candidate Trump’s campaign priorities? So-called fact checker Politifact chronicled Donald Trump’s top ten campaign promises as of July 2016. One can argue about Politifact’s credibility, but I have no reason to dispute this list of Trump campaign promises after listening to his speeches, interviews and debates over the previous year.

What was number one? Rebuilding the military, as VP Pence told us? Actually not. Number one was “Build a wall – and make Mexico pay for it.” His top priority, first mentioned after gliding down the escalator at Trump Tower to announce his candidacy for president.

Then there was the temporary immigration ban. Bringing manufacturing jobs back to the US. Tariffs and trade deals, repealing Obamacare, renegotiating the Iran deal, cutting taxes and defeating ISIS. No mention of “rebuilding the military.”

Make no mistake, rebuilding the military is not a bad idea, especially after years of neglect and social engineering under the Obama administration. But it wasn’t a campaign issue, not one of Trump’s core issues that propelled him to the White House.

So, what about those campaign priorities? The immigration ban is being held hostage by activist judges. Manufacturing jobs are indeed returning to the US. Obamacare repeal and replacement is going nowhere due to ongoing disagreement between House conservatives and various moderate day-of-the-week study groups. ISIS is still in business. Tax cuts are a work in progress, although early signs suggest if anything can be agreed upon by Congress, it will be underwhelming.

Yet VP Pence has just moved the goalposts, proclaiming victory based on achieving what has suddenly become President Trump’s number one priority. While his real number one priority, if I heard him correctly over the past two years, building the wall, was left unfunded in the current budget.

This reminds me of the Democrats suddenly deciding that the popular vote is more important than the Electoral College, only after their candidate lost the election using the only metric that counts.

This is a defining moment for the Trump administration. Dance with the supporters and voters who brought you to the dance. Or morph into yet another Bush administration, talking tough but dancing with the Democrats.

He should veto the bill that actually reflects little of his agenda. Let the government shut down. Force Congress to respect the will of the voters rather than that of the donor class. Folding like a cheap suit after the first hundred days is not the way to make America great again.

Brian C Joondeph, MD, MPS, a Denver based physician and writer. Follow him on Facebook,  LinkedIn and Twitter.