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Trump Picked the Wrong Hostage in Battle Over Confederate-Named Military Bases

The Senate’s senior Republican won’t follow Trump’s Lost Cause crusade if it means endangering the defense bill. Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

As part of his latest, bizarre effort to make defense of Confederate memorials a culture-war line in the sand, the president recently threatened to veto the current defense reauthorization bill that is moving through Congress if it includes language about removing the names of rebel leaders from U.S. military facilities. His wording of the threat was not equivocal and had the flourish of a familiar racist slur:

It’s now looking like Trump chose exactly the wrong hostage for this particular temper tantrum. The defense authorization bill, you see, is one of the few remaining must-pass items in Washington, and it is particularly beloved by Republican senators who understand that they must not only have cooperation from a decent number of Democratic senators but they must also get a deal with the Democratic House. Already, the most senior Republican senator is counter-threatening a revolt, as the Hill reports:

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is warning that Congress would likely override President Trump if he vetoes a mammoth defense policy bill amid the fight over a plan to rename Army bases named after Confederate figures.

Chuck Grassley also told the Des Moines Register that he had no “objection” to renaming bases, contradicting earlier remarks he had made. His junior Iowa colleague, Joni Ernst, voted for Elizabeth Warren’s amendment in the Armed Services Committee. It’s a good guess that concern over letting the defense bill fall into a deep ditch is convincing more and more Republicans that the president’s affection for the Lost Cause is a loser.

Perhaps Trump will back down. Otherwise, the bill with Warren’s language is likely headed for his desk this month, and he might face the spectacle of a bipartisan veto override that would show just how isolated he has become just a few months before he faces voters.

Trump Picks Bad Hostage in Fight for Confederate-Named Bases