Graham: Trump budget could cause ‘a lot of Benghazis’

And you know that, coming from Lindsey Graham, that’s a bad thing.

Here’s what The Washington Post is reporting:

The Trump administration’s fiscal 2018 State Department budget proposal irresponsibly cuts diplomacy and diplomatic security in a way that could cause “a lot of Benghazis,” according to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C), chairman of the Senate appropriations subcommittee on the State Department and foreign operations. He promised that Congress would reject the cuts.Graham mug

“If we implemented this budget, we’d have to retreat from the world and put a lot of people at risk,” Graham said on the day the Trump administration is releasing its detailed budget proposal for next year. “A lot of Benghazis in the making if we actually implemented the State Department cuts.”

Overall, the Trump administration is proposing to cut the budget for the State Department and USAID, from the $54.9 billion estimated total in fiscal 2017 to $37.6 billion in fiscal 2018 — a reduction of $17.3 billion, or 31 percent. Not counting emergency funding, known as Overseas Contingency Operations funding, the Trump budget would cut the State Department and USAID by 29 percent.

“A 29 percent cut means you really have to withdraw from the world because your presence is compromised,” Graham said. “That may be the goal of this budget. It’s not my goal. This guts soft power as we know it.”…

As is usually the case when Graham tries to hold Trump accountable, I agree wholeheartedly…


71 thoughts on “Graham: Trump budget could cause ‘a lot of Benghazis’

  1. Mark Stewart

    Graham’s legitimizing what was nothing but a clownish effort highlighting deficient math, magical thinking, historical illiteracy and near-total moral depravity by slithering into the weeds of this “budget”.

    Mick Mulvaney’s budget isn’t on any level worthy of consideration by anyone. Except by the voter’s across this nation; who ought to be paying close attention to this petulant display of ill-informed bile.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      How is it “legitimizing” to say, hey, folks, if you implement this “America First” garbage, you’ll have national security disasters all over the globe?

      As for the voters across the nation: The people who really need to hear what Graham’s saying refuse to listen. Everything I’ve seen indicates that in spite of all, the people who voted for Trump would do it again.

      And if that state of affairs continues, we need to think long and hard about whether this whole democracy experiment is a complete failure…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        And what Graham’s trying to do here is explain the stakes in terms some of those folks MIGHT be able to understand. It remains to be seen whether that is even possible….

        1. Mark Stewart

          It’s not. We need to stop tailoring our nation to the lowest common denominator.

          The GOP quest for perfectly “safe” redistricting has lead to the current situation where the fringe elements rule. The percentage of people who really can’t follow what is going on hasn’t changed much through time; we have just recently created a system that over-values their input into the national discourse.

      2. bud

        Go read Nate Silvers article in 538. He make a persuasive case that Trump voters are losing their enthusiasm. Most published polling, Realclearpolitics for example, only breaks down the responses into approve/disapprove. Using that binary metric Trumps approval hasn’t dropped all that much (it’s still low by historic standards). But most pollsters give 4 options: strongly approve, somewhat approve, somewhat disapprove, strongly disapprove. Trumps strongly approve numbers are way down, while his somewhat approve are about the same or even a bit higher. His strongly disapprove numbers are very high. This suggests his base is eroding and could collapse unless he gets something passed in congress. This budget proposal is unlikely to assuage anyone.

        1. Dave

          Yes. And also his ceiling of support appears to be 46% and he’s almost certainly below that now. The problem for the Dems in 2016 was that they nominated a candidate who wasn’t able to consolidate a majority against him despite the fact that 54% didn’t vote for him. So if they can find a more attractive candidate (meaning in terms of being able to get support) they could be in good shape regardless. Secondly, the Republicans remain in a demographic death spiral. So differential mortality (Trump’s voters are older than the rest of the country) before 2020 should also help the Democrats.

          Bottom line is that Democrats are highly likely to have the House of Representatives after 2018. Meaning almost certain articles of impeachment against Trump. Which will energize their base, particularly when those articles die in the Senate. Combine that with several 2020 candidates out there who are likely to garner more support than Clinton did (Biden, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker) and we may be looking at the apex of Republican power in this country.

          Going forward, the demographic trends are very good for Dems in states like NC, FL, GA, and AZ. None of this is to say that the Democrats are guaranteed of winning in 2020. But the glass is more than half full for them.

      3. bud

        We need to think to think long and hard about whether this whole democracy experiment is a failure.

        We don’t have a democracy, at least regarding the presidency. We have this mongrel travesty that made a Trump presidency possible. To suggest that we do is just incorrect. Therefore it is illogical to say that something non-existent has failed.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Well, of course, we don’t NEED, nor should we want, direct democracy. Perish the thought.

          I just mean to the extent we ARE democratic — in terms of letting the people vote whether they know what they’re doing or not — the system is in crisis.

          I know Bud thinks the answer is to be MORE democratic, but what I’m saying is that, after having believed in our setup for so long, I’m having a crisis of faith that suggests ANY amount of democracy is problematic.

          Big-D Democrats think they have this powerful point when they say Hillary “won” the popular vote. They’re completely ignoring the fact that this was so close that it could easily have gone the other way. A word here, a gesture there out on the stump, and Trump could have won the electoral AND the popular vote — or just the popular vote and not the electoral, in which case some of his backers might be in a state of armed insurrection now.

          The PROBLEM is that it was so CLOSE. The problem is that there were so many people willing to vote for someone so grossly unfit, even though he seemed to go out of his way to make that obvious every day of the campaign.

          Bud seems to think that if Hillary had squeaked by, things would be fine. But they wouldn’t be. From the time Trump captured the GOP nomination, it was a tossup who would win. And THAT tells us something very basic is wrong in our country.

          THAT fact is what shakes my faith in democracy on a fundamental level.

          Always in the past, there were fringe candidates who gained SOME support, but on the whole the people exhibited the Wisdom of Crowds and shoved these marginal people off to the side. They never got close to winning a major-party nomination, much less the presidency.

          In our 240-year history, we had never come close to anything as awful as this. The system had worked. Now, it just seems to have collapsed…

  2. Claus2

    I really don’t care what Lindsey Graham thinks anymore… think of me as bud listening to Donald Trump. Let’s keep increasing that national debt and running a non-ending federal deficit. At least require EBT card holders to get drug tested and/or be denied if convicted of a felony. I’m tired of seeing able-bodied people with shopping carts full of junk food whip out their EBT card while I stand behind them with a small handheld basket of real food and my debit card.

    1. Claus2

      Brad, why don’t you get some help moderating your site? 3:02 pm yesterday and the message is still sitting there. Worst run blog ever…

        1. Claus2

          For those of us without immediate posting rights, it shouldn’t take nearly 24 hours to get a comment posted. Maybe get someone to help moderate this site, a post shouldn’t have to sit for more than an hour before being posted or rejected.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Bryan pitches in sometimes, but like me he has a day job.

            I probably don’t have an answer that’s going to make you happy. But I do try to keep up. Yesterday I didn’t have time even to LOOK at the blog until about 6 p.m….

            1. Bryan Caskey

              Yeah. I’ve been busy. Work, kids, and stuff just piles up.

              Also, Nuke’s scared because his eyelids are jammed and his old man’s here. We need a live… is it a live rooster? We need a live rooster to take the curse off Jose’s glove and nobody seems to know what to get Millie or Jimmy for their wedding present.

              Is that about right?

              [the players nod]

              We’re dealing with a lot of sh*#.

            2. Claus2

              So from 6:00 p.m. to 11:22 a.m. you’re unable to click Approve or Deny on a message? I doubt you have dozens of moderated messages to read each day.

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      “think of me as bud listening to Donald Trump…”

      Actually, Bud feels the same way you do about Graham. Both of y’all should think long and hard about that fact…

  3. Richard

    There are countries we do not need to be in, why are we still in Germany? Are we concerned they’ll start WWIII the day after we leave?

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Because Russia. Note that we did not have all those troops in Ukraine, and see what happened.

      But you make a good point. Ze Germans had this thing in their national character that was pretty marked BEFORE Hitler. They had this idea that they were a master race born to rule in the First War, too.

      Is it completely gone? It appears so — they’re way pacifist by all appearances, but still… Mark me down as someone happy to pay way more than our share for collective security rather than having European countries spend proportionally. If the Europeans paid proportionally, you know which army would be the biggest over there — the Wehrmacht. I’m sorry, I meant the Bundeswehr!

      1. Claus2

        You don’t think Germany can stand on their own against Russia? Would other European countries immediately help Germany if Russia stepped out of line against them? Who would you put your money on in a fight…. Russia or Europe? There’s no reason for us to be there anymore.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author


          Hitler tried harder than anyone in history to wipe them out, and his Wehrmacht was the perfect instrument for doing it. He killed more than 20 million of them.

          But they wouldn’t lie down, and they STILL beat him….

          1. Claus2

            So if they’re able to take on Russia, what would become of our little bases over there if Germany decided they didn’t want us there any longer? Our troops would be immediately surrounded.

            1. Bryan Caskey

              You’re wondering what would happen to the United States military if Germany didn’t want us in Germany anymore? Huh.

              I assume that means Germany would be pulling out of NATO, and going it alone, as far as that would be concerned. Then, I suppose they would probably politely ask us to leave before they were required to use force of arms to eject our military forces from their soil. Then I assume they would begin a massive military buildup followed by mobilization, whereby the military of Germany would attack France. When they marched into France, they would “let the last man on the right brush the Channel with his sleeve”.

              At that point, France would be slightly put off about the whole thing, fight back, we would eventually come in to the war, and fight against Germany. Putin, seeing Europe in turmoil would immediately mobilize the Russian Army and invade Eastern Europe, forcing Chancellor Merkel to fight back on a two-front war.

              Eventually, the US led allies and the Russians would drive on Germany, split her up into different occupied sectors. and then coexist in an uneasy detente.

              Stop me if you’ve heard this story before….

              1. Claus2

                You assume too much.

                What you’re stating is if we leave Germany, Germany will immediately start attacking other countries… is that correct?

                Who owns the land that we’re occupying in Germany?

                1. Bryan Caskey

                  No, that’s not correct.

                  I’m saying if the political climate in Germany gets to a point where the German government wants us to leave, they’re likely to also want out of NATO and attack their neighbors.

                  I imagine Germany owns the land our bases are on and is leasing it to us.

              2. Brad Warthen Post author

                Apparently, since you said, “let the last man on the right brush the Channel with his sleeve,” you don’t mean they would go straight into France, but take their usual route through Belgium.

                Of course. To do otherwise would be to break with the immemorial custom of the (German) service…

              1. Claus2

                Great another Hollywood example of the world. Brad has a clip of anything discussed here.

      2. Richard

        So how long do we have to stick around? I believe Germany can hold their own on this thing.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Longer than you or I will be around.

          For awhile there, it looked like Europe was on its way to peace and prosperity.

          But now, with the forces that produced Brexit and Trump swirling around, Europe’s future is more uncertain than it’s been in a generation.

          So we need to stick around, like control rods in a nuclear reactor.

          Our troops need to be somewhere. The best place to station them is somewhere where their presence serves a purpose…

  4. Harry Harris

    The Trump budget may cause a lot of deaths, and not just among overseas diplomats. Cutbacks in medical research, medical education, access to health insurance, community policing, housing assistance, SSI for handicapped people will take a toll on many people, perhaps a death toll.
    On Graham’s point, I would add that additional military tools and toys will do little good and probable harm without the on-the-ground intelligence and presence to make their use smart and effective. The lack of that presence was a great factor allowing us to be pushed and tricked into the ill-advised Iraq war.

    On a similar front, Mulvaney is dangerously over his head, without the experience or acumen to head the budget of this country. He has little more than ideology to guide him. Interesting that Larry Summers characterized the big “math” error in the budget outline as a mistake that would flunk a freshman in economics 101. Ironic that Mulvaney replaced John Spratt, a budgetary expert (and admirable gentleman), who was relied upon by both sides of the aisle in the House as a steady hand and dependable counsel on budget and monetary matters. How far down the TEA party has dragged us! Older-school Republicans must be inwardly suffering from regret. A few are fixing to begin to start getting ready to rethink some things and speak out.

      1. Harry Harris

        He has a degree in economics, I think, but little experience. I think ideology is the only thing he uses. Even a spreadsheet, which has no real intelligence, only rules, would catch a 2 trillion dollar double-counting error – unless one overrules it with ideology hoping nobody will scrutinize the numbers. In Trump World, nobody does. There will be numerous explanations given for assumptions and accounting tricks so outrageous that the already discredited claims of the supply-siders in power in the House and Senate will seem moderate.

        1. Mark Stewart

          Mulvaney said as much; he went through the Federal budget line by line and deleted what was “unnecessary.” It isn’t a budget in any sense; it’s a manifesto. It’s all just magical thinking; unhinged and unmoored.

          I kind of feel sorry for the guy; he will never again be considered credible by anyone able to discern anything.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              I never gave Mulvaney much thought when he was in the Legislature, and didn’t know much about him — except that another member I respected said something super-dismissive about him once. So that was the one impression I had of him.

              Next thing I know, he’s defeating the brightest and best congressman I’ve seen from this state in the 30 years I’ve been covering it. Why? Well, Spratt was ill. But mostly because “Tea Party.”

              1. Mark Stewart

                Well, the 5th District voters thought he was; now it is – or should be – likely that more of them look at him as they should see him. It might have been that they should have seen him more clearly back then, too, but as you said, too many went off the rails fretting about our black Kenyan President… and the glory of the Gadsden flag.

              2. Bryan Caskey

                “I never gave Mulvaney much thought when he was in the Legislature…”

                For some reason, it made me think of the scene in Mad Men, when Ginsberg says to Don, “I feel bad for you” and Don retorts, “I don’t think about you at all.”

                Now that I’m typing that scene out, it makes me think that was probably an homage to the Bogart line in Casablanca where Ugarte says “You despise me, don’t you?” and Rick retorts, If I gave you any thought I probably would.”

                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  Yeah, that was a great one. On the one hand it made be feel bad for Ugarte, but it wanted me to give Rick a high-five with the other hand…

  5. Bart

    Graham comments on what his area of expertise entails for the most part. The comment about cutting the State Department’s budget is in his “wheel house” and therefore, what else would anyone expect him to say?

    I agree Mulvaney is in over his head so far, there is not a ladder with enough reach to even get him to a level playing field. John Spratt was a very good representative for all of the people in his district, Democrat and Republican. When he was voted out in favor of Mulvaney, South Carolina lost. This was a lose-lose situation.

    Budgets are mostly based on projections and the information used for projections are usually pie in the sky wishes and things hoped for. For a budget to succeed, all aspects of the projections must come to fruition. Since that has never happened, what else can we expect other than failure and political baiting for both sides.

  6. Lynn Teague

    Graham is right about this. That is a contrast to his statements on health care, in which he treats health care as no more than a game of partisan advantage and power. Maybe there is some consistency in this, if everything is about power games. Perhaps that is just how the world looks to him.

  7. Bart

    Changing the subject from Trump’s budget to the NATO contribution issue, Trump just addressed the members of NATO and took the opportunity to publicly address the fact that of the member nations, only three are paying their fair share and more. I have no problem with addressing the issue in a meeting but to do this in public is one more example of the lack of leadership and the Dale Carnegie way to “Win Friends and Influence People”. Trump is a dismal and miserable failure when it comes to engaging a serious issue in the correct format and not in an open setting with member nations standing in line and being chastised. If reminds me of the way Obama addressed the SCOTUS when he delivered the State of the Union address a few years ago.

    When you, Trump, have what is basically a captive audience and they exercise good manners and do not walk out, start shouting (“You lie” Wilson), or display a lack of civility and use the opportunity to do what Trump did is inexcusable.

    The United States pays contributes to most of NATO’s budget and it is right to ask the member nations to do their part but do it in a proper setting at a negotiation table. But, this is what so many voters wanted, a “businessman” telling it like it is. Well, they got it and by doing so, they have basically insured the fall of the Republican Party for the immediate future. Come 2018 and 2020, voters will be of the same mindset they held when they chose to vote for anyone but Clinton and chose Trump. A chimpanzee could run against Trump in 2020 and win.

    1. Bryan Caskey

      I didn’t see the speech so I can’t comment on the tone or propriety, but just in general, I don’t have a problem with calling out NATO member countries in public if they aren’t meeting their existing obligations. I mean, if it’s true – it’s true. Partners are honest with each other.

      One of the President’s biggest assets is that when he talks, it’s news. So if the President is talking about NATO member countries not living up to obligations, then maybe that puts some pressure on them to start doing so. Sure, there are quiet ways of asking, but by publicly calling them out, Trump has essentially announced that he’s going to work to hold them accountable for doing what they’re supposed to do, and again, I don’t have a problem with that.

      I think NATO is a good organization. It serves a good purpose. The USA is undoubtedly the biggest member of NATO. But that’s okay.

      It’s sort of like a situation at a school I used to go to way back in the day. I’ll tell you the story:

      There’s a big kid named Sam, who’s a nice kid, and he forms an alliance with a bunch of of other kids who are smaller, weaker, and can easily get picked on by the other really big kid named Ivan who’s always cutting social studies class and causing problems.

      Part of the deal Sam forms with the smaller kids is that if any of them ever get picked on by Ivan, Sam will step in and (along with the rest of the smaller kids) protect the member of the alliance. The other part of the deal is that if Sam ever gets picked on by Ivan, all the smaller kids will jump in the fight on Sam’s side. So this works out really well for the small kids. They get a good protection deal out of it.

      The last part of the deal that Sam gets the smaller kids to agree to is essentially: Look guys, it would be really helpful to me if you would each do a few pushups every now and then to try and get a little stronger. Maybe learn to throw a punch or something so you’re not such a pathetically weak target. It will make it less likely that Ivan will pick on you, and it will make it easier on me. Rather than constantly having to go around protecting you all the time and getting worn down, it will help me be more fresh if I have to step in less often. Also, it will help me out if you aren’t completely pathetic if Ivan ever comes after me.

      So eventually, the deal works out so well that the small kids stop doing push-ups and they forget how to throw a punch because they don’t ever go to the gym. Sam is still strong and training hard, keeping up his end of the deal to be ready to step in and protect against Ivan. And then he looks around and sees all the small kids who are just as pathetic and weak as ever.

      I don’t think Sam is out of line to call a public meeting and fuss at the small kids for not keeping up with the minimal push-ups and once a month gym time.

      1. bud

        One of the “smaller” kids is named Frederich. He weighs in at 82 million people and can throw an economic punch of $3.4 trillion (nominal). This makes Frederich a middle weight with big right hook. Ivan by comparison weighs in at a bloated, out of shape 144 million with a nominal GDP of $1.6 trillion. Is Sam really necessary to protect Frederich and his 26 smaller buddies from Ivan?

        1. Bryan Caskey

          Yeah, but Friedrich’s dad and granddad both had big problems controlling their temper and got into trouble for spousal abuse, so little Freidrich is sort of hesitant to get violent. If he does, he’s got a family history of getting carried away.


          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            And last time around, Friedrich’s Vater wanted to kill Ivan and all his relatives, and went pretty far in doing so. Which is why when Friedrich stands up and starts flexing, people get nervous…

      2. Bart

        “Partners are honest with each other.” I have no problem with your comment. What I do have a problem with is when in a diplomatic setting like the one today, choosing that particular time to call out your partners is the wrong time and the wrong place. We each have an opinion about NATO and I for one am not sure it is as effective as it could be and I agree that the US pays the lion’s share of the operating budget.

        If I am in a partnership with several others and in a very public meeting the leading member of the partnership does what Trump did, I for one would take exception to the forum, not necessarily the subject.

        NATO is needed even though the “cold war” is supposedly over. However, considering the attempted interference in our elections by Russia, I don’t think the chill in the air has completely diminished and if anything, the temperature may be dropping. By not coming out and committing to the agreement but leaving it in a semi-state of limbo, some relationships will cool off between the US and our allies.

          1. Bob Amundson

            Notice POTUS did not even mention Article 5, aka the mutual assistance clause. Why would NATO members earmark more money to support NATO if they can’t be sure POTUS will assist member countries if they are attacked? The last time Article 5 was invoked was after the attacks of 9-11.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author


              Less than 20 years ago when our country was still sane, I attended a ceremony in the East Room of the White House celebrating the 50th anniversary of NATO. It was in no way controversial. Bill Clinton presided — at the height of the Lewinsky scandal — and people from across the political spectrum (a narrower, saner spectrum in those days) were there to celebrate with him. Strom Thurmond came in on Clinton’s arm, and the president escorted him to the front row and got him seated before ascending the podium.

              The “America Firsters” had not yet started driving our national conversation.

              Better times…

              1. Bryan Caskey

                Here’s the link to his remarks. Here’s the last paragraph of his remarks:

                “We will never forget the lives that were lost. We will never forsake the friends who stood by our side. And we will never waiver in our determination to defeat terrorism and to achieve lasting security, prosperity and peace.”

                Sounds like a commitment to me.

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      The reason Trump raised the NATO participation issue in public rather than “in the correct format” is that it’s not about getting the other nations to pay their share, it’s about being seen by his nativist base in the U.S. pushing the foreigners around…

      With Trump, it’s always about being seen. Which is why he shoves aside people who are in the way of his preening for the camera…

      1. Claus2

        “With Trump, it’s always about being seen. Which is why he shoves aside people who are in the way of his preening for the camera…”

        Apparently this is okay for Lindsey Graham, but not the most powerful man in the world.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Actually, I have never seen Graham manhandle the head of another country aside, step in front of the cameras, and pose sticking his chin out like Mussolini.

          And to your point — can you imagine being president of the United States, having more attention focused on you than anyone else in the world, and still being THAT desperate to stand out front?

          Really, as a Trump supporter, do you not feel at ALL embarrassed looking at this?

  8. bud

    Actually Trump had it about right when he said NATO was obsolete. (Even a blind squirrel occasionally finds an acorn). The Soviet Union is no more. They are zero threat to the USA from a military perspective. (Cyber security is another matter) The neocons will occasionally make some noise about the horrible Russians “invading” Ukraine or Georgia or Crimea. That kind of gum flapping should be ignored for the jingoism that it is. But at the end of the day all this is just creating headaches for the Russians, not us. So whether Trump’s public whining about money is making an ass of himself or if he’s just addressing a genuine concern is irrelevant to the main issue – the question of whether the US should even be a part of NATO. I say no.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Two points, Bud:

      1. “The Soviet Union is no more.” You need to get on a plane, go over and ‘splain that to Putin.

      2. “That kind of gum flapping should be ignored for the jingoism that it is.” What the WHAT? You said that in reference to “the horrible Russians ‘invading’ Ukraine or Georgia or Crimea.” You just don’t care at ALL about people in other countries, do you? To hell with the Ukrainians, Georgia, Crimea, the Baltics, Scandinavia and the rest of Europe, right? They’re not Americans. And yet you’re saying the people who DO care what happens out in the world are the jingoists? Don’t you think you have that exactly backwards? I do…

      1. bud

        I care plenty. But getting all fired up every time anyone anywhere makes a provocative move doesn’t help, it just makes things worse. The folks in eastern Ukraine feel a kinship with the Russians. How can any military measures by the US be appropriate in that context? Have we made the people of Iraq or Afghanistan or Syria any better off for all our bombs?

  9. Harry Harris

    NATO is and has been useful in a number of ways. In the Middle East, NATO participation has allowed the US to be involved in backing perceived allies without the stigma and some of the difficulties of acting alone. Several NATO countries have ties and influence there that are helpful. In eastern Europe, the alliance has beefed-up presence in countries and areas that would be more prone to hegemony and internal fighting without the alliance. The alliance also provides a network for the presence of detection, spying, deterrent, and forward basing of forces for use in West European, East European, and Middle East territory. It also keeps allies’ military and intelligence forces attuned and partially integrated. Trump changed his tune about NATO after he started to get the picture. He just can’t turn down a chance to grandstand.

    1. Claus2

      “NATO is and has been useful in a number of ways.”

      As long as the US foots the bill and puts it’s troops out front.

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