by Marc Epstein (April 2019)
Desk Murder, R.B. Kitaj, late 1970s
Shortly before Donald Trump was inaugurated, I spoke with a friend who had spent a year working out of an American embassy overseas. He was a federal civil servant, but not State Department. He told me that if you’d been there the day after Trump was elected, you would have thought that you had walked into a house of mourning. Little did I know that his observation would presage what could be described as a regicidal rage directed at the new pater familias of our country, and that it would be carried out by career members of the managerial state.
Kim Strassel, of the Wall Street Journal, recently pointed out that William Barr, our newly installed Attorney General, inherits a DOJ and FBI that has lost the confidence of 50% of the American public. Given the fact that over 90% of the reporting on the Trump presidency has been negative, we can safely assume that the reach of MSM (mainstream media) has found its limits.
That didn’t prevent the New York Times from running yet another 5,000-word front-page story, team-written by four reporters, with the headline “Intimidation, Pressure and Humiliation: Inside Trump’s Two-Year War on the Investigations Encircling Him.” The lede continues with “President Trump’s efforts have exposed him to accusations of obstruction of justice as Robert S. Mueller III, the special council, finishes his work.”
Those who believe Donald Trump stole the presidency don’t find this long-winded, unsourced reportage repetitive or boring at all. For them, it’s balm from Gilead.
Trump supporters need look no further than the lead Wall Street Journal editorial that appeared the day before the Times “blockbuster.” Its title is “The FBI’s Trump Panic.” It rehearses the narrative being advanced by Andrew McCabe during his current book tour, and recommends that Attorney General Barr’s urgent task is restoring public trust in the FBI. “He could start by explaining to the public, in a major speech, where the FBI went so badly wrong and what he will do to make sure it never happens again.”
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So, there you have it . . . Andrew McCabe zooms to the top of the Amazon best-seller list, while positing that his actions were patriotic at its core. His criminal referral, which appears to be little more than the rhetorical flourish of the Inspector General, neither impedes his first amendment rights, his celebrity, or his enrichment. That he was terminated for lying under oath goes unmentioned during his interviews. He is Trump-Slayer, the man who laid his career on the line for his country.
Rush Limbaugh is mystified that McCabe roams free-range, while Roger Stone is arrested by a breathtaking land-sea-air operation involving close to 30 FBI agents. He was charged with lying to Congress, and was released after posting a token bail. All of this takes place while Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager for all of three months, resides in solitary confinement after being sentenced to prison, probably for the rest of his life, for crimes that have nothing to do with “Russian collusion” or the Trump campaign.
Just how did we get to a place where a cast of heretofore faceless bureaucrats have become household names? Traditionally, even the highest government officials, from the vice-president on down were soon forgotten. Usually the most memorable cabinet secretaries either rose to the presidency, served in time of crisis, or had long, storied, legislative careers.
Even the identity of “Deep Throat” the great Watergate bureaucrat leaker remained a mystery for decades, until former FBI Deputy Director Mark Felt revealed that he indeed was “Deep Throat” in 2005. But now, Brenan, Clapper, Comey, and Hayden, once heads of our alphabet soup security agencies, are omnipresent and exceedingly mouthy.
The answer resides in the rise and ultimate devolution of the bureaucratic managerial state into an ideologically driven political operation at the direction of Barack Obama. This politicization turns what was once the raison d’etre for a meritocratic civil service on its head. The modern managerial state was meant to be run by citizens with the requisite expertise who would serve their country without regard to politics.
The Birth Of The Managerial State
In 19th century America, a new administration would staff-up by rewarding jobs through the “Spoils” system. The Federal government, with the exception of the post office, didn’t do much, except in times of war. All that changed with the assassination of James Garfield by an unbalanced office-seeker. The time was ripe for change. America was a young industrial power to be reckoned with. Railroads crisscrossed the nation. Oil wells, factories, and the concomitant urbanization were transformative.
From the Civil War through the first third of the 20th century, the Republican Party dominated national politics. Twelve out of the sixteen presidents in that time period were Republican, and of the four Democrats, Andrew Johnson, was selected by Lincoln to be his national unity vice-president, and succeeded Lincoln to the presidency. Grover Cleveland, is counted twice because he won two non-consecutive terms.
While the abolition of slavery propelled the founding of the Republican party, the reformist impulse did not disappear with Lee’s surrender and the passage of the civil rights amendments to the Constitution. In fact, the reformist impulse would eventually split the Republican party when Teddy Roosevelt founded the Progressive Party after he failed to capture the Republican nomination from his hand-picked protégé, President William Howard Taft, who was seeking a second term in 1912.
Sidney Milkis has persuasively argued that the election of 1912 was the most consequential of the 20th century, and has set the trajectory of American politics ever since. For the Progressive Roosevelt, Madisonian constitutionalism was ill-suited for modern times and was thus obsolete.
He advocated a plebiscitary form of government, one in which the chief executive acted as “the steward of the public welfare.” The managerial state composed of bureaucrats with the requisite expertise would be relied on to run the country.
Candidates were chosen by direct primaries instead of conventions and its smoke-filled backrooms, where deals would be cut without public knowledge. Senators too, would be elected directly instead of by state legislatures that were prone to corruption. And, referenda would decide major issues at the ballot box. These reforms took direct aim at the two-party system that drew its strength from the localities of America.
Milkis points out that historians have been puzzled by “the apparent contradiction between Progressives’ celebration of direct democracy and their hope to achieve more disinterested government, which seemed to demand a powerful and expert national bureaucracy.” But, posits Milkis, “Progressives came to see that the expansion of social welfare and “pure democracy,” as they understood it, were inextricably linked.
While Teddy Roosevelt failed to capture the White House, his third-party run was the most successful in American history, capturing 27.4% of the popular vote and 88 electoral votes. By comparison, Taft managed to carry 8 electoral votes from two states.
What’s more Woodrow Wilson, a progressive of a somewhat similar stripe did capture the presidency. America’s zeitgeist was decidedly progressive, and it reflected in the popular culture and in the literature. It would take another thirty years and an unprecedented depression to firmly establish the centralized bureaucratic state launched and shaped by Theodore Roosevelt’s cousin Franklin.
Franklin Roosevelt’s landslide victory over Herbert Hoover in no way represented the triumph of Progressive ideology over reactionary forces. Hoover was “. . . essentially a managerial technician and proud of it,” according to Barry Karl, in his seminal study The Uneasy State. Roosevelt’s victory was “more of a repudiation of Hoover’s performance, in the minds of many, than an overwhelming endorsement of Roosevelt.”
The Managerial State Gets Firmly Entrenched
The uncertainty regarding FDR’s ability to govern was soon erased and the managerial bureaucratic state was irrevocably put in place. It should come as no surprise that the bureaucracy came to be staffed by Democrats firmly in favor of FDR’s New Deal initiatives, and that twenty uninterrupted years of White House and congressional dominance with the exception of a two-year hiatus in the House from 1947-49, ensured a solid grip on the bureaucracy and public policy.
The Republican origins of progressivism all but disappeared down the memory hole. Democrats, aided by first-rate propagandists, successfully recast Republicans as the party of Wall Street/Big Business—the monied interests, that had little or no interest in the common man. Republicans countered with the meek argument that they were superior stewards of the realm, and made sure not to threaten the burgeoning managerial state in any way, shape or form. They avoided the “third rail” of politics like Social Security when they ran for office.
The Cold War paved the way for a Republican return to the White House. It allowed a General Eisenhower to capitalize on the Soviet threat that was clear for all to see regardless of party. A consensus view of what America was about and what its place in the world was offered stability and continuity. So, when Democrat John F. Kennedy succeeded the Republican Eisenhower, he appeared to be a distinction without a difference. He ran on a strong defense even advancing the claim that there was a “missile gap” between the U.S. and Soviets. He enacted sizable tax cuts too.
The bureaucracy was anonymous and loyal, unless of course they were discovered to have ties to the Communist party. Alger Hiss aside, the bureaucracy behaved as a faceless bureaucracy should. Policies were proposed, passed into legislation, and carried out, without regard to the party affiliation of the sitting president.
The cracks in that post WW II consensus first became evident after LBJ’s landslide victory over Barry Goldwater. Goldwater was successfully cast as an unhinged nativist, who if elected, would trigger Armageddon.
LBJ’s Great Society initiative signaled the emergence of the Federal government as more than just a helping hand to state and local governments. Barry Karl and Stanley Katz noted that the Federal government’s emergence as the “controlling presence” in national social policy is recent and has gone largely unnoticed by historians. This became especially true when it came to civil rights and education.
To the familiar policies for the promotion of equality of economic opportunity and political equality had been added policies to promote social equality; that latter intruded in spheres of life previously governed by custom and individual preference and interest.
With increased frequency, the congress and the executive relied on the use of the courts and the bureaucracy to implement legislation. The bureaucracy’s favored tool were the expansive administrative regulations while the courts turned to the consent decree to achieve the desired result. The end result was a Federal judiciary that more and more resembled a supra-legislature, and a bureaucracy that enforced regulations outside of any real congressional oversight or direction. A regulatory state spread much like the Melaleuca in South Florida, displacing our Madisonian constitutional arrangements with administrative fiat.
The End Of The Post World War II Consensus
By 1972 the cracks in the post-war consensus became a chasm with the Democrats’ nomination of George McGovern. Anyone who believed that the anti-Vietnam War protests and the subsequent riotous Democratic convention of 1968, was simply a repudiation of LBJ and his incompetent Brain Trust could no longer harbor those sentiments with the McGovern candidacy.
An ideology defined by the New Left now had its grip on the Democratic Party. It was now Howard Zinn’s America, spelled with a “K” instead of a “C”. This view subsumed an education establishment that was mostly influenced by John Dewey, and resulted in what is today a thoroughly bankrupted system of education that has displaced merit with diversity and equality of result. Dewey, much like Marx, provided the intellectual construct for the progressive transformation of America. His normative hopes of transforming society through education failed, but they would get a second wind with the full-blown consolidation of the administrative state.
While an ostensibly conservative Richard Nixon was elected twice, the second time against McGovern carrying 49 states, the expansion of the administrative state continued and was even abetted by Nixon himself. His Vice President, Spiro Agnew, waged an unrelenting verbal war against the media and the increasingly anti-establishment culture of the college campus. Agnew repeatedly invoked the “silent majority” to rally to his cause. That was as far as it went.
When the Pentagon Papers (Report of the Office of the Secretary of Defense Vietnam Task Force) were leaked by Daniel Ellsberg, a former military analyst for the RAND Corporation, it presaged Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks. At first the Nixon administration was inclined to do nothing. The report was commissioned by Robert McNamara and focused on the Vietnam war in the pre-Nixon era.
But fearing that it set a bad precedent, it invoked the Espionage Act of 1917, and charged Ellsberg because he had published classified documents without permission. The Supreme Court, ruled in favor of the publication 6-3, but published nine separate opinions that sharply departed from one another. The lack of consensus had no impact on the end result. The court had made this kind of bureaucratic activity normative.
Throughout the steady march of this leftism through America’s schools, churches, and the bureaucracy, the Republicans provided no resistance. The much-touted Reagan Revolution was just an interregnum. Reagan, a former Democrat, declared, “I didn’t leave the Democratic party, the Democratic Party left me.” He actually governed like a Kennedy era Democrat, rebuilding national defense and spurring an economic boom through tax cuts, but his repeated calls to abolish the Department of Education amounted to nothing.
An alliance was formed with Reagan and policy intellectuals and writers whose pedigree was old left and later liberal democrat. Known as Neo-Conservatives, they provided the intellectual heavy lifting for Reagan’s muscular foreign policy and military build-up that precipitated the collapse of the Soviet Union. But when Reagan passed from the scene the second generation of Neo-Cons declared that a culture war with the Left had been fought and lost. Reagan left no heirs.
The Civil Rights movement, that started out as a redress of grievances visited on black America during a century of Jim Crow and state enforced segregation, became the engine that carried an assortment of newly defined aggrieved groups that hooked on to that engine with the passage of time. Affirmative action had been put into force following presidential executive orders going back to JFK, but it was Nixon’s “Philadelphia Order” that is recognized as the blueprint for official government affirmative action policy. It was the starting point rather than the end game for the redress of grievances.
The first Bush presidency expanded the reach of the Federal government by tying Federal aid to public school education on the basis of student performance. George W. Bush would enshrine his father’s initiative by advancing the No Child Left Behind Act that was signed into law in 2001. The Department of Education was about to get its second wind, with a vengeance.
The Managerial State Triumphant
This expansion of the administrative state turned out to be especially consequential when it comes to education policy in the bastion of Democratic power, the great urban centers. The failure of our big city school districts to educate the minorities who dominate the student demographic was met with eroded standards and meaningless diplomas that raised graduation rate statistics and little more. No mention of the disintegration of the black family was permitted. Nor would the concomitant social ills associated with the fractured black family factor into education policy. It had become another “third rail” of politics.
Here’s a recent example of how that played itself out in real life.
Low black graduation rates were linked to higher incarceration rates. These higher incarceration rates were blamed on “disparate” school suspensions meted out to blacks in the schools. In short, disparate school discipline for blacks resulted in poor school performance and a life of crime. President Obama decreed that there would be an end to the “schoolhouse to jailhouse pipeline”. The administrative state would issue new guidelines and rectify the situation.
Edicts from the Obama DOE and DOJ put an end to the disparity. The guidelines made suspensions nearly impossible as incorrigibles were given unenforceable contracts to sign promising to modify their behavior. The irrationality of it all became evident with the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School shootings in Broward County Florida, when seventeen students and faculty were killed by a student who had been visited by police for infractions 39 times over 7 years without any arrests being made.
The PROMISE program, praised and funded by the Obama administration to the tune of $54 million dollars for the Broward County school district alone, created an administrative alternative to putting students who committed criminal offenses through the criminal justice system.
It took two years for the Trump administration to announce that these guidelines would be rescinded in the wake of the Stoneman-Douglas massacre. But it is unlikely that New York, for example, a progressive city that embraced and even enhanced the Obama directives will roll anything back. The schools Chancellor has established an Office of Equity and Access, that actually posits that 75% of students enrolled in every high school in New York will have access to at least 5 AP courses by 2021! If ever there was a case of administrative flight from reality, this is it.
The progressive ideal is a managerial state run by experts freed from the entanglements of the constitutional arrangement that delegated powers to the states. Its expansion has been steady and relentless for close to one hundred years.
An all-too-willing congress has repeatedly passed unwieldy, opaque legislation and abdicated any meaningful oversite, while ceding it’s execution to the permanent administrative bureaucracy. When legal challenges arise, resolution has been left to the unelected judiciary because amending the Gordian-like legislation isn’t a consideration.
Nowhere is this more evident than the Title IX provision of the Education Act of 1972. It ostensibly guaranteed an end to discrimination in education. It reads, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
At first, Title IX dramatically impacted college athletics where male dominance of athletic programs was overwhelming. It’s fair to say that Title IX spurred the advancement of women’s athletics nationwide.
So far so good.
But for the administrators charged with fulfilling their perception of this mandate, it was the devil’s candy. Dating, Facebook messaging, and sexual banter, came under Title IX, as provisions were “innovatively expanded” to address a shopping list of disparities and discrimination.
The result has been an ongoing Orwellian nightmare for members of the university community caught in the administrative maw adjudicating charges in what appears to be “Star Chamber” proceedings. These proceedings eliminated due process involving accusations of sexual assault.
In December of 2015, Stuart Taylor Jr. and K.C. Johnson excoriated the Republican-controlled congress for failing to take action to reign in the excesses of the Obama administration.
For more than four years, the White House and the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) have used an implausible reinterpretation of a 1972 civil-rights law to impose mandates unimagined by the law’s sponsors. It has forced almost all of the nation’s universities and colleges to disregard due process in disciplinary proceedings when they involve allegations of sexual assault. Enforced by officials far outside the mainstream, these mandates are having a devastating impact on the nation’s universities and on the lives of dozens—almost certainly soon to be hundreds or thousands—of falsely accused students.
What’s more, accusers who lost their case could appeal the decision! The accused were to be prevented from cross-examining their accuser. As Stuart Taylor Jr. and KC Johnson write:
Over the four and a half years since the first letter, the White House and the OCR have escalated, in ways too numerous to detail here, their attacks on due process—and on freedom of speech and academic freedom—in the guise of punishing sexual harassment. No federal law or court decision provides a grain of support for such bureaucratic tyranny. This situation cries out for legislative oversight, but despite controlling the House since 2011 and the Senate since this January, the Republican response to the administration’s lawless evisceration of campus due process has been puny.
These observations are not abstract musings. Alice Lloyd’s review of ‘Twisting Title IX’ by Robert Shibley, recounts how the death of the star attraction at the Cincinnati Zoo devolved into a Title IX incident that crossed state lines. It was precipitated when a 3-year-old boy climbed into the gorilla habitat in the Cincinnati Zoo and was grabbed by the gorilla Harambe. Harambe was then shot by a zoo worker to save the child from harm.
The untimely death of handsome gorilla Harambe inspired a flood of public grief and, unavoidably, a far greater outpouring of memes mocking said grief. College students moving into dorms all over the country bonded over a raft of tasteless jokes superimposed on photos of Cincinnati’s fallen son. So, of course, it was not long at all before some well-meaning administrator pointed out that, yes, posting a Harambe meme can trigger a Title IX investigation.
One Clemson administrator advised students that, “Harambe should not be displayed in a public place or a place that is viewed by the public” “My hopes are that you are being inclusive in your words, whichever you choose to say, so that you are not reported to [the Office of Community and Ethical Standards] or Title IX for using bias [sic] language against someone.”
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This is just one example of how the managerial state has over time, managed to squeeze out the political arrangements crafted by the Framers of our constitution in much the same way the invasive Melaleuca has strangled the eco-structure. Ironically it was introduced into Florida at the turn of the 20th century, the dawn of progressivism.
According to the Florida Fish And Wildlife Conservation Commission the Melaleuca was introduced in order to dry up the Everglades and reduce the mosquito population thus allowing for development.
Instead it’s turned out to be an ecological disaster. Its overrun the Everglades, and threatens vegetation in six states. “Melaleuca forms dense stands resulting in the almost total displacement of native plants that are important to wildlife.”
Just substitute Progressive wherever you see Melaleuca, and you’ll understand how America’s democratic institutions and arrangements are being displaced by a managerial state that was supposed to usher in the age of scientifically crafted public policy.
The Trump Denouement
This Melaleuca-like managerial state is precisely what Donald Trump inherited on January 20, 2017. This is the America that Trump’s political rivals, both Democrat and Republican would have been happy to accommodate had they succeeded to the presidency.
His awareness of what exactly he had gotten himself into probably began when Admiral Mike Rogers, head of the NSA, traveled to New York on November 17th, 2016 and advised President-elect Trump to vacate Trump Towers along with his transition team because a surveillance net had been placed over the Trump operation by elements of the national security apparatus.
I don’t think Trump needed further confirmation, but Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat minority leader, provided it on January 3rd, when he let the President know that he was “really dumb,” for picking a fight with the intelligence community. “Let me tell you: You take on the intelligence community-they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you.” Schumer had it backwards, the intelligence community had picked the fight, and now Trump knew about it.
Simply put, a cabal mostly, though not exclusively located at the DOJ and FBI, launched surveillance and then a counter-intelligence inquiry of the Trump campaign and Donald Trump himself. They obtained warrants from the FISA Court to observe American citizens. The evidence was supplied by an operation research organization, FUSION GPS, that was funded by the Clinton campaign and the DNC. FUSION GPS also was a contract operator for the FBI, and had access to the NSA files.
A raft of salacious “secret” stories about Donald Trump were contained in the Steele Dossier that was provided by Christopher Steele, a former MI6 agent who was also paid by the FBI. A sophisticated web involving cross-Atlantic operatives was also part of the mix. Bruce Ohr, an associate deputy Attorney General who reported to Sally Yates, acted as a conduit to the FBI. His wife Nellie, a Russian expert, worked for FUSION GPS, and likely authored parts of the Steele Dossier.
As we all know by now the Trump-Russia collusion charge has evolved into a never-ending saga that’s consumed tens of millions of government expenditures. It hasn’t yet yielded any resolution regarding the dossier’s accusations. Some of the participants in the Trump-Russia probe at the FBI and DOJ have been fired or resigned. Three members of the Trump campaign have been convicted of crimes unrelated to the focus of the investigation, “collusion”.
Perhaps the Mueller report will resolve everything, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. More and more, l’affaire Trump-Russia resembles a Title IX proceeding writ large. A special counsel is granted an undisclosed mandate by the Deputy Attorney General, because the Attorney General recused himself from anything Russia soon after taking office. “Collusion”, the raison d’etre for the investigation, isn’t even a crime. The Republican congressional leadership remains comfortably on the sidelines and usually acquiesces to every Democrat demand. Nobody at the top questions Robert Mueller’s integrity regardless of the blatant anti-Trump partisanship make-up of his staff.
Donald Trump has turned out to be the catalytic agent the managerial state dreaded. His injection into the constitutionally mandated election process precipitated a catastrophic response that has yet to run its course. His DNA wasn’t a match, hence the need for a therapeutic abortion. As a result, the republic stands on the precipice and we are left wondering what if anything can be done to right the ship.
Can Anything Be Done?
Anyone who has toiled in a government bureaucracy, whether it’s federal, state, or local, knows that with the passage of time the bureaucracy tends to drift away from its defined task. Just take a quick glance at a New York City newspaper and you’ll read that mass transit doesn’t work, public housing is in shambles, the schools don’t educate and they’re increasingly unsafe. If you fall ill, you’ll want to avoid the municipal hospital system at all costs.
You don’t have to be a supporter of Donald Trump to recognize that members of the bureaucracy tasked with national security issues have wandered far afield from their defined mission. You might also observe the instinctual reflex to cloak their questionable activities behind the bureaucratic maze making accountability all but impossible.
I have no way of knowing if Attorney General Barr will change any of that or just be part of the continuum that we’ve been watching since election day 2016. But I’ve had some interesting conversations with people who’ve worked with the DOJ and FBI and their observations are worth re-telling. They put the growth and reach of the Federal bureaucracy in perspective.
Back in the 1970s, my friend was an assistant U.S. Attorney in the Western District of New York. The district’s boundaries are vast, encompassing 17 counties. It includes Buffalo, its headquarters, Rochester, 75 miles away on the New York State Thruway, and Elmira. The office employed the U.S Attorney, one career assistant U.S. Attorney, and approximately eight other assistant U.S. attorneys. One assistant U.S attorney handled Rochester by himself.
Joining the DOJ was one way of doing public service, he told me. If you had a decent record in law school and wanted to serve your country, you could join the armed forces and serve in Judge Advocate’s division, or spend a few years as an assistant U.S. attorney. It was good experience, a resume builder, and a stepping stone to a good private sector job.
Back then Buffalo’s population was close to one half million. Today it’s about half that. There was real organized crime then too. The first Organized Crime Task Force was established in Buffalo. It was a union town, and the labor unions were rife with corruption. Bethlehem Steel was the largest employer in Erie County, today it’s the University of Buffalo.
Today, the U.S. Attorney’s office in the Western District lists fifty-four lawyers on its roster, and all of them are career civil servants. Fourteen of them are assigned to Rochester. How can you explain the exponential growth of a federal bureaucracy that exercises enormous power over any person or organization they turn their attention to in the Western District of New York? Is Buffalo an aberration or part of the overall unchecked expansion of the national security state that has gone unnoticed?
I asked my friend if there were more trials today than there were when he was with the DOJ, and he told me that it’s quite the opposite. He had a conversation with the federal public defender not too long ago and he told him that almost all cases are plea-bargained. A defendant is told in no uncertain terms that if he goes to trial and is convicted the judge is authorized to increase his sentence should he testify in his own defense and lose. And in an Orwellian twist, even he if doesn’t testify and loses, he’s considered as if hasn’t “accepted responsibility” for his crime and the sentence can be more severe! That never happened back in the 70s. Yet less than half of the cases make it to trial today compared with the 70s, even though the number of lawyers has increased by 500%!
I asked if there was anything that could be done to reverse this trend. My friend suggested that all sorts of crimes that were once handled on the state level have become federalized. A rollback of the federal criminal code is long overdue, he said. In addition, a change in the hiring policy that limits the numbers of “career” U.S. assistant attorneys would be a step in the right direction too. The enrollment in my friend’s law school has more than doubled. The glut of lawyers in the market place has undoubtedly made a job with U.S. Attorney an enviable, secure alternative to the private sector too.
Finally, what do you do about the FBI? I’d start with building them a new headquarters. They’ve been lobbying for a new one for over a decade. If we’ve learned one thing from this horror show, it’s that placing the J. Edgar Hoover building right in the middle of the D.C. maelstrom was as ill-advised as the decision to place New York City’s Emergency Operations Center right on the 23rd floor of 7 World Trade Center. The intermingling of McCabe, Strozk, Page, and their ilk with politicians and press hacks has proved to be toxic and dangerous. So why not consider moving the new HQ to Wichita, Kansas? The Great Plains habitat might do them and us a world of good.
Every bureaucracy has a distinct culture and the FBI is no exception. Since J. Edgar Hoover, six out of the eight directors have been lawyers. I’d suggest that when you combine a lawyer-centric bureau and let it incubate in the Washington D.C. petri dish you are asking for trouble. Currently the director and his chief-of-staff are both lawyers.
For some time now an advance into the upper management of the Bureau required a tour of duty in Washington D.C. The practical effect of this career path diminished the role of the “Brick” agent. The term refers to agents who preferred to hit the bricks, who wanted to do their job investigating crimes. So if you want to become a Special Agent In Charge (SAC) of a field office for example, you have to be properly bred and nurtured in D.C. Instead of supervisors who’ve spent long stretches living in a city, knowing it inside and out, you have SACs who unpack and then repack their bags before they even get a feel for the neighborhood. If you want an apparat, keep the FBI where it is. But if you have any hope of reshaping its culture, get it out of Washington!
On the surface, the pathological aversion to Donald Trump seems focused on his appearance and his persona. His high name recognition prior to the 2016 election was attributed to his omnipresence on the gossip pages and his starring role in The Apprentice, a highly rated reality television show. The audacity of this outré mountebank pretending that he was presidential timbre was enough to drive the political establishment of both parties, the media, and a good proportion of think tank habitués over the edge. There could be no rational explanation for Hillary Clinton’s defeat.
For his supporters, Trump’s victory was the equivalent of Andrew Jackson’s victory over John Quincy Adams. For Jackson’s opponents, it marked the triumph of the deplorables of that day. “It seemed as though every uncouth backwoodsman and rough-in-country had made a descent upon the capital.” For the progressive managerial class it was even more galling because Trump had successfully gamed the Electoral College while losing the popular vote.
A truly triumphant progressivism would have long ago eliminated this awful political anachronism crafted by white males, some of whom were slave holders, over two centuries ago. It follows that this Carpetbagger Trump who so successfully profited from a political anachronism must be destroyed at all costs.
At the end of the day, if we are to have a functioning republic with competitive political parties, the Republicans are going to have to get over and transcend the progressive New Deal zeitgeist and become politically dynamic once again. The role of second banana has worn out, and a culture war is a war to the death. Donald Trump, a businessman remarkably free of ideology, has intuited this fact.
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Marc Epstein is the author of ‘The Historians and the Geneva Naval Conference’ in Arms Limitation And Disarmament: Restraints On War, 1899-1939, edited B.J.C. McKercher, Praeger 1992. He has a PhD in Japanese diplomatic history, specializing in naval disarmament in the interwar years. His articles have appeared in Education Next, The American Educator, City Journal, the Washington Post, New York Post, and New York Sun.
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