“When passing laws and changing regulations prove onerous, the Trump administration simply guts the government of expertise so that basic functions wither away, the well-connected feed on the remains, and the survivors keep their heads down , until the day comes when they face the same choice as McCabe and Yovanovitch: do Trump’s dirty work or be destroyed” – George Packer
An Update, already:
Apparently and allegedly, there is more to the abrupt firing of the inspector general (IG) of the State Department, Steve Linick (below). More than just investigating Pompeo for having a staffer run errands for him and walking his dog.
It may be more closely (and corruptly) related to an investigation the fired IG was conducting into “Mike Pompeo’s widely criticized decision to skirt Congress with an emergency declaration to approve billions of dollars in arms sales to Saudi Arabia last year…” Or as Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.), the chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, says: “[Linick’s] office was investigating — at [Engel’s] request — Trump’s phony declaration of an emergency so he could send weapons to Saudi Arabia.”
Read more here
A reader and “long distance friend” recommended I read an article in the April issue of The Atlantic. As so happens I subscribe to that great publication, but I had not read it yet.
It didn’t take me long to devour the article and to give the friend my reaction to the grim saga the article pointedly describes: “Frightening, demoralizing, despairing.”
“Frightening” because we are seeing a sinister plan on “How to Destroy a Government” playing out, step by step, before our very eyes.
“Demoralizing” because those elected to protect the Constitution and nurture our democracy at best do not have the power to stop their destruction, do not have the backbone to fight it or, at worst, are shamefully complicit in the plan and in its execution.
“Despairing” because “The President is winning his war on American institutions.”
That is exactly what George Packer spells out in stark detail in his “How to Destroy a Government – The president is winning the war on American institutions,” The Atlantic’s April cover story.
Starting with the FBI Russia investigations, through the Mueller Special Council investigation and finally into the “Ukraine Scandal” and resulting impeachment proceedings, through dozens of interviews with current and former officials at the FBI, the State Department, and the Department of Justice, “Packer exposes the current precariousness of these establishments, where morale is low, public servants worry about having their lives and reputations destroyed through a presidential tweet, and mid-career professionals are debating how much longer they can continue to serve their country.”
Packer provides several examples of the heavy price paid by those who dared to speak truth to power, to stand up for the Constitution and the rule of law and by those who refused to pledge fealty to Trump. Among them, former FBI Director James Comey, former FBI (Deputy) Director Andrew McCabe, Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, Lt. Col. Vindman.
But the carnage and the vindictiveness did not stop with just the firings. It was personal and petty. Just ask Jill McCabe, the wife of Andrew McCabe, or McCabe himself whom Trump forced “into the humiliating position of not being able to stand up for his wife…a kind of mafia move: asserting dominance, emotional blackmail.”
Then there was Trump’s personal and sleazy “destruction” of Lisa Page and Peter Strzok and Trump’s engineering of McCabe’s firing just 26 hours short of his retirement causing him to lose most of his pension.
Of course, there are the “success stories” in the Trump administrations. The stories of those who have sold their soul to Trump. Among them, Attorney General William Barr who “will do what he must to protect [Trump],” who, since his appointment as Attorney General, “has abetted the president’s efforts to silence dissenters and expand the powers of the presidency.”
The other loyalist extensively discussed by Packer is Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the man who, “with great fanfare” unveiled his “Ethos” initiative in April 2019, an “inspirational, aspirational and unifying statement” that included the promise, “I act with uncompromising personal and professional integrity…I show unstinting respect in word and deed for my colleagues and all who serve alongside me…”
Sadly those words proved to be mostly aspirational as, less than one year later, Pompeo hung his people out to dry during the impeachment proceedings, most notably Ambassador Yovanovitch.
Packer’s story was “press-released” on March 2, 2020, and hit the newsstands on March 17.
It was thus probably being written at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. During the time when Trump was touting, “We have it very much under control in this country” and “…when you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done.”
It was certainly written before Trump continued his Ukraine scandal and impeachment “disgrace” retaliation tour.
It was published before Barr’s attempts to dismiss Flynn’s perjury case and before Trump’s new “initiative” to investigate and punish President Barack Obama for “the biggest political crime in American history, by far”: The unspecified yet obvious “Obamagate.”
And it appeared in The Atlantic before a slew of other names were added to the long list of independent government watchdogs, Inspector Generals, and other government officials fired by Trump like it was “The Apprentice” all over again.
Government officials were fired or reassigned because they dared to speak truth to power; because Trump deemed them “insufficiently loyal,” or — as in the case of the very latest retribution, the firing of Inspector General Steve Linick –- because Linick is said to have opened an investigation into Trump’s most loyal soldier, Mike Pompeo, for allegedly using staff to perform domestic errands and chores.
What Packer describes in “How to Destroy a Government” is already “frightening, demoralizing and despairing.”
However, what makes it even more frightening, demoralizing and despairing are Packer’s arguments that:
• Trump “has largely succeeded” in making the executive branch work on his personal behalf by “…punishing perceived enemies, co-opting craven allies, and driving out career officials of competence and integrity.”
• A second term will irrevocably harm what remains.
• Trump is winning.
If there has ever been a “must-read,” this is it.
The author is a retired U.S. Air Force officer who has had the honor, the privilege, and the reward of serving his adopted country for 20 years proudly in both the enlisted and commissioned ranks, under six presidents – Republican and Democratic. Not once did he have the feeling that his commander in chief did not have his back, did not value his service, did not appreciate the minor sacrifices his family and he endured. In particular, never once the thought even occurred that, one day, a President of the United States would denigrate the troops and their service… would call those who did not return from battle “losers” and “suckers.”