Dueling With the Deep State
President Trump's executive branch has been a source of resistance and treachery.
Before he was president, Donald Trump used to call the shots on his popular reality-television show “The Apprentice.” Contestants who couldn’t perform under pressure or didn’t possess the qualities necessary to make it in the business world would ultimately face an unsmiling Trump and hear those iconic words: “You’re fired.”
But the presidency isn’t a reality show, and President Trump has shown less of the acumen and decisiveness that made “The Apprentice” appealing to millions of viewers.
Essentially, there’s been a revolving door in the Oval Office, and Trump has found himself managing a company in which some employees not only ignore the boss but publicly criticize him.
As Rich Lowry wrote at Politico last year, “Donald Trump told us that he’d hire the best people. He didn’t mention that he’d be unable to fire them. The president is experiencing a bout of insubordination from his top officials the likes of which we haven’t witnessed in the modern era. It’s not unusual to have powerful officials at war among themselves, or in the presidential doghouse. It’s downright bizarre to have them publicly undercut the president, without fear of consequence.”
The ever-expanding administrative state has threatened our institutions of government for decades, thanks to the unwillingness of presidents or members of Congress to do their jobs. Instead, they’ve deferred to the Supreme Court or the administrative state to determine public policy.
But we haven’t seen anything like what we’re witnessing in the Trump executive branch.
“This pattern of insubordination or taking advantage of the president’s inattentiveness keeps repeating itself,” writes Michael Brendan Dougherty at National Review. “And, in many ways, the Trump years have been an occasion in which a conscious resistance spread across the administrative state.”
Yet, despite frequent disloyalty and rebellion, Trump remains hopeful.
In a May 26 interview with Sharyl Attkisson, Trump said, “If it keeps going the way it’s going, I have a chance to break the deep state. It’s a vicious group of people. It’s bad for our country.”
Trump tried to erode the deep state’s influence by appointing Richard Grenell as acting director of national intelligence. Although serving only briefly this year, Grenell did make a difference in terms of advancing Trump’s interests. But it’s going to take greater effort to diminish the power of the entrenched bureaucracy. Today, the administrative state exists as a fourth branch of government mostly populated by leftists who ignore constitutional limitations to advance their progressive agenda.
The president has made some inroads, but the deep state has survived — indeed, it nearly removed him from office. America’s old-style interventionist foreign policy is still firmly in place, the majority of Americans still view Russia as our primary enemy, an unrepentant China remains on Trump’s radar, and our military brass seem poised to resume the Clinton-Bush-Obama approach to Middle East affairs.
Perhaps President Trump underestimated the power of the deep state. What he thought was merely a swamp is in fact a wide and very deep lake, and it’s going to take more than a few bombastic pronouncements to drain it. Ironically, the incredibly high turnover rate in the executive branch hasn’t made it any easier.
A Trump victory this November would allow him to deal a few more blows to this illegitimate fourth branch of government. But he’ll need to bring the right people on board — not those who proclaim their loyalty while instead working to advance a globalist, progressive agenda.