Streetwise Professor

May 14, 2017

Imperial Bureaucracy vs. Imperial Presidency

Filed under: Politics — The Professor @ 6:43 pm

For the non-partisan, an evaluation of the Comey firing depends crucially on one’s views of the independence, probity, and politicization of the FBI generally and Comey specifically, and of the intelligence bureaucracy. (Anti-Trump partisans, contrary to the previously stated views of many, adamantly say that the FBI is independent, upright, and apolitical in its search for justice. Those latter day conversions may be discounted.) There is sufficient reason to have doubts on all scores to make judgment difficult.

Watergate analogies, notably Nixon’s firing of Archibald Cox, are all the rage these last few days. This serves mainly to demonstrate the left’s impoverished historical palette. Other episodes from that era and somewhat before demonstrate clearly that the powers of the FBI, and individual FBI personnel, can be put to malign purposes, or misused. J. Edgar Hoover maintained confidential files on most important politicians, including the Kennedys, and is widely believed to have used this information to intimidate–blackmail–people into doing his bidding. Mark Felt, associate director of the FBI, was Deep Throat–leaking information to the Washington Post that culminated in Nixon’s resignation, for motives unknown.

So if one wants to appeal to historical precedents, there is plenty of reason to believe that the FBI is capable of dirty dealing in pursuit of the political or personal agendas of its leadership.

To which some might object that Comey is no J. Edgar Hoover, but is instead a straight shooter intent on seeing justice done. Well, that’s exactly how Hoover saw himself. Indeed, such a crusading mindset, and an excessive self-regard in the righteousness of one’s motives, are dangerous precisely because they make it quite easy to rationalize that violating procedures, norms, and even laws is acceptable, if done in pursuit of a higher cause.

The stream of leaks from the intelligence community of which the FBI is a part–which, interestingly, subsided to a trickle in the aftermath of Trump’s incendiary “wiretapping” tweets in March–also provides grounds for suspicion about whether the IC is pursuing its own agenda (or agendas).

Today’s appearance of the execrable James Clapper on Jake Tapper’s State of the Union provides yet further reason to be skeptical of the objectivity of the IC:

CLAPPER: Well, I will just say that the developments of the past week are very bothersome, very disturbing to me.

I think, in many ways, our institutions are under assault, both externally — and that’s the big news here, is the Russian interference in our election system. And I think as well our institutions are under assault internally.

TAPPER: Internally from the president?

CLAPPER: Exactly.

TAPPER: Because he’s firing the checks and balances?

CLAPPER: Well, I think, you know, the founding fathers, in their genius, created a system of three co-equal branches of government and a built-in system of checks and balances.

And I feel as though that’s under assault and is eroding.

Is Clapper that ignorant, or is he just mendacious? (“Both” is the likely answer.) For that answer is not just wrong, but outrageously so. This came up in the context of Comey’s firing. The FBI is part of the executive branch, and even Comey acknowledged that he served at the president’s pleasure. Meaning that Comey’s axing raises no separation of powers issues whatsoever: zero, zip, nada. Further, time and again in the hundred days plus of his administration, Trump has been checked and balanced by other branches of the government, as the “founding fathers, in their genius” intended. Indeed, if there has been a violation of separation of powers, it has come from federal district judges and the Ninth Circuit, in their rulings on the travel ban.

And before Clapper presumes to lecture about violations of the separation of powers, he should acknowledge that an executive branch officer lying to Congress (which he was, and did) is a pretty clearcut violation of the system of checks and balances. He has absolutely no standing to make judgments on this matter.

But perhaps Clapper believes that the bureaucracy is a co-equal branch of government, even though in their genius the founders never conceived of such a thing. And such a mindset is quite prevalent in the swamp, and which is why although there is reason to  have deep reservations about Trump–as there were reasons to have deep reservations about Obama, and Bush, and [insert some president’s name here]–we should be deeply suspicious about the motives (and the competence) of a largely unaccountable part of the government which is in near rebellion in part because the president held one of its leading lights accountable. It may be politically expedient to pretend that the FBI and the intelligence bureaucracies are beyond reproach when they are at odds with Trump: it is also a a historically idiotic belief. History shows that the FBI specifically, and the bureaucracy in general, is capable of abusing its powers. Indeed, an imperial bureaucracy is more to be feared than an imperial presidency.


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  1. The Chinese have a fourth branch of government that is effectively an independent audit branch that can investigate other branches of government. It seems like a reasonable approach.

    Comment by John Hall — May 14, 2017 @ 7:22 pm

  2. Thank you for another really sound article.

    Comment by Peter — May 15, 2017 @ 12:21 am

  3. In the great contest between the louse and the flea, the flea won and became President. It would seem that the US Securitate is unhappy with the Electoral College’s choice, and wants to expel the flea from office. The flea has at last responded to the Swamp’s denizens by sacking one of them. Good for him. He could usefully sack this Clapper fellow too. A good strategy might be to set about charging, convicting, and jailing the louse, as an example to all the snakes, alligators and suchlike.

    Comment by dearieme — May 15, 2017 @ 4:56 am

  4. @SWP…you are correct, that Clapper is both mendacious and ignorant. Note that Tapper suggests the ‘checks and balances’ answer, almost as if this interview had been scripted.
    But when a populace that cannot find North Korea on a map hears Clapper say “…built-in system of checks and balances..”, they think, “Oh, yeah! I remember that from high school! Checks and balances, yeah!This government official has validated my education!” Similar to ‘separation of Church and State’ they think is in the Constitution, they are gratified to recognize something they think they are pretty sure they heard in some high school class, history or civics or whatever. It is Conflation by the Uninformed(tm). The liar Clapper and shill Tapper were counting on it.

    Comment by Richard Whitney — May 15, 2017 @ 8:07 am

  5. “[P]erhaps Clapper believes that the bureaucracy is a co-equal branch of government.”


    Comment by Thomas Jefferson — May 15, 2017 @ 9:35 am

  6. The Pilot’s career summary for Clapper was the best I ever read. Basic AF crunchie that earned his stars by leaving no tracks in the snow. The guy makes me uncontrollably nauseous but so typical for holders of soft degrees and soft reasoning skills. A simple three set determination is way above his ability.

    Comment by pahoben — May 15, 2017 @ 12:37 pm

  7. John Hall – – wiki “The Bureau of Sabotage.”

    Comment by Victor Aagaard — May 15, 2017 @ 2:57 pm

  8. Indeed, an imperial bureaucracy is more to be feared than an imperial presidency.

    Well said!

    Comment by t c phillips — May 15, 2017 @ 5:51 pm

  9. ditto on imperial bureaucracy

    however – my impression is that all the screeching, screaming, squealing, squawking, shouting and wailing by The Unhinged – including those in the imperial bureaucracy -is not playing well in Peoria, or anywhere else outside of the libtard bubble.

    I am still wondering what happened to Hildebeast Killery Klinton’s bottle of hot sauce, one of the props she used to pander to voters of a certain segment of the population, by which she was supposed to ascent to queenhood.

    No doubt the Rashans hacked it.

    And gave it to Trump.

    It’s all about the hot sauce.

    Comment by elmer — May 16, 2017 @ 7:42 am

  10. How does the Comey memo change things? The disinformation campaign is so deep that its getting tougher to know what the truth is. Perhaps, truth has always been an illusion, just that now it is stark.

    Comment by Surya — May 16, 2017 @ 7:39 pm

  11. One man’s violation of the Constitution’s system of checks and balances is another man’s breaking through Washington gridlock.

    Comment by Simple Simon — May 17, 2017 @ 1:59 am

  12. @Surya –

    As Goebbels said, “we are not striving for truth, but for effect.”

    The Unhinged have now intensified their screeching, screaming, shouting, caterwauling, etc., beyond belief.

    The truth is that now, CNN “hosts” are even screaming at people who appear on their “news” show (PMSNBC started a long time ago).

    It takes but a few minutes of channel-surfing – not even a minute – to get that.

    They have also recruited “Harvard law professors,” such as Laurence Tripe, who is willing to sell himself to join the Greek chorus of impeachment.

    The Comey “memo” is just another ingredient to throw into The Unhinged soup.

    What are they “investigating”? Nothing

    Here’s another ingredient to throw into The Unhinged soup (got this from a friend), that not even The Unhinged have considered, yet:

    Pres. Trump fired Comedy as revenge for putting his friend Martha Stewart in jail.

    Heck, maybe Martha Stewart knows something about “collusion with Russians.”

    And what even happened to Billary Pandersuit’s bottle of hot sauce?

    Comment by elmer — May 17, 2017 @ 10:45 am

  13. The more the Democrats whine and obstruct, the more the press slants their coverage, the more the imperial deep state bureaucracy fights back makes me root for Trump harder. And i didn’t vote for him.

    Comment by Jeff — May 17, 2017 @ 3:53 pm

  14. @jeff-Exactly right. I am not enthusiastic about Trump, and never have been. But I loathe those who are attempting to destroy him. Analogous to what Rumsfeld said about going to war with the military that you have: We are at war with the “imperial deep state bureaucracy”, and Trump is the president whom we have.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — May 17, 2017 @ 5:14 pm

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