Streetwise Professor

November 13, 2019

Trump Agonistes: The President vs. the Striped-Pants Gang, Up to Its Old Devious Tricks

Filed under: History,Politics — cpirrong @ 8:30 pm

In 1947 and 1948, President Harry Truman vented his anger at the “striped-pants boys” in the State Department, who fought him at every turn, especially over Israel. They were Arabists, almost to a man, and they despised Truman’s pro-Zionist policy, and assiduously attempted to undermine it.

This came to mind when I saw a picture from today’s impeachment hearings, which have transitioned from the secret Star Chamber phase to the public Show Trial phase. (Quite an accomplishment, combing two of the two most outrageous judicious processes in a single proceedings.)

Specifically, I saw a picture of State Department apparatchik George Kent, complete with bow tie, waistcoat, striped suit jacket, and presumably, striped pants.

Is he trying to play to caricature?

Kent told the assembled idiots that the Ukrainians were modern-day Minutemen, manning the front lines against Russian aggression. He followed fellow State Department apparatchik Bill Taylor, who echoed the party line: “Ukraine is important to the security of the United States…they are a young democracy struggling to join Europe and ally themselves with the United States.” Taylor also opined that Trump seemed more interested in pursuing investigations than supporting Ukraine.

What is gobsmacking about this is that these people were silent when the Obama administration adamantly refused to provide lethal military assistance to Ukraine. Hell, Obama was so concerned about upsetting Putin that he did not even permit American military planes to fly the pathetic non-lethal aid (blankets, and such) directly to Ukraine. Instead, it was flown to Poland and trucked in–and not on US military vehicles.

So, did the Ukrainians only become Minutemen on 20 January, 2017–more than two-and-a-half years after the Russians invaded Ukraine and seized Crimea?

As an aside, LTC Vindman, the National Security Commission’s Ukraine “expert,” testified that he was under the impression that Obama had provided weapons–Javelin anti-tank missiles, specifically–to Ukraine. Some expert. Yet we are supposed to believe that the oblivious Vindman and the rest of the “interagency [AKA Blob] consensus” considered it a vital US interest to arm Ukraine.

No, this is all bullshit. Ukraine only became vital in the eyes of these people the day it appeared that it could be used against their bête noire, l’homme mal orange.

These people are using Ukraine. Period. They really don’t give a shit about it. If they did they would have made a scene–and attempted their coup–in the Obama years.

Despite their many real differences, Trump and Truman share much more than the first four letters of their last names. Most importantly, they are outsiders who appeal to Jacksonians, and who are disdained by the Washington/East Coast “elites” (a term which can only be applied ironically, hence the quote marks). Truman came by his Jacksonianism naturally, coming up through the old Democratic Party from the heart of Jacksonian America: I have yet to figure out by what strange alchemy the New York mogul became a Jacksonian.

The main difference between what is happening today, and what happened nigh onto 70 years ago is that today’s administrative state feels far less constrained than its Truman-era predecessor. There were lines that they would not cross in 1948 that they breach today without a second thought.

Why? A complex phenomenon. Some factors that come to mind:

The bureaucracy has become so much bigger, so much more swollen today, that it is more difficult to control. That is a problem that any president would face.

Trump faces a much greater challenge because whereas even though Truman was not part of the governing elite, he was firmly embedded in a political support structure–the Democratic Party, which dominated American political life at the time–Trump is completely, utterly on his own. Truman was a party regular, the product of a Democratic machine, in fact (the Pendergast organization). He could rely on party loyalists–including many in the bureaucracy. Trump, conversely, can count on no such support. He is nominally a Republican, but the Republican establishment, especially in DC, dislikes him–when they don’t hate him. One of his major problems is his difficulty in finding loyal subordinates who have influence in the bureaucracy. The loyal have no influence: the influential have no loyalty.

These farcical proceedings, like the Mueller farce before it, is a the establishment vs. Trump. He is Trump agonistes. Trump the struggler, from the Greek ἀγωνιστής–“a contestant in the public games.”

Very appropriate. Very literal. And these games are deadly serious.

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  1. So, the Establishment position, now thoroughly supported by the Left and the Media, is America needs to put its prestige, blood and treasure in danger to defend the Kurds and the Ukrainians against the Turks and the Russians. Trump, more accurately his policy, is so bad that war is the better outcome. That is Trump Derangement right there.

    Comment by The Pilot — November 14, 2019 @ 5:19 am

  2. In short, the Blob is trying to cynically use Ukraine for political gain by prosecuting Trump for trying to cynically use Ukraine for political gain. I’m shocked, shocked I tell ya. Can they both lose?

    Comment by Ivan — November 14, 2019 @ 6:40 am

  3. I feel an aphorism coming on. “A government that can’t be replaced by votes will be replaced by ropes”. Not bad for a first draft?

    Comment by dearieme — November 14, 2019 @ 8:35 am

  4. Well said. I quibble with one point. “The bureaucracy has become so much bigger, so much more swollen today, that it is difficult to control.” It is beyond control, it is staking it’s claim publicly to being the “fourth branch” of government, un-elected, un-appointed fourth branch. The first public claim was AMA,”nobody knows what’s in it, pass it and we’ll fill it in as we go.” Before, the bureaucracy was satisfied with influencing our republic from the shadows, now they want their full, fair share of ruling publicly. This impeachment is nothing more than their “coming out” party… too hyperbolic ya’ think? I’m not so sure.

    Comment by Donald Wolfe — November 14, 2019 @ 8:56 am

  5. @Donald–not hyperbolic at all. I’ve said the same regarding “the fourth branch” arrogating to itself powers that do not belong to it in earlier posts.

    Comment by cpirrong — November 14, 2019 @ 9:21 am

  6. @dearieme-Very good.

    Comment by cpirrong — November 14, 2019 @ 9:23 am

  7. Prof, FYI, The Last Refuge is a clown show, everything he writes has been wrong.

    Comment by TomHend — November 14, 2019 @ 9:12 pm

  8. “These people are using Ukraine. Period. They really don’t give a shit about it.”

    Sorry, who are you talking about again?? Do you honestly believe Trump and Rudy give a flying f*ck about the country?

    Have to say, the inconsistencies and hypocrisy on both sides of the debate is staggering. What amazes me is that ordinarily rational and intelligent people are more than happy to gloss over ‘their’ side’s crimes and misdemeanours, such is their hatred if the ‘other’ side.

    One final sartorial point of order. I’d hardly call Mr Kent’s suit ‘striped’. From the pic it looks like a light check.

    Comment by David Mercer — November 15, 2019 @ 3:18 am

  9. The supporters of President who sports a ridiculous red toupee shouldn’t comment on other people’s appearance.

    There is so much to go after but trying to keep it light (and get the point across).

    Comment by Dhruv — November 15, 2019 @ 5:28 am

  10. @David. There are stripes. Get your eyes checked. Or look at this photo.

    I don’t think Trump and Giuliani give a fuck, nor did I ever say so. But, as usual, you totally miss the point. The point is the deep state twats who feign how deeply, deeply concerned they are. They are the hypocrites. Not Trump.

    Comment by cpirrong — November 15, 2019 @ 8:52 am

  11. @TomHend. I don’t know TLR from Adam’s off ox. It was just a handy source for the picture.

    Comment by cpirrong — November 15, 2019 @ 8:53 am

  12. Hey David Mercer, Ukraine is about money laundering US aid through shell companies by the firm Kerry, Pelosi, Romney & Biden, (and many others) in this case up to $3B over three years.

    They took US tax dollars, washed it in Ukraine and put into their own shell companies.

    The head of the global money laundering cabal was your gal, Hillary Clinton.

    We have been robbed blind for forty years by an oligarchy(both Dems and Reps) that you defend.

    When Trump breaks this open, even you crazy libs will be shocked, this is way beyond the red state blue state narrative you believe in.

    Comment by TomHend — November 15, 2019 @ 10:12 am

  13. I don’t want to sound glib but the solution is easy to design. Make every parade above a G11 including military discretionary as to date – that is not tied to the position one holds. Make all retirement packages subject to final AN review 30 days before retirement and make retirement subject to 90 days notice. Hard to enact but easy to comprehend.

    Comment by Sotos — November 15, 2019 @ 10:40 am

  14. Sorry about the typos. Fat fingers on a small screen. That should be Pay grade, not parade.and rate instead of date.

    Comment by Sotos — November 15, 2019 @ 10:45 am

  15. Craig – nope, it’s definitely a check (my tailor assures me). As usual, you see only what you want to see.

    Incidentally, did you ever blog about Ukraine and the whole Nuland/Ashton thing back in 2014? Drop a link if you did

    Comment by David Mercer — November 15, 2019 @ 10:48 am

  16. @Dhruv–You and @David Mercer totally miss the point. The reason I mention Kent’s and Ciarmella’s appearances is that they are living caricatures. They embody the stereotype of the prissy government drone (Kent) and the chestless millennial (Ciarmella). It’s just too much that the faces of the bureaucracy are living caricatures . . . of the bureaucracy.

    Trump’s (and Bannon’s) appearances are totally a-stereotypical.

    See the difference? Probably not, but I try to help those in need of help.

    Comment by cpirrong — November 15, 2019 @ 11:07 am

  17. Speaking of State Department apparatchiks, one must also recall the infamous story of the Cuba desk guys who to a large degree effectively ousted Batista and brought Castro to power. The story was vividly described by Earl Smith (

    Comment by Boris Lvin — November 15, 2019 @ 5:30 pm

  18. Biden was the sitting vice-president during his Burisma pot-stirring.

    The forced retirement of the Ukrainian prosecutor was the Ukrainian quo and the enhancement of Hunter’s income was the Bidens’ quid. The whole thing stinks of high crimes and misdemeanors.

    It seems entirely legitimate that a subsequent administration would seek to investigate that.

    The fact that Biden is running for president should make the investigation even more urgent, and certainly is not a rationale for hands-off.

    One could only imagine the screams if it instead involved the Trumps Sr. and Jr.

    Remember Calvin-Ball? Calvin and Hobbs played and Calvin got to change the rules to suit him in the middle of the game.

    The Dems are playing impeachment-ball. They change the rules to suit them as they go along. Russian collusion didn’t work? Let’s change the rules to Ukrainian bribery. Bribery failing? Lets invoke intimidating tweets.

    It’s all just about kicking up a bunch of dust. Methinks the Dems prosecute too much. They’ve got something to hide.

    Comment by Pat Frank — November 15, 2019 @ 9:34 pm

  19. Check is a 2-way stripe.
    Telling you as a professional interior designer.

    Comment by Tatyana — November 17, 2019 @ 8:31 am

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