It was no coincidence that Richard Nixon, who was forced out of the White House, had decided to do battle with the rapidly growing administrative state. John Marini, professor of political science at the University of Nevada and author of Unmasking the Administrative State. The Crises of American Politics in the Twenty-First Century, says:
In his second term, Nixon attempted to decentralize political and administrative power, returning it to the states and local governments. He failed. Some forty years later, it appears that Donald Trump has attempted to restore political rule, under conditions far less favorable than those faced by Nixon. That outcome remains to be seen.
Three writers develop this idea, in particular with regard to the intelligence agencies, and they reveal a rather frightening state of affairs.
‘The Interagency’ Isn’t Supposed to Rule. Witness after witness in last month’s House impeachment inquiry hearings referred to “the interagency,” an off-the-books informal government organization that we now know has enormous power to set and execute American foreign policy.
When the war on terror opened, with all the secret activity it required, professional cadres in the diplomatic corps, the military and the nation’s many intelligence agencies were able to transform interagency cooperative agreements that had existed since the Cold War into a de facto agency—a largely informal and virtual bureaucracy—with the assumed power, if need be, to determine and execute a foreign policy at odds with the intent of the president and Congress.
Welcome to the Potemkin Village of Washington Power. Don’t be misled: elected officials are subjugated to the national security firmament. Trump is just exposing it. What American constitutional government most urgently needs at present is for our Madisonian institutions—the presidency, the Congress, and the courts—to wrest back control of national security policy from an unelected and increasingly rogue national security establishment.
In a recent op-ed piece in the New York Times by retired Admiral William McRaven, in which he brashly warned that unless Trump jumped aboard the Forever War bandwagon, he must be removed, and “the sooner the better.” McRaven argued that it is “the American military…the intelligence and law enforcement community, the State Department and the press,” all unelected institutions, that now embody the true American civic religion and protect its “ideals.”
As the deep state attacks Trump to rave media reviews, don’t forget its dark side. “Thank God for the deep state,” declared former acting CIA chief John McLaughlin recently while appearing on a panel at George Mason University. A year ago, the deep state was routinely reviled as a figment of paranoid right-wingers’ imagination. But much of the news media are now conferring the same sainthood on the deep state that was previously bestowed on special counsel Robert Mueller.
The Trump-deep state clash is a showdown between a presidency that has become far too powerful versus federal agencies that have become fiefdoms that enjoy immunity for almost any and all abuses. Regardless of the outcome of the congressional impeachment investigation, can the political system pull in the reins on imperious agencies? It is unlikely.