Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Welcome to the Deep State

Author: Gary Hart

It is unclear when the Deep State was created or created itself.  It almost certainly took shape in the 20th century.  Candidates for creating the Deep State, or permitting it to create itself, are Franklin Roosevelt or Harry Truman.  Roosevelt for domestic purposes, Truman for international purposes.

Being a machine that runs of itself, its members almost certainly are senior career civil servants in every cabinet department and agency.  That means, at least, fifteen cabinet departments and anywhere from seven to fifteen principal agencies.  To be effective the minimum number of Deep State members must be at least a hundred per department and agency.  Thus, the core of the Deep State would be in the neighborhood of two or three thousand individuals.

Over time, senior officials retire and must be replaced.  If this mysterious State arose under Roosevelt, then there must have been over time some tens of thousands of secret members of the Deep State.

Were they required to take an oath of secrecy to join this covert government?  That must have been part of the arrangement, otherwise one book, not to say a whole library of books would have been published by now describing in thrilling detail how it all works.

Perhaps the Deep State has enforcers who take care of those who squeal.  Great research question as to how many members or former members of the Deep State met untimely and violent deaths.

And where has the Washington press corps been all these years.  Anyone remember a Pulitzer Prize for uncovering the Deep State right under their noses?

Amazing that it took President Donald Trump, who had never participated in government or particularly spent much time in Washington to reveal this secret.  Perhaps he is waiting for the appropriate moment to document the existence of the Deep State and its membership.

Perhaps not.

As a veteran of a few years of service at the U.S. Departments of Justice and Interior, there was little evidence of Deep State activity.  Almost to a person, the career civil servants were intelligent, diligent, hard-working, and highly knowledgeable about their responsibilities.  They could, of course, have been sly devils meeting in the furnace room after hours passing out assignments for subverting the current Administration.  How were we to know?

Believers in the Deep State surely hold open the possibility that the Russian Government and its FSB have known about this all along.  They would, of course, have passed on what they know to their new friend, but circumstances being what they are, he would be foreclosed from employing them as his principal source of intelligence.  Speaking of which, Deep State members must be all over the dozen and a half of agencies in the intelligence community.

From the Masons to UFOs Americans have loved mysteries.  Once it was established that George Washington was a Mason, among other Founders, we have let that mystery go.  There are still those pesky UFOs that somehow pop up, much like Arthur Schlesinger’s cycles of American history, every twenty or thirty years.

Kurt Anderson’s new book calls this “Fantasyland” and the Deep State has its own neighborhood there.

If you are out to practice the politics of distraction, how better to do it than to place a bright spotlight on the Deep State, and it has the added advantage of nourishing and feeding the “base” as well as accounting for unfulfilled campaign promises.

Where is P.T. Barnum when we need him?  But wait, perhaps we have him after all and he is the consummate ring master.

[This essay appears in this month’s The National Interest.]

Protecting the Republic

Author: Gary Hart

The Department of Justice, where I once worked in the National Security Division, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which is the principal federal law enforcement agency, are, together with the Central Intelligence Agency and a dozen or so related intelligence service and, of course, the Department of Defense, responsible for the security of our nation.

What weakens them, weakens our nation.  That is why those of us who served on the Senate Select Committee to Investigate the Intelligence Services of the United States (the “Church Committee”, 1975-1977) took extraordinary care to fairly treat these agencies while building Constitutional barriers to unlawful behavior.  Veterans of those agencies agree that they were made stronger by constraints placed upon them.

Virtually non-stop since legitimate questions were raised by the Justice Department about Russian tampering with our 2016 election, universally confirmed by all intelligence services, the President of the United States has conducted open warfare against his own Department of Justice and the FBI which works with it and under its direction.

There is no precedent for this in American history.

The President fires the Director of the FBI, rants that his own Attorney General will not do what he is told, and claims that the FBI is in “tatters” even as he directs the tattering.  Knowing nothing of American history or our Constitution, he enters the White House believing that the Department of Justice is his personal law firm and he can order it to do, or not do, what he wants.

Once again, there is no precedent for this.

It is paranoid mendacity for the President and those around him to claim overtly and covertly that the Department of Justice and FBI are riddled with Democrats out to get him.

To prove there is no end to this, on top of it all he approves the release of a report by the staff of one Member of the House of Representatives that claims to prove this preposterous assertion, against the appeal by the Director of the FBI that national security will be compromised (this is the sources and methods claim), and without the common decency and traditional decorum to permit his Committee’s minority members to issue a rebuttal to the false and misleading claims it makes.

Despite the media sound and fury surrounding this issue, this phony report is already falling of its own weight and will not achieve its intended purpose of distraction from the Mueller investigation and attempt to discredit the Department of Justice and FBI.  But the damage, which seems to characterize most of this Administration’s actions, will have been done to two critical agencies upon which our security depends.

For the better part of a year, as misstatements and misrepresentations (credible journals have called them lies) have mounted, a student of Jefferson could not help but wonder what he and his founding colleagues would make of a former reality television host dismantling years of bipartisan progress at home and abroad with the ignorance of an undisciplined child.  They feared, and rightly so, an oligarch or authoritarian who would directly and indirectly deconstruct and disregard the Constitution and balanced governing system they created.  Unsuccessful attempts have been made here and there, usually by presidents facing retribution, but none on the scale of what we see now.

I imagine Jefferson and the others whispering in the ears of those who will listen: Be careful.  Be very careful.  Do your duty and be on guard.

 

[Anyone questioning the author’s credentials on national security is free to do so.  But the author has a fifty-year record in response.]

“Terrified”

Author: Gary Hart

Service on the Senate Armed Services Committee offered penetrating insights into America’s national security structures, both military and intelligence.  It also offered introduction to senior military and civilian commanders of both those structures.  With very rare exceptions, those commanders were, and presumably still are, figures of substance, thoughtfulness, experience, sobriety, and patriotism.

Of the eleven former Secretaries of Defense I have known, four while serving in the Senate, none was more wise, thoughtful, and intelligent than William (Bill) Perry.  Until the fall of the Soviet Union and for a time thereafter, the principal concern of Secretary Perry and several Secretaries who preceded him was the Soviet nuclear arsenal, the threat of nuclear war, and the possibility always that one side or the other might mistakenly start World War III.

It all depended on technology and, of course, computers were at the heart of that and became even more so as they increased in sophistication.  As he consistently demonstrated in hundreds of Congressional briefings, some classified, Bill Perry understood this implicitly.

In 1979, our Committee commissioned Senator Barry Goldwater and I to quietly discover how many false launch warnings had occurred in the past number of years.  We found that there were several dozen—the precise number is still classified—and they were ranked by order of seriousness, seriousness being measured by the length of time the warning persisted and the total number of missiles the radars and other sensors revealed.  The longer the warning lasted and the larger the incoming launch, the more serious the threat.

Of these there were several.

One of the most serious involved at least 200 Soviet incoming missiles—the exact number is still classified—and it lasted a dismaying number of minutes.  In a recent NPR interview, Secretary Perry mentioned this incident as one of the most frightening on his or any other Secretary’s watch.  It turned out to be produced by a malfunctioning computer chip that costed a few dollars.

Knowing that the Soviet arsenal was for a time smaller in number, its missiles and warheads larger because they had yet to conquer accuracy guidance systems and therefore had to blow up a larger patch, and their computerized command and communications systems behind ours in sophistication, we could only surmise how many faults warnings they were receiving about missile attacks by the U.S.  Informal discussions have suggested they were more frequent and more serious.

Though the Cold War as such is more or less over, there are still tensions in Syria, Ukraine, and the Black Sea.  Plus, in the meantime, we now face a belligerent North Korea that has surprised our intelligence services with the speed with which it has developed its warhead and missile capabilities.

All this to say there remains serious nuclear danger in the world, perhaps in some ways even more dangerous than during the Cold War.

Early in the Cold War the U.S. political and military leadership developed what came to be called the Triad.  That structure placed nuclear warheads on land based Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs), on missile launching submarines, and on bomb racks of long range bombers (originally B-52s, some of which are still operating well over a half century later).  Thus, the strategists said, even if an enemy were to attack and destroy most if not all of our ICBMs, we could still destroy it with air and sea launched weapons.

Bill Perry, among several advocates, has steadfastly argued that we do not need the vulnerable ICBMs and can more than adequately maintain deterrence against attack with these other legs of the Triad, and further that we should systematically dismantle the ICBM arsenal.

No serious debate occurs on this subject because, especially in our current Congress, a howl would emerge from certain circles on the right that “liberals are weakening our defenses at this critical time”, etc., etc.

There remains the threat of accidental war, possibly even greater than during the Cold War era.  Computers fail, communications are undependable, and the ranks of hackers grow.

Our systems have always assumed a sophisticated level of maturity and intelligence among senior political leaders, including the commander in chief, but have administered strenuous psychological tests to uniformed military officials involved in the maintenance and, if required, launch of nuclear missiles.  It is being plausibly argued that Administration officials in inner national security circles, including the commander in chief, should undergo at least some version of those tests.

Yet no serious discussion of this catastrophic possibility occurs in our Congress or Administration.  This amounts to gross neglect of duty, possibly the most gross.

Asked by the NPR interviewer how he felt about accidental nuclear war, Secretary William Perry, now 90 years old, said: “I’m terrified.”

 

Do Narcissists Leave Legacies

Author: Gary Hart

A theory making the rounds is that Donald Trump’s vulgar and anti-presidential behavior is intentional not accidental, that he intends to shock, that he is completely unconcerned about critical comments from press and public alike.  His greatest fear is not condemnation.  It is fear of losing the spotlight and he will do anything, however shocking, to maintain center stage.

As bizarre as this sounds for anyone, let alone the President of the United States, it does account for his ugly behavior as the worst boy in the class.  And, thus, there are those of us who try not to reward that behavior by joining the growing chorus of outrage and providing him what he wants.

But it is necessary to assume he will be around for another three years, that is unless boredom genuinely sets in and he decides to wander off, and questions arise which deserve thought and attention: is his effort to vulgarize presidential behavior permanent or idiosyncratic; will serious nations of the world assume the era of American leadership is over and reorganize themselves accordingly; will America’s critics use the stick he is giving them to beat us over the head; in short, is he the destroyer of anything worthwhile in American culture.

Many of us who consider ourselves genuine patriots deplore his behavior like a child in a glass factory with a hammer and have beliefs in our nation’s core strengths and principles that will survive even a series of Trumps.  If otherwise, that one narcissistic and deeply troubled man can make our country less than it was, then we were never as strong as we were taught to believe.

At the very least he is an embarrassment and those with foreign friends find ourselves repeatedly saying, This is not us.  We are who you have always known us to be, flawed but well intentioned, basically decent folk.  Regardless of repeated reassurances, however, there will for a long time be the thought, If it can happen once, it can happen again.  Other nations also have had twisted performers dancing loopily and vulgarly around the stage.  But they are not the America of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Statue of Liberty.

Up to now we have held ourselves to higher standards of principle, belief, and character.  Everyone of our leaders has had a flaw or two, but, with one or two exceptions, none has behaved in a way to bring discredit to the United States or make us look ridiculous in the eyes of the world.

Richard Nixon employed what he called the “madman” theory of foreign policy which may or may not have caused the leaders of North Vietnam to pause.  But it was not so bizarre as to cause them to laugh.

We are confronted, at this moment in history, with a president who has little or no respect for the office he holds.  His daily behavior is an affront to virtually all those who preceded him.  He refuses to accept that he has any duty of respect for the nation or its history.

It remains to be said, yet again, our country is strong, stronger than an infantile, madcap poseur of the day.  Most Americans are and will remain decent, thoughtful, respectful people.  We are not racists.  We are not hateful.  We realize, one way or the other, we are all God’s creations and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.  We have high principles and we aspire to live up to them.  We will occasionally err out of ignorance or misinformation.  But we will almost always find the right path back to who we truly are.

Leaders come and go.  But thank God, they do not stay long.  Another mark of our Founders’ genius.  Once again, William Faulkner said it right: We will not only survive.  We will prevail.

What Awaits

Author: Gary Hart

Blessings on all who visit this site and who have been such loyal friends, critics, and commentators.

Whatever the coming year may hold, stay close to those you love, care for those in need of care,

stay strong in your convictions, and never, ever sacrifice principles.

Gary Hart

I Aspire to Be a Christian

Author: Gary Hart

What follows breaks two personal writing rules: too many first-person pronouns in an age of ego; and personal focus on my religious beliefs.  Starting with the New York Times commentary page and working outward, every writer makes sure you understand that it is him or her who is rendering an opinion, as if we didn’t know that already.  And though for a time a public man, I served in an age where serious public figures tried to live their beliefs rather than chant them and thus advertise their hypocrisy.

One way or the other many if not most of us practice the politics of identity.  So, Christians say “I am a Christian.”  Perhaps because I was raised in a humble evangelical household, attended an evangelical college, and graduated from divinity school, and have, for better or worse, always been a literalist, the Christian religion requires some qualifications for self-identification.  And if you take those qualifications seriously, as I always have, you don’t just pay your dues and walk through the door.

In the deepest sense, you do not choose Christianity; Christianity chooses you.

Jesus preached a demanding message: the worship of wealth is a distraction from the practice of faith; daily try to help those in need; care in real, practical terms for the poor, the homeless, the hungry, the lonely; love one another; be kind to each other; materialism is incompatible with a caring heart; life is to be lived inward spiritually and outward behaviorally.

There are two kinds of Christian aspirants.  Those ascetics single mindedly pursuing purity.  And those of us identified in Francis Thompson’s poem The Hound of Heaven: “I fled Him down the nights and down the days.  I fled Him down the labyrinthine ways of my own mind.”

At a more advanced age than I ever anticipated, thoughts are increasingly on things of the spirit and what Kierkegaard would call existential matters.  Although I recall no votes in public service days that were antithetical to the Sermon on the Mount, and tremble in rage at those who so casually deny basic human public services to the unacceptably large number of poor we step over on the sidewalks on the way to self-advancement, I still have failed to faithfully follow Jesus’ admonitions in the radical ways He preached.

In a panel discussion some time back, a former Senate colleague defined the core issue as “how much government we want.”  My response was rather “what kind of society we want.”  We are not simply a very large and disparate collection of people occupying the same geographical area.  The Christian Gospel, and for that matter Judaism and Mohammedanism, are premised in some part on our social responsibilities.  This is both practical and spiritual.  The “every man for himself” philosophy of many on the right inevitably leads to a slightly less draconian version of Blake’s “nature red in tooth and claw.”

I hope I live long enough and follow the better instincts of my nature diligently enough to be accepted as a Christian.  This is my prayer.

I need a little more time and a lot more focus on what is good and true and lasting.  Obituaries serve the interests of the media which have their own priorities and I know the lead paragraph in mine regardless of what time I have left or what I might achieve.

I believe, as the Gospels tell us, that there is a judgment of some kind when it all comes to an end.  For my errors and sins, I will offer on my scale a small role in the lives of a group of younger humanitarians whom I have known and loved and who are daily feeding hungry children, providing books and literacy to young people without access to books, providing public service avenues to inner city youth who have no other chance at higher education, providing health care in small villages, raising money for food and medicine in disaster areas, teaching, healing, and caring.

The Bible says we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God.  My hope of salvation rests in what little idealism I helped inspire in these and perhaps others.  Before it is all over, I aspire to be a Christian.

It requires little in the way of foreign policy study or experience to understand that Russia’s foremost priority has been to erode if not destroy the alliance of Western democracies whose creation began to take shape even before the closing days of World War II.  Even before Hitler’s destruction became inevitable, Churchill and Roosevelt began to plan a democratic détente that would confine the Soviet Union and make the world, or at least the European part of it, safe for democracy.

After 70 years of patient waiting, Russia’s wait is paying off.

Now the cornerstone of the Western Alliance, the British-U.S. special relationship is eroding due to Brexit, shared anti-immigration grievances, the rise of right wing nationalism, and distrust of alliances generally.

Similarly, U.S. relations with Germany, France, and Italy, among others, are being casually neglected.

And most dangerously, American reliance on traditional diplomacy to maintain and foster close relations with traditional allies is being trash-canned for no apparent reason.  If there is a central organizing principle behind the willful dismantling of security, trade, environment, and a host of international regulatory structures (transportation, communications, banking, and other arenas) it seems to be this: We’re Americans.  To hell with you.

The current Administration has offered no rationale for this nose-thumbing attitude—it does not rise to the level of policy.

There is irrefutably only one beneficiary from all this, and it is not future generations of Americans.  It is Russia.

It does not require Sherlock Holmes to reach this conclusion.

Defenders of this Administration’s irrational behavior seem nonplussed that anyone, including seasoned diplomats, should question a President who breaks up decades of careful, thoughtful, and effective management of world affairs and who replaces stability every dawn like a child with a hammer in a pottery factory.

Why wouldn’t thoughtful people, with expanding evidence at hand, conclude that Russia had a direct and immediate interest in seeing this President elected.  It is the unexpected culmination of all its dreams.  This President is single-handedly giving Russia everything it wants.

The truth of whether there was collusion between the Russian government and the Trump campaign will come out later, if not sooner.  Still, for unexplained reasons Mr. Trump himself and family and supporters around him began very early in his improbably campaign taking a Republican Party normally apoplectic toward Russia right into the inner sanctum of the Kremlin.

Why?  Doesn’t take much to figure it out.

Heroism Amidst Brutality

Author: Gary Hart

If you live long enough, sooner or later life will break your heart.  Thoughts of this bleak observation arose from watching this Sunday’s 60 Minutes story on the bombing of hospitals in Syria and the magnificent heroism of the Syrian American Medical Society’s doctors trying to save badly injured children.

Try as we might, decent human beings cannot fathom conscious, purposeful evil directed at children, the most vulnerable among us.  But even in the midst of unfathomable despair, the rare courageous individual bears that evil away and gives us a faint hope that desperate meanness cannot and will not prevail.

As we contemplate courage in the midst of overwhelming evil, we can only remember Faulkner’s beacon of light: Man will not merely endure; he will prevail.

As we struggle to understand and rise above forces of hatred, forces arising from ethnic, religious, tribal hatreds, divisions not only used to identify ourselves but to demonize the “other”, we are called upon by our common humanity and the human spirit at its best to find a way to shield the innocent, the weak, the defenseless.

Almost as appalling as the killing of the defenseless are the bitter comments on the story itself, comments based almost entirely on political divisions.  Catastrophic occasions such as the bombing of hospitals become also occasions for blaming ideological villains for the warfare itself.  The act of blaming becomes a shield against responsibility by any and all sides.

To recapture a degree of humanitarianism, the plight of children rises above partisanship, finger-pointing, and point-scoring.  Bad policy, including the policy of inaction, contributes to the acts of evil, but debate over policy rights and wrongs must not distract from the greater need, the need to shelter and protect the wounded in body and spirit.

The Syrian-American doctors must not be left to struggle alone.  Contributions will be sought and received.  Rallying words must form a front of support.  Volunteers with experience and courage are desperately necessary.  Well-intentioned governments and humanitarian agencies must insist on involvement.  Prayers may help.

Out of the despair in these hospitals may arise a redeemer or redeemers.  Out of hell on earth may arise angels of mercy and conscience.  Only that hope can possibly justify the suffering the world’s children are being made to endure.  We must each do all we can to make them also prevail.

A quarter century ago I became a self-initiated convert to classic republicanism and thereafter pursued a graduate program in political theory and published a thesis on Thomas Jefferson’s idea of the “ward” or “elementary” republic.

He sought to create community-sized republics to achieve the classic twin goals of local citizen participation in self-government on a scope and scale where individual participation is possible and to resist corruption of those local republics by money and favored access.

My project was to explore whether the Jefferson ideal could be made to work in a mass democracy of more than 300 million Americans.  I chose three arenas of public policy as a test: public education; security; and public assistance or “welfare.”

Almost from the outset of the American Republic public education had been placed under the purview of local citizen school boards.  (Not having read Jefferson or cared to, those now in power want to privatize local public education.) From World War II on, national security had been the responsibility of a new Department of Defense, that is until 9/11 and domestic terrorist attacks brought out America’s first line of defense, the National Guard, as principle defenders of the homeland.  (My thesis pre-dated 9/11 and, to the amazement of my thesis adviser, predicted something like it.)

Which left public assistance or welfare, since the age of Roosevelt a national responsibility.

All this was brought to mind by a heart-warming story this week.  A young woman ran out of gas on a secondary highway in New Jersey at night. She started out to walk to a service station but was stopped by a bearded homeless man who instructed her to return to her car and lock the doors.

After a time, the man returned with a can of gasoline for which he had paid with his last twenty dollars.  Deeply moved, the young woman returned the following night with her boy friend and repaid the twenty dollars.  Her guardian angel was at his usual place and revealed that he was a former combat Marine with experience as a helicopter rescue crewman.  He was homeless and unemployed.

The young woman set up a website with her story, asked for small dollar contributions, and announced a goal of $10,000.  In short order she raised more than $300,000 and contributions continue thereafter.

One wonders how many of those contributors supported candidates committed to serious reductions in federal public assistance programs, some of which are directly related to homeless veterans.

There are many instances of those who oppose “big government” welfare programs who, nonetheless, often (though not always) are moved to provide financial relief for real-life need at the local level.

There is nothing to prevent a national program of relief for those in need of food, medicine, housing, and a hand up, with national standards adjusted to local circumstances, but one administered under national guidelines by local people who are familiar with local neighbors in need.  A number of human relief programs are premised on this principle.  Mal-administration can readily be exposed by local press outlets.  Local taxpayers can see their neighbors in need receiving humanitarian help and their tax dollars visibly lifting human spirits.

The story of the young woman and the homeless veteran dramatically illustrates the point.  Some among us will always be on the side of Ebenezer Scrooge.  But for most of us we must believe that those in need, particularly in our towns and neighborhoods, are decent people who just deserve a break and a helping hand.

If you believe in human kindness, as I do, responsible citizens, such as those who contributed to the unemployed Marine, will share their blessings with those who are not blessed and their communities, and their souls, will be better for it.

Return from the Detour

Author: Gary Hart

Whether tomorrow or seven years from now, the passing of the current US Administration will leave behind a to-do list of some dimension.  Without seeming to be pushing anyone out the door, it is not too soon to be considering the priorities for damage limitation and damage control.  Even if no further damage is done, the list of those priorities already is daunting.

Though it is by no means certain, one must assume that the historic US political pendulum will deliver a reasonably centrist Democratic or center-right Republican Administration into power.  After this experiment in reversion to the age of Hoover (Herbert that is), emerging new realities demand a return to a mainstream at home and abroad.

Given Heraclitus’s admonition regarding constant change (you can’t step in the same stream twice), simply returning to 2016 will not be an option.  But there are some mainstream conditions that offer guidelines.

First, in the world.  Reality, in such short supply these days, will require the United States to resume partnership with European and Asian allies on issues of trade and security.  Despite Brexit, some form of the European Union will survive and will welcome a United States Government that once again seeks some neo-NATO security alliance, if for nothing else than to show a united front against any Russian adventurism in the Baltic States or along its Western border.

Likewise, that same reality will demand a regular order in trade with guidelines on tariffs, cross border transactions, and systems for dispute resolution.

And, yes, with wiser heads in charge, a process for addressing looming and long-term climate deterioration must be restored.  This alone will require respect for science, facts, and reality.  But the same is true of Arctic warming and its attendant regional revolution, as well as recurring threats of pandemics in Africa and elsewhere.

At home, the restoration will be daunting.  Continuing work must be done to rescue and reform the Affordable Care Act, if nothing else than to make it truly affordable.  The public school system, which Jefferson thought was a necessary precondition to democracy itself, must be restored to its rightful place in every community and saved from the privatizers.  We must reject the ugly and awkward exile from the global community on climate rescue.  A genuinely national infrastructure restoration project must begin.  Forget about a wall.  A thoughtful and humane immigration program and a genuinely fair tax system will be high on our national agenda.  Much else will need to be done.

But we will not seek simply to return to a world before the Trump detour.  New realities are intruding even as we stumble ad hoc through a confusing Trumpian jungle.  Tossing aside the nationalistic, isolationist, populist approach to a national greatness that was never lost will not be sufficient.  New regional alliances on trade, security, and immigration will be required.  New international agreements on climate, environment, energy, and nuclear arms control will be necessary.  All will require a respect for statesmanship presently missing.

Most of all, those who truly care about America and its continuing leadership role in the world must reject divisive forces here at home that seek to blame one group or another for the challenges we face.  Once again, Pogo was right: we have met the enemy, and it is us.