Deep State

Author: Gary Hart

The gap between reality and fantasy has grown in recent days.  Among the unexpected demons the new Administration has encountered since entering office is something variously called the “deep state” or the “administrative state.”  A Mr. Bannon, its discoverer, now attributes road blocks to the Administrations confused agenda to this mysterious entity which otherwise is undescribed.  The suggestion is that this entity lies deeply imbedded within the United States Government, obeys no orders from elected officials, and pursues an agenda of its own.

Let’s consider how this might work.  The “deep state’s” tentacles would necessarily have to extend to virtually all federal agencies from the Pentagon, to the Treasury Department, to the Small Business Administration, Food and Drug Administration, Transportation Department, Intelligence agencies, and so on.  Either this network is small, but still effective, in which case it is perhaps several hundreds of people, or it is very large and has thousands if not tens of thousands of members.

To be as insidiously effective as it is suggested to be, this network, or at least a committee of its leaders, would have to meet or otherwise communicate to coordinate agendas—the suggestion being in this case to thwart anything and everything of consequence the Trump Administration proposes.  The further suggestion is that this “deep state” has been around for a while.

Presumably this network is loyal to Democratic or progressive administrations.  If so, how have we gone through two Eisenhower, one and a half Nixon, two Reagan, one H. W. Bush, two W. Bush administrations and not one senior official has blown the whistle on this “deep state”, written a book or books, dominated Fox News with interviews, let the American people, or at least those right of center, know about this insidious and sinister monster inhabiting the basements of dozens of granite federal office buildings throughout the city?

There is also Congress to consider.  Its committees are required by the Constitution to oversee the budgets and performance of all federal agencies.  Both Houses of Congress are under the control of the President’s Party.  Few if any have stepped forward to support Mr. Bannon’s frightening allegations about a state within a state, a secret government run by whom, accountable to whom, and with what agenda?  Has it been lying in wait all these years for…Donald Trump?

A couple of generations of Woodward and Bernsteins have forgone Pulitzer Prizes and wealth and fame by neglecting (or conspiring to hide?) this secret.  But that is the loathed “main stream media” and who pays attention to them anymore.  But what about Fox itself?  Is it so fair and balanced that it walked right by the story of a lifetime, one that would guarantee conservative government for decades to come?

Because the scattered pieces of this puzzle don’t begin to form a coherent picture, thoughtful people can only conclude that the “deep state” exists somewhere in that universe of alternative facts, available only to those in the know, those who have learned the meaning of the ultrasound dog whistle, can fully understand.

If this kind of stuff continues for four years, we are going to have to build a lot more homes for the mentally ill.  The question is: who will be on the inside and who will be on the outside?

9 Responses to “Deep State”

  1. Edward Goldstick Says:

    Senator Hart,

    Your deconstruction of Steve Bannon’s dark self-serving fantasy is adequate in its own right, but I must admit that I agree with Chuck Spinney and Mike Lofgren that “[t]he reality is more banal, but at once more frightening and dangerous.”


    If I may, here are three ancillary questions for you and your correspondents to consider:

    a) Did you observe any such phenomena during your stint in the Senate in the sense that Republicans held the WH from 1968-1992 but for the four tumultuous years of Carter…. or was it a factor in 1993 when the Clinton administration took office?

    b) Did the growth of K-Street (and the cost of working in DC…) concretely trigger a greater tendency of civil servants to leave public service sooner than had been the case in the past? In other words, are turnover rates – both qualitative, quantitative, and temporal – the product of personal economics as much as being driven by ideology?

    c) The “Iron Triangle” and revolving doors notwithstanding, is the uniformed military the last bastion of unabridged “civic” service? … and should we find very limited solace in the positions held by Mattis and McMaster between the Trump entourage and the Pentagon?

    It sometimes seems, in fact, that election to the House and even the Senate are now but steps up the ladder rather than the pinnacles that they had once been…

  2. Stephen D. Pillow Says:

    “If this kind of stuff continues for four years, we are going to have to build a lot more homes for the mentally ill. The question is: who will be on the inside and who will be on the outside?”

    I, for one, will gladly volunteer to be on the inside. It will be a lot more sane and quiet than on the outside with what is going on in our government currently, especially if it continues for four years.

  3. Chris R. Says:

    Senator, to begin with, I believe that you are conflating two things. The Administrative State and the Deep State are not the same thing. The Administrative State is the result of the legislature deferring to enact laws clearly, which results in the executive branch, and the courts (acting without juries) making the law through their own interpretation, and then executing those same laws. The result is resembles governance by the imperial bureaucracies of pre-WWI Europe. The Deep State is something more sinister. It is the government by rogue elements of the bureaucracy seeking to subvert control of the government by the President and his cabinet.

    Has the Deep State been lying in wait all these years for Donald Trump? There was President Eisenhower warning of the dangers of the military-industrial complex. The his successor was assassinated, and a U.S.A.F. Col. Prouty called it an inside job to escalate U.S. involvement in Vietnam, and change the President’s policy. There was also the botched hostage rescue mission and the 1980 October Surprise first announced by former N.S.A. Gary Sick, which was later confirmed by prominent Iranians, and Soviet intelligence reports released by Russia in 1993:

    Donald Trump would not be the first presidential candidate known to have been surveilled. J. Edgar Hoover admitted that Johnson had ordered Nixon’s campaign plane bugged in 1968. Nor would Trump be the first to claim publicly that he had been surveilled. Twenty years after Nixon, another candidate made that claim, although he claimed not to know who was responsible. I would refer the Senator back to his own opinion about the need to control out of control surveillance:

    “Is the Surveillance State — the intelligence-industrial complex — out of the control of the elected officials responsible for holding it accountable to American citizens protected by the U.S. Constitution?

    We should not have to rely on whistle-blowers to protect our rights.

    Someone or someones must be empowered by the White House and Congress to take an Olympian view of the intelligence-industrial complex, to downsize it, reorganizing it, provide strict rules for its conduct and operations, and eliminate the metastasizing private consulting world now overwhelming it.”

    To that, I can only say, Amen. To quote George Washington, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”

  4. Edward Goldstick Says:

    Senator Hart,

    Apologies for the term “adequate”, because “adequately damning” was what I actually had in mind…

  5. Paul Borg Says:

    Dear Senator Hart,

    I will still hold that this nation is governed by Our Consent. What principles guide this consent is the question I would ask myself. The founders of this republic held to principles of governance that I have chosen to make my own and use as my standard when evaluating the appearance of something ‘new’. To be a citizen of a republic, in my view, is to accept and bear responsibility for everything it does and does not do. If we abrogate this responsibility we cease to be a republic and become ‘something else’. If we embrace the responsibility we may find we do everything necessary to make sure our choices are informed and morally just in a spontaneous and unforced manner.

    The ‘Deep State’ is a self deception in my view. The better we truly know ourselves the less we will be subject to the machinations of what we choose to hide from ourselves.

  6. Paul Borg Says:

    Dear Senator Hart,

    One last thing must be said.

    “if to please the people,we offer what we ourselves disapprove, how can we afterwards defend our work? Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair. The rest is in the hands of God.”
    ― George Washington

    This republic’s founders have set the standard and its acceptance has been most humbly placed where it belongs.

  7. Tim Conner Says:

    Chris R. – I hear there is a sale on tin foil for hats at Walmart.

  8. Chris R. Says:

    @Tim Conner: It’s all a matter of record, but you might want to ask that presidential candidate from ’88 what he based his claim upon that he had been surveilled while out of the race. If he gave details, they weren’t reported at the time, and I haven’t heard him speak of it since. It’s all in the news now, so he is no longer the only candidate to have made such a claim. Funny, but it was the same former CIA director who appeared to benefit both from the events in 1980 and again in 1988.

  9. Eric C. Jacobson Says:

    Senator Hart: By mocking Steve Bannon’s version of same, I’m not sure you have exhausted the possibilities surrounding the existence of a so-called “deep state”. Consider the following anecdote:

    Daniel Patrick Moynihan, in a 1991 Washington Post op-ed, wrote that on the day President Kennedy died Moynihan was an assistant Secretary of Labor and happened to be attending a meeting in the White House with JFK assistant Ralph Dungan. He describes what happened when Sen. Hubert Humphrey arrived: “The door opened,” Moynihan wrote, “and in burst Hubert Humphrey, eyes streaming. He grasped Dungan, who had risen. ‘What have THEY done to us?’ he gasped.” (Emphasis added.)

    Moynihan went on to define “they” (in pedestrian terms) but to my knowledge Humphrey never did. There is also an account Senator of you having visited Sen. Humphrey on Humphrey’s deathbed in 1978, whereat the Minnesota Senator kindly prophesied you would someday become president. Did Sen. Humphrey ever further confide to you who he believed “they” were? If so, now might be a good time to share the same. Equally interesting would be you own views on who “they” were.

    In my view one almost has to posit the existence of hidden-hand rogue forces to explain the regressive political results of American post-WW2 public policy, a time widely expected to be an incrementally progressive “century of the common man” in (FDR’s World War 2 vice-president) Henry Wallace’s phrase. Ahh, but no. Post-WW2 America became a largely polarized, ultra class-stratified, hot and Cold War torn, assassination-abetted horror show. As to the latter I refer to both the murders of reformist politicians, activists and civil society leaders, and the character assassination of others whose credibility and political viability the “powers that be” destroyed.

    I first heard the term “deep state” from author Peter Dale Scott. I never liked the term. I think it is more plausible to speak (as I did here: ) of a probable “rightist underground” with tentacles and operatives inside and outside the government. These types seem to have inverted the methods of Communist subversion, including prominently propaganda (AKA a secular conservative version of “lying for the faith”), criminal violence (equal-and-opposite of the Weather Underground) and community organizing (which these rightists did better than Alinsky and other leftists because they had financing from the right-wing billionaire class.

    The job of the rightist underground (if it in fact exists) is to ensure that the supremacy of the American oligarchy (and there most certainly is one), is never threatened. It is fact (not fiction) that the various political figures (from Henry Wallace to John and Robert Kennedy to George McGovern to Ross Perot to Bernie Sanders) and movements (from private sector unionism to the anti-Vietnam war movement, to black militants to the anti-globalization protesters at the Battle of Seattle to the Occupy movement), that have posed threats to the financial elite supremacists who own and run our nation, have all been neutralized seriatim over the past 70 years. As JFK said: “Things do not happen. They are made to happen.”

    If it’s real, the rightist underground’s funding and (pre-internet) “social networking” (so to speak) enabled them (among many other things) to specialize in talent-scouting and “turning” the “talented tenth” pols of each age cohort (beginning with Ronald Reagan, who otherwise might have become a great Democratic president — listen here: ).

    They also seem to have deftly infiltrated both parties to ensure regressive policy outcomes no matter which party was in power, such as the simultaneous rise in the mid-1970s on the Republican side of right-wing Reaganism and on the Democratic side the disappearance of staunch greed-policing liberalism in favor of elite-friendly neoliberalism beginning in the 1976 Democratic presidential race and continuing straight through the theft of the 2016 Democratic nomination from Bernie Sanders.

    Where does the incumbent president and his populist electoral coalition/movement fit into this picture? As Martin Longman points out here, Trump was elected precisely because he WASN’T a traditional or conservative Republican . (Or, I would add, a neoliberal). He campaigned as an unbossed unbought blue collar billionaire who would “Trump the establishment” (even the eagle turns his head LEFT at 4:43). He took office with a mandate to: “drain the swamp” (ie. banish corrupt lawmaking “of by and for” the lobbyists doing the bidding of the special and monied interests), favor Main Street over Wall Street and reverse 40 year patterns of capital flight and tax avoidance, excessive legal and illegal immigration, and placement of Americans into illicit wage and jobs competition with the world’s poorest people.

    Alas, the president’s politically near-suicidal alliance with insipid conservative Republican House Speaker Ryan in flagrant contravention of Trump’s promise that “everyone will be covered” in an Obamacare replacement has all but totally impeached the president’s credibility as an advocate for the “forgotten men and women” of our nation. Only the unexpected failure of the repeal and replace measure (due to intra-GOP squabbling) gives Trump a chance for a new political lease on life.

    The problem is that so far nearly all of the president’s other deeds (as opposed to some of his words) have been standard conservative Republican regressive class warfare by the plutocratic few against the multitudes. It is all beginning to LOOK like a monumental bait-and-switch and if it is, Trump’s 2016 campaign will go down in history as the hoax of the 21st century (far surpassing Obama’s chimerical “hope and change” 2008 campaign). Americans will be livid if and when they realize they have been marks of a political PT Barnum (who famously said “there’s a sucker born every minute”). Trump’s approval rating (now plummeting toward George W. Bush and U.S. Congress’s levels) will not begin to register the hellacious fury that will be directed at Trump as the public realizes it has been scorned.

    There appear to be only 2 explanations for Trump beginning his presidency by allying with Paul Ryan and further right Republicans (both with respect to Obamacare repeal and a crude and cruel guns-not-butter budget). One is that President Trump lives in total existential isolation and operates as a true “party of one” lacking ANYONE in his conservative inner- or outer-circle able and willing to remind Trump of his own political identity, appeal and consequent moderate-to-liberal Republican governing imperatives. And competent enough to help him so govern.

    The other plausible explanation is that the president is (if such exists) a veteran rightist underground member or minion himself.

    In any event if Trump wishes to avoid wrath of the American people and the harsh judgment of history he has days not weeks to “drain the swamp” beginning in the White House of GOP conservatives, and to politically and philosophically diversify his staff there and throughout all federal departments and thereby form something resembling a government of national unity.

    If he doesn’t Trump will soon be filed away in the minds of the public in the “If it seems too good to be true, it is” category and another bitter life lesson learned about the obdurate nature of America’s powers-that-be. President Trump, like his predecessors Presidents Carter, Clinton and Obama, would soon be widely regarded (not just among his Democratic detractors) as yet another fake change-agent (out of proverbial “central casting”). The latest in the line the oligarchy and its rightist underground operatives recruit to traduce the American people into passively abiding (for successive 4 or 8 year increments) their third class seating in their country’s “downbound train” (in Bruce Springsteen’s phrase).

    The sad, by-now familiar pattern is that on the heels of the failure of these ersatz political figures, the best of their ideas are discredited with them (eg. Carter’s human rights, Clinton’s modestly-tax-the-super-rich-induced budget surplus and slight national debt reduction, Obama’s first step toward Medicare-for-all, possibly soon to be joined by Trump’s America First (again Springsteen-esque) “wherever this flag is flown we take care of our own” populism.

    Since WW2, the bottom line has been that America’s ruling oligarches always win. In Kurt Vonnegut’s phrase: And so it goes. At least until it suddenly doesn’t. Langston Hughes may eventually get the last word:

    “What happens to a dream deferred?
    Does it dry up
    like a raisin in the sun?
    Or fester like a sore–
    And then run?

    “Does it stink like rotten meat?
    Or crust and sugar over–
    like a syrupy sweet?

    Maybe it just sags
    like a heavy load.

    Or does it explode?”

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