Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
I finally got around to opening up my latest issue of “Claremont Review of Books” today. What a fantastic publication. If you don’t subscribe, you really should. Anyway, this issue features a long essay from Michael Anton titled “The Empire Strikes Back.” He provides an outstanding summary of the various impeachment attempts against Donald Trump, starting immediately after his election. He also shares several fascinating insights into the people and events involved, but it was this paragraph that really caught my eye (emphasis mine):
It is no accident or coincidence that the only three presidents who have fundamentally challenged the administrative state … have been dogged by “scandal” and threatened with impeachment: Richard Nixon by Watergate, Ronald Reagan by Iran Contra, and now Trump. (Whatever you think of Bill Clinton’s impeachment it was emphatically not driven or supported by the administrative state, which protected him at every turn.) Trump would likely take this as small consolation, but it’s a measure of how much he’s feared that his enemies are running this play against him now, rather than simply trying to defeat him next year. Which more than suggests they doubt they can.
President Obama repeatedly said how proud he was that his administration was free of scandal. After Fast and Furious, weaponizing the IRS against political opponents, Benghazi, illegal State Dept email servers, various VA cover-ups, weaponizing the FBI against political opponents, and so on and so forth, you might find that to be an extraordinary claim. But those issues never hurt him, since the press buried them as soon as they came out. Maureen Dowd of the New York Times said that the Obama administration was “without any ethical shadiness.”
I often refer to what I call the Jane Fonda Rule of the American legal system. If you’re a leftist, there is no political crime that you could possibly commit that will ever be prosecuted, up to and including (in the case of Ms. Fonda) outright treason with photographic evidence. Hillary Clinton will never be prosecuted for anything and just think of all the things she has done. But she’s a Democrat. So, there you go. I’m not saying this is right or wrong. It’s just the way it is.
One thing we have learned through these various Trump impeachment investigations is that foreign governments did not meddle in our elections, but our government did. But when I hear people ask why no one at the FBI is serving prison time for their role in the greatest political scandal in American history, I refer them to the Jane Fonda Rule. If FBI agents had been trying to destroy President Obama, they’d be in prison for the rest of their lives. But they didn’t. They tried to destroy a Republican president. Legally, that’s an entirely different matter. We are a nation of men, not of laws. It’s just the way it is.
Modern American leftists are essentially statists. They believe in using the power of the state to accomplish their goals, which tend to start out as giving people free stuff, and tend to end up as taking away people’s stuff. That transition doesn’t take as long as you might think.
Our media is made up nearly exclusively of leftists. They go to journalism school to make the world a better place, which to them, means promoting leftism. To them, their motives are pure. So they defend other statists. When the Obama administration does something that might be sort of a little illegal if it were misconstrued by some uneducated deplorable redneck, it’d probably be best to just make it go away. Let the president do his job, right?
So the Obama administration had no scandals. The media even cut the compliant President Bushes a little slack – they were just politely holding down the fort until the next Democrat was elected president. They understand the established norms of Washington and were too nice to rock the boat. They also understood who was really in charge, and they knew it wasn’t them.
But if anyone considers significantly modifying the administrative state, it’s remarkable how that presidential administration seems to instantly develop leaks, “scandals,” and investigations. As surely as night follows day.
This serves to hamstring the current Republican president, and warn the next one. I think the warning is more damaging to our country than the immediate impact of such attacks.
If they really do manage to get rid of Trump, I presume that President Pence will decline to consider real changes to the administrative state. Partly because he’s a career politician, and partly because he’s a nice, polite person who’d prefer not to upset people. But mostly because he understands who’s really in charge. It wasn’t President Bush, and it wasn’t President Trump, and it most certainly will not be President Pence. That has been made clear to him. If it hasn’t, former President Trump can explain it. Probably in a crudely written but extremely clear Tweet.
If that happens, the leftists, statists, and administrative state denizens will have won. For the foreseeable future. Elections don’t matter that much anymore, because the next president will either politely ignore the administrative state, or give it whatever it wants. There is no third choice, and every politician knows it. So vote for whichever politician you want, but nothing will change. Not really. It can’t.
So you know those leaks, “scandals” and investigations are coming when someone has the temerity to rock the boat. It could be an amiable Ronald Reagan. It could be an uncouth Donald Trump. It doesn’t matter who it is. All that matters is whether they understand who’s really in charge of the American government. As long as they play nice, like Obama or Bush, they’ll have a scandal-free administration.
But those “scandals” spontaneously crop up every time someone directly challenges the administrative state. As surely as night follows day.
What a remarkable coincidence.
Unless you ask Michael Anton, who sounds skeptical.
Please read Mr. Anton’s article. It’s outstanding.
And again, if you don’t subscribe to “The Claremont Review of Books,” you really should.Published in