Cheap Seats 2019
Deep Enough - 11/13
By Rich Trzupek
Ever since Donald Trump took office, there has been a lot of talk on the right about the “deep state.” Now, I enjoy a good conspiracy theory as much as the next guy, but after dealing with government agencies on a daily basis for 35 years, I would define the problem a little differently.
“Deep state” sounds like an organized conspiracy, working to achieve a sinister goal. While I don’t doubt that there are people actively working to dethrone President Trump and while I don’t doubt that some of those people are bureaucrats, the bigger problem lies elsewhere.
Let’s take ex-FBI Director Jim Comey as an example. When Comey testified before Congress, he was positively indignant that anyone would dare question his judgement, actions or motivations. I believe that his indignation was absolutely genuine, rather than an attempt to cover something up or deflect attention.
I believe it because I’ve seen that attitude – how dare you question my performance! – so often among EPA officials I interact with. Not all of them suffer from this particular brand of hubris, but a lot of them do. And really, it’s to my professional advantage that they exist, because they make my expertise and experience all the more valuable to my clients in industry.
To the rigid bureaucrat, each question has one answer and each situation demands a single, unalterable course of action. Human judgement does not come into it. It can’t, because the rigid bureaucrat depends on the system – believes in the system and is sure that if anyone doesn’t always follow the system as rigidly as he or she chaos will be the inevitable result.
A few years ago I wrote a book, “Regulators Gone Wild: How the EPA is Ruining American Industry.” It contained numerous examples of state and federal officials stubbornly sticking to courses of action that actually caused increased environmental harm because the system demanded that course of action.
While more people in the regulatory community than you would think agreed with much of what I said, I still run into EPA and state officials who are shocked and disgusted that I would presume to question their sacred system.
Now go back to Comey’s testimony. His reaction was beyond personal. If people think he did something wrong, then to his mind there were only two reasons: 1) he did not execute his duty as the FBI system demands, or 2) there is something wrong with FBI’s system. It’s hard to say which choice he finds more offensive.
You can’t do anything wrong if you’re doing your job correctly and there’s only one way to do things correctly in the FBI. Ergo these congressmen questioning his actions were insulting Jim Comey as a professional and the FBI as an institution.
To me, that’s not evidence of a deep state, it’s further proof of the rigid, mindless arrogance of the classic career bureaucrat. It leads to the kind of anger and bitterness that are so evident in Comey’s actions after leaving the bureau. Among other statements he declared he would vote for the Democrat candidate for president no matter who he or she actually is. That’s a bitter, bitter man.
It will be interesting to hear Comey’s reaction when US Attorney John Durham’s report on the origins of the discredited Trump-Russia collusion probe is released. Comey has declared he has confidence in Durham and considers him unbiased. Will the ex-director maintain that attitude if Durham’s report implicates the FBI, as rumor has it? It will be interesting to see. Career bureaucrats like Jim Comey are not known for their willingness to admit mistakes.