WHY TRUMP’S “STRATEGY” (IF YOU CAN CALL IT THAT) WILL ULTIMATELY FAIL
CLUE: RONALD REAGAN: “GOVERNMENT ISN’T THE SOLUTION; GOVERNMENT IS THE PROBLEM”
Many years ago, I spent about 12 years in government service. I spent another 20 working on contracts to the Federal Government as well as state and local governments. During those 20 years my clients included the State Department, the General Services Administration, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Commerce Department, to name a few, as well as Virginia, Maryland and other state governments as well as local government including the governments of Washington, D.C. and innumerable local governments in Virginia, Maryland and other cities across the country.
I know how government works. It can be slow, in can be confusing, it can be full of hurdles and obstructions and it doesn’t work like the private sector. This is Trump’s and his Administration’s fundamental blind spot: they simply have no experience in government and do not know how government actually works. Trump, as a developer, is used to having his orders obeyed, accustomed to government folks ultimately working to help him since he was offering goodies (buildings, jobs, tax revenues) to them, and is used to controlling every aspect of his pubic life.
I read an article recently in the NY Times that described how Trump could call three or four New Yorkers in government or in the press and could counter bad or negative press and is not (even now) aware of just how differently attempting to “manage” the news to his benefit in Washington is an entirely different kettle of fish. Here in D.C. it takes many dozens of phone calls and e-mails –if not significantly more – to counter bad publicity or to get done what one has promised to do. It is precisely the lack of Government experience that is thwarting Trump’s agenda and personal ambition. (Thank God!) Most of his closest advisors (Steve Bannon, for example) and cabinet members have no government experience and do not understand that the Federal Government isn’t some group of lockstep lackey’s who will jump when are ordered to do something today. Or tomorrow. It just doesn’t work like this.
There could be no clearer indication of the ignorance of how government works than Trump’s constant bashing of the CIA, the FBI, the EPA, and government officials everywhere and anywhere during his campaign. That one of his first acts was to place a freeze on Federal hiring was the capstone on a wealth of evidence that Trump has no idea just how precarious is his “position” viz his Federal “employees.” The slow moving, cautious and multi-layered decision making process that is characteristic of government agencies can stifle or kill actions on policies and proposals that a President wants. This is basically called “rat-fucking,” i.e. working to undermine an Administration. And Trump has set himself up for the biggest rat-fucking by Federal employees in history.
So, you might be concluding, Trump is correct when he claims that there are legions of Obama holdovers working in the government to undermine him. Actually, no. Most – let’s say 90% - Federal Employees could give a rat’s ass about who the President is, what party he represents or what his policies are just as long as they continue collecting their bi-weekly paychecks and keep their METRO passes and parking spots. They come to work each morning, maybe 20 minutes late, sit at their desks and do the work they’ve been assigned complaining all the while about how no one appreciates them and how every politician under the sun disses them on a daily basis. This is just the way it is. Remember, of the 2 million civilian Federal employees, only around 4,000 are political appointees who are shuffled out with each incoming Administration. The Federal establishment is a huge blob that moves with less than lightning speed but does move.
But when faced with an openly hostile Administration, as Trump and his Administration are, it tends to rub the 2 million slugs the wrong way. Not terribly surprising, really. So occasionally, some percentage of the 2 million worker slugs get pissed off and engage in delay and obstruction in the small ways that they can without endangering their future employment. Now, do I mean that some FBI agent or CIA spy won’t illegally dump classified info about Trump’s Russian connections to the press? At least not openly. But such actions are incredibly dangerous for your typical slug and the one thing that nearly all Federal employees will not risk is their jobs. But leaks will become much more prevalent when the Feds feel as if they are under siege, which conclusion would be amply supported by the actions of the Trump Administration even after only 40 days.
Such illegal leaks, although rare, can be devastating as Trump may discover about his latest "revelation" that Obama has tapped his “wires” in Trump Tower. Here in my Capital Hill home, just a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol Building, I could almost hear the collective guffaw of the 300,000 Federal Employees here in the D.C. area when his Saturday morning tweets were published. Sure, bashing the government has become a requirement for being elected to public office these days, but the folks who actually work in the government know very well that despite whacko claims to the contrary, they aren’t working to bring any Administration down and are pretty damned proud of their integrity despite constant bashing by politicians. That’s just how government works.
Circling back to my initial premise, that Trump’s biggest problem is that he (and his folks) haven’t a clue about how government actually works, it seems as if they also take the view that is so rife on right wing media that Federal Employees are a bunch of lazy moochers just sucking on the taxpayers teat and doing nothing. Nothing, from my experience, could be further from the truth. In my experience, Federal employees are generally very dedicated, very hard working folks who aren’t all that interested in fomenting cabals and rat fucking. What they are interested in is being successful in discharging their duties and getting their jobs done sometimes under extremely difficult conditions. Sure, are there Federal slugs who come to work every day simply to take up space at a cubicle and avoid anything that resembles “work” like the plague? Of course there are. I’ve worked with them and on occasion had to work under their control. But from the General Services Administration headquarters over on G Street, N.W., to the Army Corps of Engineers headquarters for the Mid Atlantic Region up in Baltimore, to State Department slugs in Baghdad and Kabul, the folks I’ve worked with are honorable and dedicated Americans who only want to get their jobs done.
Same with his advisors and his Cabinet picks. He has already poisoned his relationship with the Feds and unless he does an about face, he’s looking at even more pushback from them. It wasn't any teaming hoard of Federal employees who brought Nixon down. It was a couple of high level folks, Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General, William Ruckelshaus, who out of integrity refused Nixon's order to fire the Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibold Cox and resigned in protest and one White House aide who kept feeding reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward clues that brought Nixon down. It will not end well for Trump either if there are Russian connections.
Hey! This is My Take and I’m Open to Other Experiences.
NOTE: There is – not surprisingly – a fairly significant pushback at Federal Agencies since Trump's election. They are taking advantage of the incredible lack of competence exhibited by the Trump Administration and have established Twitter accounts (appropriately so) to provide the public with info not available from the Administration and to basically counter Trump’s and his minions’ propaganda. They, like us, are resisters. If you have a Twitter account, take a look at @RoguePOTUSStaff, @altDOJ and @AltStatedpt.