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Trump's War on the Deep State

Conrad Black

Security, Americas

IN WASHINGTON now, the “deep state” generally means officially nonpartisan and politically inactive people who are in and near government, and are in practice partisan and often hyperactive in their opposition to the administration. This sort of thing occurs to some degree in almost every administration, but is rare once new administrations have settled in and installed loyalists in all key positions. In contentious times, during rending national controversies and after a radical change of administration, a

This is why Donald Trump went to war against the entire political class.

IN WASHINGTON now, the “deep state” generally means officially nonpartisan and politically inactive people who are in and near government, and are in practice partisan and often hyperactive in their opposition to the administration. This sort of thing occurs to some degree in almost every administration, but is rare once new administrations have settled in and installed loyalists in all key positions. In contentious times, during rending national controversies and after a radical change of administration, and especially when there is widespread media hostility to an administration, the phenomenon is more noticeable. In living memory, the most egregious antics of the deep state—widespread efforts to disrupt and discredit the administration—have been in the presidencies of Richard Nixon and Donald Trump.

The two sets of circumstances are easily distinguishable. Nixon came to office in 1969 and was the first president since Zachary Taylor in 1848 not to have his party in control of either house of Congress when he was inaugurated. North Vietnam had made it clear in its rejection of President Johnson’s 1966 Manila offer of joint withdrawal that Hanoi sought the complete humiliation of the United States. If Ho Chi Minh’s ambition was simply to unite North and South Vietnam, he would have accepted Johnson’s offer, waited the decent interval and reinvaded with no danger that the United States would plunge once more into that quagmire. Nixon inherited the Democrats’ war in Vietnam and preferred to extract the United States while trying to preserve a possibility for the survival of a non-communist regime in Saigon. For declining simply to surrender all Indochina to the tender mercies of the North Vietnamese, the Vietcong, and the Khmer Rouge and Pathet Lao, Nixon was undercut and harassed by advocates of defeat and shame in Vietnam, many of whom, like Daniel Ellsberg, had been happy enough to escalate the war before becoming activist advocates of the virtues and moral necessity of American defeat.

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