Obama holdovers and disgruntled Republicans impede Trump’s agenda
Donald Trump won the presidency because of a key sector of votes in traditionally Democratic states — votes based primarily on the dramatic economic decline in these industrial-manufacturing regions. In short, the election was another confirmation that, absent a perceived and immediate catastrophe of some kind, most people, quite understandably, vote their economic interests and concerns — i.e., jobs, jobs and jobs.
In short, Mr. Trump called it right, called it early and focused his campaign on a winning theme — jobs — and in winning critical heartland regions. As such, he neutralized the Democratic message and let them set up an “echo chamber” for their promises of more “free stuff” — jobs were not part of the traditional Democratic social justice message.
That Mr. Trump’s victory stunned Washington is an understatement — the town is still stunned. This cannot be overemphasized: Every political and professional sector of the town was stunned and still is. There has been nothing like it in recent political history.
Most every pundit was wrong, and the collective shock quickly turned from disbelief to anger and hatred, especially from the media.
So-called “news reporting” of all kinds has taken a blatant and consistent political spin against President Trump. Watching the evening news these days is like reading an editorial in The Washington Post or The New York Times, and they quote each other. The three major networks hate Donald Trump so much they can’t hide their venom. In fact, you can actually hear and see the contempt in the news readers and talk show hosts — they can’t help themselves.
OK, so Mr. Trump won and the media hate him. Add that to a town where nobody accepts blame for anything and you pretty much have the current situation in Washington.
Nevertheless, and all things considered, Mr. Trump has handled the media situation pretty well. Just look at what he’s done. As a well-articulated national message, he has shown us that the media:
• Has become blatant advocates for the left.
• Takes obvious liberal political positions on most all issues. • Redefines news as opinion and spin. • Has reduced their credibility to an all-time low. On the other hand, it’s been the more traditional, petty political dynamics in Washington that have inflicted damage on Mr. Trump. This as leaks and leakers seem rampant in departments and agencies — much of it coming from the national security sectors.
This is most probably owing to the Obama holdovers. Not only that, some, perhaps too many of the careerists in State, Defense and the intelligence agencies are embedded former political appointees — or those brought in as careerists by them — all of them with strong allegiances to the Obama administration.
And because they had expected (or been assured) “big jobs” in a Clinton administration, they don’t mind being confidential sources for most anything they can spin as negative about Mr. Trump. This same dynamic was also manifest, but to a lesser degree, during the Clinton-Bush transition in 2001. I witnessed it firsthand as special assistant to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
Remember also that before the election, more than a hundred former Bush administration and Republican national security officials signed on to vitriolic personal attacks against Mr. Trump. The primary reason for this was probably retaliation for Mr. Trump’s well-placed criticisms of George W. Bush’s extended Iraq War as a strategic response to September 11.
Nevertheless, some of these diatribe signers have had the post-election chutzpa to insert themselves into consideration for senior jobs in the Trump administration — most recently, believe it or not, as the FBI director. One asks: How could anyone who signed on to such a list of personal insults ever be trusted in any Trump administration job, let alone as FBI director?
What should President Trump do about this situation? The very organization and structure that he inherited reflects the policies and personnel decisions of the Obama administration.
It’s past time for a purge in the senior ranks. In that respect — and unlike some other commentators — I’m not so much concerned that higher-level appointees are not being placed in the national security/foreign policy departments and agencies. In fact, some of these organizations should be allowed to atrophy from the top.
What the president needs now is loyalty, and it makes good sense that key agency organizations be assembled very carefully — along with whatever reorganization is needed to implement Mr. Trump’s policies.
In fact, many policy, program and analysis sections or divisions of our national security agencies and departments may need to be eliminated or consolidated — then reformed into new organizations. And above all, senior managers should be selected and appointed based their expertise, reliability and loyalty.
Every past president has insisted on loyalty from their senior people — President Trump should, too. Daniel Gallington writes about national security. He served in senior positions in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Department of Justice and as general counsel for the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.