Regime change

So Trump recently announced that the intelligence services and federal law enforcement hide a “criminal deep state”, which is out to get him.  Of course the heads of all of these agencies (appointed by Trump) think this is nonsense, and they say so publicly.  Almost every day Trump does something that is an impeachable offense, and these paranoid lunatic ravings about a deep state are no different.  But the Dems are wasting their time thinking about impeachment, as the GOP would not impeach Trump if he murdered someone in broad daylight in the middle of 5th Avenue.  (Actually, I stole that idea from Trump himself.)

So what’s going on here?  Why does Trump say such ridiculous things?  Let’s go back to the 2008 campaign, and look at something that I did not fully appreciate at the time:

Ugly whispers about Barack Obama’s race, birthplace and religion that began during the Democratic primary erupted into full-scale conspiracy theories among some Republicans, including McCain’s supporters.

At a town hall in Ohio that September, just days after he had officially claimed the GOP nomination, McCain was on stage speaking about Obama when someone in the crowd yelled, referring to the Democratic nominee, “Terrorist!” A few weeks later, while McCain was campaigning with his running mate, then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, in Pennsylvania, rally-goers greeted mentions Obama with calls of “Treason!” and “Off with his head!”

After a particularly raucous rally in New Mexico, McCain aides told the candidate about some of the slurs shouted by the audience, and the senator, who hadn’t heard them, was shocked. “Where is this crap coming from?” he asked an aide. . . .

Down in the polls, McCain was in Minnesota looking for a lifeline among working-class voters in the upper Midwest, but what he found were anxious voters who turned their rage on him when he pushed back against attacks on Obama and defended his rival from what would now be described as “fake news.”

When a man stood up and told him he was “scared … to bring a child up” under an Obama presidency, McCain winced visibly. “I want to be president of the United States, and obviously, I do not want Sen. Obama to be, but I have to tell you … he is a decent person and a person that you do not have to be scared of as president,” McCain replied, prompting loud boos and cries of disapproval from the audience.

As he tried to calm the audience, the crowd only seemed to get more riled up. “We want to fight, and I will fight,” McCain said. “But I will be respectful. I admire Sen. Obama and his accomplishments, and I will respect him.”

The audience erupted in loud jeers, including shouts of “Liar!” “Come on, John!” a woman yelled.

“I don’t mean that has to reduce your ferocity,” McCain said, trying to speak over loud boos from his supporters. “I just mean to say you have to be respectful.”

A few minutes later, an elderly woman stood and told McCain she could not trust Obama because was he was an “Arab.” McCain shook his head and took the microphone back, interrupting the woman mid-sentence, something he almost never did. “No, ma’am,” he said, correcting her. “He’s a decent family man, citizen, who I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that’s what this campaign is about,” McCain said. This time, some in the crowd clapped, but the candidate looked aggrieved.

McCain didn’t understand that the GOP had changed, that they no longer sought out candidates with dignity and character.  His supporters wanted a bigoted demagogue that would feed them fake news about the people they hated.  Even by 2008, this was no longer the party of Goldwater, Reagan and Bush. Regime change happened in 2008, not 2016.

It no longer matters that Trump’s own law enforcement and intelligence officials repudiate him every day, on issues ranging from Iran to Russia.  That would have mattered in 20th century America, but we have a new political regime, more akin to Venezuela under Chavez, or Italy under Berlusconi.  Ross Douthat has a interesting column that warns the Dems about playing into Trump’s hands:

One of the few people to really see Donald Trump coming was the University of Chicago economist Luigi Zingales, who warned way back in 2011 that American politics was going the way of his native Italy, that we could easily produce our own version of Silvio Berlusconi, and that Trump was an obvious candidate to bottle the celebrity-populist-outsider cocktail.

So Zingales’s advice to Democrats after their 2016 defeat carried more weight than the average act of punditry. On the evidence of Berlusconi’s many victories and rare defeats, he argued, the best way to beat Trump was to do exactly what many liberals understandably didn’t want to do — to essentially normalize him, to treat him “as an ordinary opponent” rather than an existential threat, to focus on issues rather than character debates, to deny him both the public carnival and the tone of outraged hysteria in which his brand of politics tends to thrive.

Maybe that’s the least bad approach, but I’m not so sure even that will work.  Bush was hammered by the media in 2005 because of the perception that the federal relief effort after Katrina was incompetent.  His poll numbers fell sharply.  The relief effort after the recent hurricane in Puerto Rico has been equally ineffective, and yet Trump’s polls numbers were unaffected.  Perhaps part of the difference is that Puerto Rico is not a state, but I suspect there’s more to it than that.  Trump is not seen by voters as heading a government in the same way that Bush was seen as heading a government.  Remember, Trump says his own government is a criminal conspiracy that is trying to bring him down.  So why would his supporters blame Trump for how that criminal conspiracy did in Puerto Rico, or even New Orleans for that matter?  Trump did so well campaigning against the government that he decided to keep doing so even after being elected.

People often point to his hypocrisy:

Attacking Obama for playing lots of golf and then doing the same.

Attacking Hillary for the lack of a secure email system, and then relying on an insecure cell phone.

Attacking previous administrations for giving in to China, and then caving in to China himself.

Attacking fake news, and then engaging in fake news.

Attacking the “swamp”, then engaging in lots of corruption to enrich himself and his family.

Attacking the fake unemployment data under Obama, and then citing the same data as evidence of a strong labor market today.

There are dozens more such examples, probably hundreds, but none of it matters.  His supporters want the government to keep their hands off their Medicare, and they want the government to stop sabotaging Trump.  The Dems won’t win back the presidency until they figure out that Trump is not the leader of the government.

Trump’s support is like a religious cult.  Eventually the spell will break, and if there were a deep recession that hit ordinary Americans this would somewhat reduce Trump’s poll numbers.  But I don’t expect a deep recession, and smaller issues that don’t affect average people won’t dent his (modest) popularity.  While it’s true that he only polls in the low 40s, there are just enough anti-Trump Republicans who will hold their noses and vote for him anyway to put him over the top in a general election, especially against a left wing candidate like Sanders or Warren.  (Especially Warren, as gender is also a problem for the modern Democratic party.)  If only they’d nominated Biden in 2016, we wouldn’t be stuck with Trump for 4 years.

Or maybe 8.

PS.  Yes, part of the problem in Puerto Rico is the incompetence of local officials.  But that was equally true in New Orleans in 2005.  So why did Bush get more blame?  Maybe conservatives don’t care about Spanish speakers in Puerto Rico, but even the liberal media was far tougher on Bush than Trump.

Again, he’s not viewed as the head of the government, he’s at war with the government.  If Mueller didn’t exist, Trump would have had to invent him.



44 Responses to “Regime change”

  1. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    24. May 2018 at 08:29

    One thing we have going for us is that Trump is very dumb. His treatment of Puerto Ricans, for example, who have been coming to Florida since the disaster of a disaster response lean Democrat overall.

    On the other hand, Trump is good at one thing, and that is marketing to easy marks. Democrats may have to have a strong demagogue themselves to beat Trumpism.

    This is not the morally comfortable answer in some ways, but they really should’ve been branding right-wing protestors with guns as terrorists all along. Bundy and his crazy followers should’ve been given an opportunity to quickly surrender, or face, at the very least, arrest on the spot. The NRA should be branded as a terrorist organization, trying to make sure terrorists have easy access to guns to kill real Americans.

    Some may scoff at this, thinking it would send the fascists into even more of a frenzy, but most of them already think the Democrats are always out to get them. Now, the Democrats really should be, in some ways.

  2. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    24. May 2018 at 08:32

    Oh, and demagoguery won’t be enough. Democrats also need a strong program offering help to people left behind by automation, and to a much lesser degree, trade.

    And, finally, it would be nice if at least one party was behind a realist foreign policy, since to us realists, it’s the only approach that’s relevant.

  3. Gravatar of XVO XVO
    24. May 2018 at 09:28

    As a supporter of Trump, it’s all very confusing what’s going on right now. Why was there a spy planted in the Trump campaign? That doesn’t seem like an above board thing to do. This whole Russia thing seems like nonsense, it doesn’t seem like Trump has favored Russia any more than Hillary Clinton would have. I think his opponents just don’t like the way he communicates more than anything, it drives pompous blowhards insane to see an unsophisticated blowhard do so well.


    A realist that believes all those that disagree with him are fascists. I can only imagine what your realist foreign policy would involve.

  4. Gravatar of El roam El roam
    24. May 2018 at 09:28

    Great post . But , one may observe it , from totally another angel . Here I quote some , from the inauguration speech of Trump , here :

    Today’s ceremony, however, has very special meaning. Because today we are not merely transferring power from one Administration to another, or from one party to another – but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the American People .

    End of quotation :

    The American people according to him , has lost any confidence in federal administrations . They ( W.D.C ) work for themselves . Work for each other . Work for all sorts of lobbies in Washington . Work for every selfish goal , but the American people. That is his job right now . To restore the power to the American people. To work directly for them . Not for a bunch of fake liberals , with International agenda ( See for example his refusal to sign the ” Paris agreement ” or yield to politically correct perceptions concerning immigrants coming to the US and more ) .

    But , he couldn’t deliver it ! Why ?? for too many reasons !! Above all , he was naïve , lacking basic experience . So , instead of admission and re – organization of himself and his surrounding , he blames , a “straw ” and vague entity : ” The deep state ” ( not visible and tangible of course ) .

    But where and when he could , has been done indeed ,with great triumph :
    Relocation of the US embassy , from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem , blaming the previous lousy presidents ,promising without delivering , yet , he did .


  5. Gravatar of Jeff Jeff
    24. May 2018 at 09:29

    Many people support Trump not because they like him but because they think both party establishments are hopelessly corrupt. The bailouts of 2008-2009 have a lot to do with this. We bailed out AIG so that the Masters of the Universe (in memory of Tom Wolfe) at Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street houses wouldn’t miss their six and seven figure bonuses. But the rest of us got a tight money policy that kept millions unemployed for years.

    Year after year, governments at all levels enact policies like restrictive zoning and bogus patents to benefit the politically powerful at the expense of those less powerful. Closed access is becoming the norm. There’s a general sense that the fix is in, and it’s hard to argue that it isn’t.

    There have been protest candidates in the past. George Wallace and Ross Perot come to mind. The difference today is that with the proliferation of media and the Internet, more people today are somewhat aware that they’re being screwed. That’s why Trump succeeded where Wallace and Perot failed.

    Trump didn’t campaign against closed access, and he’s not doing much as President to move toward open access. What’s he’s done instead is promise the currently screwed that they’ll get to be the screwers rather than the ones screwed. He can’t actually deliver on this, so it will be interesting to see if and how his political opponents attack in 2020.

  6. Gravatar of Benny Lava Benny Lava
    24. May 2018 at 09:30

    Conservatism turned into an American religion in 2008 due to the utter failure of its policies. Bush basically gave conservatives everything they wanted. Wars. Tax cuts. Lower regulations. Putting evangelicalism up front. And it failed spectacularly on all fronts. Deficits forever, unwinnable wars forever, recessions and economic malaise forever. So they went crazy. Sad!

  7. Gravatar of James in London James in London
    24. May 2018 at 10:44

    Just 6 comments (now 7). My gawd what a mess America is in if you can’t even rouse more comments than that for such an obviously corrupt President as Trump. He’s not incompetent, just corrupt, competently so. Or does everyone just agree with you?

  8. Gravatar of KenM_agnostic KenM_agnostic
    24. May 2018 at 11:51

    This McCain sounds like a real stand-up guy. I’ll bet whomever he chose as a vice-presidential candidate would have been a respectful, responsible leader for our country had it come to that.

    No time to look up who he chose right now though.

  9. Gravatar of David R Henderson David R Henderson
    24. May 2018 at 12:57

    @Scott Sumner,
    Impeachable offenses almost every day? Sure, if you count being at war illegally, and if I were a Congressman, I would vote to impeach him in a heartbeat on that basis. Of course, I would have voted to impeach Obama, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Reagan, Nixon, LBJ, JFK, and Truman on that basis. (I would need more information to decide on Carter, Ford, and Ike.)
    But I’m guessing that’s not what you have in mind.
    Are you alright with the FBI spying on his campaign?

  10. Gravatar of Mike D Mike D
    24. May 2018 at 13:22

    Do you guys know what the “I” in “FBI” stands for? Can we please stop using the word “spying” here?

    Which seems more likely; The FBI followed a counterintelligence investigation into Russian election interference, which rightfully enveloped numerous shady Trump campaign officials, or…

    It was all a big conspiracy to sabotage Trump’s election, except that the FBI forgot to tell anyone about it in time to prevent his election??

    It says a lot about the gullibility of Trump’s base that this story has been effectively spun with Trump as the victim, rather than the obvious reality which is that he is an incompetent leader who surrounded himself with agents of a hostile foreign government.

  11. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    24. May 2018 at 14:16


    The FBI “spying” on his campaign? Is it “spying” when police infiltrate a mafia family, or child-sex trafficking ring, or is it part of an investigation? And I point out that a handful of Trump’s campaign members have plead guilty to felonies.

    Also, Trump’s son has admitted he tried to collude with representatives of the Russian government and Trump has openly obstructed justice. Had the FBI not infiltrated that campaign, that would be the scandal.

    On your comments about wars, the guarantor of balances of power in favor of Western interests has to have a government unfraid to regularly spill some blood in the pursuit of favorable balances. Realpolitik hasn’t dominated foreign policy by mistake. It’s largely the way of the world.

    I don’t think that will always be the case, but there’s no reason to believe that will change in my lifetime.

  12. Gravatar of Philo Philo
    24. May 2018 at 14:30

    “Regime change happened in 2008, not 2016.” But the party nominated McCain in 2008 and Romney in 2012; Trump was not put forward until 2016. The tide may have turned in 2008 (probably even earlier), but it took a while to come in. (Let’s hope it is already ebbing.)

  13. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    24. May 2018 at 15:17

    XVO, You said:

    “Why was there a spy planted in the Trump campaign?”

    LOL, have you been watching Fox News?

    Jeff, You said:

    “Many people support Trump not because they like him but because they think both party establishments are hopelessly corrupt.”

    People pick Trump because the others are corrupt? Do they think he is less corrupt? Trump is by far the most corrupt president in US history.

    David, The FBI has not been spying on his campaign.

    Trump’s campaign was a criminal enterprise, like a mafia family. It’s not unusual for the FBI to investigate crime. But no, there was no spying.

  14. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    24. May 2018 at 15:37

    ‘Trump’s support is like a religious cult.’

    Actually The Trump Resistance is more like a religious cult. Especially the fund raising arm(s).

  15. Gravatar of Mark Mark
    24. May 2018 at 15:38

    Michael Sandifer:

    “The NRA should be branded as a terrorist organization, trying to make sure terrorists have easy access to guns to kill real American”

    Thank you for giving me a daily reminder that, as bad as Trump is, the Democrats are probably worse. A group promoting views you disagree with is not a terrorist organization. Full stop. Opposing a policy that *might, in theory* save some people’s lives is not terrorism, nor murder. Otherwise everyone who opposes bringing back the Volstead act is a terrorist and a murderer. Combine that with Democrats’ increasingly close embrace of socialism and “reverse: racism and sexism, I don’t see a convincing argument for why they’re preferable.

  16. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    24. May 2018 at 15:38

    ‘LOL, have you been watching Fox News?’

    I read about it in the NY Times.

  17. Gravatar of Mark Mark
    24. May 2018 at 15:45

    “Trump’s campaign was a criminal enterprise, like a mafia family. It’s not unusual for the FBI to investigate crime. But no, there was no spying.”

    You’re jumping the shark, Scott. It seems anger is clouding your judgment. What was your opinion on Trump supporters shouting “lock her up” about Hillary Clinton. Would throwing the book at a candidate for violating the letter of the law be an ‘assault on Democratic norms?’

  18. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    24. May 2018 at 15:45

    A little factual history never hurt anyone;

    If you think that’s a weird event for an Oxbridge college to host, it’s as nothing to this “Race to Change the World” beano. I do my share of international junketing, but the bill of fare for this curious symposium is so bland as to be almost generic – panels titled “Europe and America”, “2016 and the World”, “Global Challenges Facing the Next President”. Compared to the laser-like focus of a typical Cambridge confab (“A Westphalia for the Middle East?”), it’s almost as if someone were trying to create an event so anodyne and torpid no one would notice it. All that distinguished these colorless presentations was the undoubted eminence of the speakers: former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright; former UK Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind; and Sir Richard Dearlove, former C (that’s M, for 007 fans) at MI6. The conference appears to have been put together at a couple of weeks’ notice by Steven Schrage, former “Co-Chair of the G8’s Anti-Crime and Terrorism Group” and a well-connected man on the counterterrorism cocktail circuit: Here he is introducing Mitt Romney to the director of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center, and here he is spending election night in the UK at a party with Scotland Yard elite counterterrorist types. Make of that what you will – it’s a somewhat odd background for the convenor of an insipid, vanilla, cookie-cutter foreign-policy seminar – but among the small number of strangely prestigious attendees at Mr Schrage’s conference were:

    ~Carter Page, a petroleum-industry executive and Trump campaign volunteer;

    ~Christopher Steele, the former head of the Russia house at MI6;

    ~Stefan Halper, a University of Cambridge professor with dual UK/US citizenship.

    Today, Mr Page is better known as the endlessly surveilled “person of interest” whose eternally renewable FISA warrant was the FBI’s gateway into the Trump campaign; Mr Steele is a sometime FBI asset who, a week before the Cambridge conference, had approached the G-men with the now famous “dossier” that provided the pretext for the FISA application; and Professor Halper turns out to be not some tweedy academic but a man with deep connections to MI6 and the CIA, on the payroll of something at the Pentagon called the “Office of Net Assessment”, and (one of) the supposed FBI informant(s) inside the Trump circle.

    Carter Page says that in the course of this two-day conference he met Professor Halper for the first time. But I was struck by this aside Mr Page made to Sara Carter:

    ‘Madeliene Albright was always trying to get me to go into public debates. I told her I was there just as a listener, just as an attendee.’

  19. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    24. May 2018 at 15:55

    Continuing with Mark Steyn, here is how George Papadopolous got into the game;

    Here’s another professor, and from another Commonwealth country: Malta. Joseph Mifsud is (was) a professorial fellow at the University of Stirling in Scotland, but is (was) based in London as a principal of the “London Centre of International Law Practice” and a director of the “London Academy of Diplomacy”, both of which sound fancy-schmancy but are essentially hollow entities operating from the same premises – 8, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, a tony address (next to the London School of Economics and the Royal College of Surgeons) but the “London Centre/Academy”‘s fifth in three years and at which they and a handful of other endeavors are holed up in a minimally furnished back room filled by four interns round a trestle table on fifty quid a week.

    Professor Mifsud also has (had) similarly undemanding academic sinecures at the “Euro-Mediterranean University” in Slovenia and “Link Campus University” in Italy. At the beginning of March 2016, a young man called George Papadopoulos joined the Trump campaign. On March 14th, traveling through Italy, he met with Professor Mifsud. They got together again in Britain, and at some point Papadopoulos became head of the “London Centre of International Law Practice”‘s soi-disant “Centre for International Energy and Natural Resources Law & Security”, a post for which he had no obvious qualifications. Happily, like most other jobs at the “London Centre”, it didn’t require work, or showing up at the “London Centre” or even being in London.

    Mifsud is said to have ties to high-ranking figures in Moscow, but there seems to be more prima facie evidence of ties to high-ranking figures in London. That’s Professor Mifsud [in a picture] above with my old friend Boris Johnson, Britain’s Foreign Secretary, at some Brexit event last October 19th. On October 31st Joseph Mifsud disappeared and has not been seen since. I know how he feels: The same thing happened to me twelve days after I lunched with Boris at The Spectator in early 2006. Is (was) Mifsud an FSB asset? An MI6 asset? Both? Neither? Well, there’s more circumstantial evidence of Mifsud’s ties to British intelligence, including multiple meetings with, inter alia, Claire Smith of the UK’s Joint Intelligence Committee.

    At any rate, back in London on April 26th 2016, Professor Mifsud told young Papadopoulos that the Russians have all this “dirt” on Hillary, “thousands of emails”. A couple of days later, a friend of George’s at the Israeli Embassy, Christian Cantor, introduced him to Erika Thompson, who worked for Alexander Downer, Canberra’s High Commissioner in the UK, at Australia House. On May 4th, Papadopoulos was quoted in The Times of London denouncing David Cameron for calling Trump “divisive, stupid and wrong”. On May 6th, Ms Thompson called Papadopoulos to say that Mr Downer wanted to meet him. On May 10th they met for drinks at the Kensington Wine Rooms. Young George claims that the High Commissioner told him to “leave David Cameron alone”. Which doesn’t sound quite right to me.

    As longtime readers may recall, I have drunk with Alexander Downer and that is not something to be undertaken lightly. Somewhere in the course of the evening a pretty squiffy Papadopoulos lifted his head up from the bowl of cocktail olives and started blabbing about Russian “dirt” on Hillary.


    At any rate Mr Downer relayed the information about young George to Aussie Intelligence back home. Canberra sat on the info for two months and then passed it along to the Yanks in late July, just in time for that FISA application.

    And so, as July turned to August, Peter Strzok bade farewell to his “paramour” Lisa Page and flew to London for a sit-down with the High Commissioner at Australia House. When Strzok reported back to Washington, the FBI sicced the omnipresent “professor” Stefan Halper on George Papadopoulos. So the Trump aide woke up one August morning to an email from a Cambridge academic he’d never heard of, inviting him on an all-expenses-paid trip back to Britain to give a speech for $3,000. Once in London, Halper casually inquired of his new friend, “George, you know about hacking the emails from Russia, right?”

  20. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    24. May 2018 at 16:17


    Actually, I erred in the use of the word “demagogue”. Apparently, you haven’t seen these NRA ads. The NRA leadership and their big funders will seemingly do anything to sell guns, including push dark, stupid, absurd conspiracy theories and even arguably start to incite violence.

    I take back the word “demagogue” and say Democrats should call the NRA leadership what it is, which is a bunch of terrorists. They try to spread terror to further a political agenda, ultimately toward the end of selling more guns. It’s terrorism and corruption.

    Some of the rank and file members are also terrorists and I’d like nothing more than to see a law making it a felony to possess any kind of gun in a major metro area, and anything but hunting rifles and shotguns in rural hunting areas. I’d like a minimum 5 year sentence for possession, so that we can get those who’d violate such a law off the streets. This would also make the jobs police have to do much easier, as if nothing else, a criminal with a gun can be prosecuted just for possession.

    Unfortunately, Democrats are too stupid and cowardly to run a strong law and order campaign like that, so the crazies take over.

  21. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    24. May 2018 at 17:49

    I agree with David that the FBI was spying on Trump.

    I also agree with Trump that the FBI seems to be very politicized. Comey for example admitted that he made political calculations in Hillary’s case. He thought that she would win anyhow that was one reason why he released information about her right before the elections. The FBI must not make political calculations like that.

    I also feel very much at unease with US law enforcement agencies in general. I’m a layman regarding this topic but from what you read in the media their power seems to be overblown. When you get into their crossfire (like Bill Clinton did in the 90s), their power seems to be nearly endless. “Investigation” in the US seems to mean that you just look at everything private there is for years, then sometime something must come up eventually. That’s NOT how a criminal investigation should be executed in my book. Not at all.

  22. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    24. May 2018 at 19:14

    It is too bad that a singularly unsympathetic character (Trump) is the one to decry (for completely selfish reasons) “the deep state.”

    The last time the US Congress declared war was….are you ready?….WWII.

    David Henderson has a point.

    Dwight Eisenhower warned against a military-industrial complex (and he might have added, a related and dependent foreign-policy community).

    From Ike’s time we have gone from a mobilized when necessary citizen-soldier military (that’s how we won WWII in a few short years) to a permanently hyper-mobilized mercenary military—and one that votes. Veterans are organized by Congressional district, btw.

    The “black budget”—a secret budget that US citizens cannot see—is now estimated at $70 billion, for US intelligence agencies.

    Let’s take Iraq: The CIA told Bush jr. it was a “slam dunk” there were WMDs in Iraq. The US invades Iraq without a Congressional declaration of war but with a mercenary military, and we occupy, and have been there in some level ever since. So much for avoiding “foreign entanglements.”

    Was Iraq a manifestation of a Deep State policy? Why not?

    Some people use the less-inflammatory or conspiratorial term “perma-state” to describe much of our federal government, and there is a large measure of truth in that. We all know that we do not need a USDA anymore, and we all know it is a permanent part of our economy.

    Who has more effective, working influence on US foreign policy: Citizens, or multi-nationals?

    This is a book written by a long-time GOP congressional staffer, not a conspiracy buff guy, Worth a read:

  23. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    24. May 2018 at 20:16

    Is it unthinkable that the Federal Bureau of Investigation would spy on a presidential campaign for political purposes? I can personally attest that it has happened before—during Barry Goldwater’s 1964 campaign.


    Former intelligence officer E. Howard Hunt, best known for his role as an orchestrator of the Watergate bugging, told a Senate committee in 1973 that his CIA superior had ordered him to infiltrate the Goldwater campaign. Hunt claimed to have questioned the order, only to be told that it had been a personal request of President Johnson and that the information he recovered would be delivered to a White House aide.

    CIA Director William Colby confirmed the White House’s role in the illegal surveillance while addressing a congressional hearing in 1975. ….

    the FBI arranged for widespread wiretapping of the Goldwater campaign. Sure enough, campaign reporters could soon be heard asking specific questions about the candidate’s travel plans that had only been discussed by Goldwater aides behind closed doors. To protect themselves, Goldwater staffers began using pay telephones outside their headquarters.

    Goldwater later revealed that two reporters had asked him about a proposal he had yet to make public—that if elected he would ask Dwight Eisenhower to go to Vietnam and report on his findings. He had discussed the possible Eisenhower visit only with his top aides. But the reporters swore they had heard about it from the White House.


    In 1971 Robert Mardian, who had been a regional director in the Goldwater campaign, became assistant attorney general for internal security. During a two-hour briefing with Hoover, Mardian asked about the procedures for electronic surveillance. To Mardian’s amazement, Hoover confessed that in 1964 the FBI had wired the Goldwater campaign plane, under orders from the White House. When Mardian asked Hoover why he had complied, the director answered, “You do what the president tells you to do.”

    In a later conversation with Mardian, William C. Sullivan, the bureau’s No. 2 man, verified the FBI’s spying operation against the Goldwater campaign. In a 1992 interview, Mardian told me that Sullivan was appalled at LBJ’s partisan use of the bureau.

    Did the FBI infiltrate or surveil the Trump campaign for political purposes? If so, it wouldn’t be the first time.

  24. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    25. May 2018 at 03:39

    Patrick Sullivan: Does anyone imagine we can create a $1 trillion-a-year federal military budget, and $70 billion-a-year in black intelligence budget, and create an entire tax-dependent class that has the means and money to protect its interests—but that it will not do so?

    That squalid politics will not intrude?

  25. Gravatar of Mike Mike
    25. May 2018 at 04:00

    Premise A – Trump is, like, the worst human ever

    Premise B – Trumps speaks of something called “deep state”

    Conclusion – The deep state does not exist.

    I propose we call it “the Sumner syllogism”.

  26. Gravatar of bob bob
    25. May 2018 at 05:26

    This is a good post. As frustrating as it is, the biggest strength the democrats have is that they haven’t done some of the appalling things that republicans have done. Trump is not a republican but republicans are to blame for trump. It started with George W. He made it cool for republicans to be stupid. And I consider George HW to be the best president in the last 50 years. Refusing to govern while Obama was president was appalling. Refusing to allow him to fill vacancies was appalling. Shutting down the government was appalling. And it was appalling when Stenny Hoyer did it. Swift boating Kerry was appalling. Republicans normalized appalling behavior long before Trump. Democrats are terrible but i don’t think they are appalling yet- I could be wrong. We need one party that is not appalling and we need Republicans to start demanding that their party stop being appalling. Trump is a symptom.

  27. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    25. May 2018 at 06:44

    From Andrew McCarthy, some speculation that sounds a lot more plausible than Scott’s belief in the FBI’s ‘pure as the wind-driven snow’ meme;

    Carter Page and Paul Manafort joined the Trump campaign in early spring, and the FBI was concerned about their possible ties to Russia. These were not trifling concerns, but they did not come close to suggesting a Trump-Russia espionage conspiracy against the 2016 election.

    These FBI concerns resulted in a briefing of the Obama NSC by the FBI sometime in “late spring.” I suspect the “late spring” may turn out to be an earlier part of spring than most people might suppose — like maybe shortly after Page joined the Trump campaign.

    There are many different ways the Obama administration could have reacted to the news that Page and Manafort had joined the Trump campaign. It could have given the campaign a defensive briefing. It could have continued interviewing Page, with whom the FBI had longstanding lines of communication. It could have interviewed Manafort. It could have conducted a formal interview with George Papadopoulos rather than approaching him with a spy who asked him loaded questions about Russia’s possession of Democratic-party emails.

    Instead of doing some or all of those things, the Obama administration chose to look at the Trump campaign as a likely co-conspirator of Russia — either because Obama officials inflated the flimsy evidence, or because they thought it could be an effective political attack on the opposition party’s likely candidate.

  28. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    25. May 2018 at 08:39

    Regime change

    So Scott, you are saying “Where is Bolton when you need him”???


  29. Gravatar of David R Henderson David R Henderson
    25. May 2018 at 11:51

    @Michael Sandifer,
    You wrote, in response to me:
    On your comments about wars, the guarantor of balances of power in favor of Western interests has to have a government unfraid to regularly spill some blood in the pursuit of favorable balances. Realpolitik hasn’t dominated foreign policy by mistake. It’s largely the way of the world.

    I think you missed my point. I agree that it is “the way of the world” or at least of the United States. My point was, and is, that those presidents were violating the Constitution, which is what, in my mind, makes it a high crime. Making wars is one thing; doing so without a Congressional declaration of war is quite another.

  30. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    25. May 2018 at 13:20


    Yes, I did miss your point to some degree, so I accept the correction.

    On the constitutionality of military interventions without a Congressional declaration of war, I can’t claim to have an informed opinion. I do think though that such a requirement would severely dampen the ability to practice realpolitik in some cases.

    Congress has often given its approval for military interventions in absence of a war declaration, and it can refuse future funding for interventions it does not want to support.

    That said, of course, once an intervention begins, even if Congress disapproves, it is often unwise, practically or politically, to simply refuse to fund it in future budgets, should the intervention persist.

    It’s not an easy question, except to say that I think there should be some process short of war by which Congress should have to pre-approve military interventions, except in the case of the US being attacked.

    But, what about those gray areas? What about when a threat seems imminent and immediate? Should a Preisent be able to order a pre-emptive attack?

    These aren’t easy issues, it seems to me.

  31. Gravatar of Lawrence D’Anna Lawrence D'Anna
    25. May 2018 at 15:02

    “Why does Trump say such ridiculous things?”

    That’s just who he is. Trump’s been saying ridiculous things his entire life. We may wonder why a candidate who says ridiculous things suddenly became so appealing to Republicans, but Trump’s just being Trump.

  32. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    25. May 2018 at 17:01

    BTW Scott Sumner has prevailed!

    “The Money Illusion is a blog by economist, Scott Sumner, the director of the Program on Monetary Policy at the Mercatus Center. Sumner is famous for popularizing the idea of targeting the Nominal GDP, an idea which was later embraced by the Federal Reserve. The blog focuses primarily on monetary policy and its implications.”

    From new list of top 100 blogs in link from Marginal Revolution

  33. Gravatar of Brian Donohue Brian Donohue
    26. May 2018 at 06:41

    Nice link to Zingales. Take his advice, Scott.

  34. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    26. May 2018 at 13:17

    Patrick, You said:

    “I read about it in the NY Times.”

    I doubt that. Link?

    Mark, I’m not advocating locking up Hillary or Trump. But if you are talking about corruption, Hillary is clearly the lesser of evils.

    Christian, Don’t you think if you are going to claim the FBI was spying on Trump, you ought to have some evidence? Especially given that Trump is just about the only one making that claim, and he has presented no evidence, and he’s someone who complains that the FBI was too soft when investigating Hillary.

    Brian, His advice was to Democrats, so I can’t take his advice. I’m not a Democrat. If I were, I would take his advice. But I’m not a Democrat, so I can’t.

    Everyone, So there’s a criminal deep state, out to get Trump, but somehow all the people in charge of the agencies where the deep state supposedly exists say there is no deep state, even though they were appointed by Trump. I thought Trump was going to appoint the “best people”. Wouldn’t you expect the “best people” to not throw their boss under the bus when he claims there is a criminal deep state, out to get him?

    I find this stuff to be hilarious. The crazier and more paranoid the Trumpistas get, the happier I am. It just confirms what I always suspected about them.

  35. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    26. May 2018 at 17:48

    I think about large part of what is happening with voters now starts with the fact that most of them have little knowledge about our political system or the issues. For quite a long time, they referred to elite opinion.

    From a neural network perspective, there aren’t many layers of processing over and above simple general impressions, formed with higher order learning. They lack the ability to detect nuance the way a Scott Sumner does. This means they certainly aren’t very abstract thinkers, which is why very concrete (no pun) non-solutions to book non-problems, like building a border wall appeal to them. It’s hard for more sophisticated opinion to compete, particularly when raw impressions coincide with instincts that underlye various forms of bigotry.

    This has been made all worse by extreme policy failures by the elite and exposure of much corruption, even if corruption over all isn’t as bad as in eras past (before Trump, that is).

    Due to disasters like the occupation of Iraq, financial crisis and Great Recession, bailouts of institutions perceived as criminal, 9/11, Katrina, lies to base voters by Republican leaders, etc., switches at lower processing levels of the brains of many voters turn off all support for the establishment and their elites.

    This was made worse over the years by piss-poor media coverage in general, and demagogic right-wing media.

    So, now we have a situation in which the voters turned off to the establishment have turned on to Trump, because he thinks much the way they do. Hence, Trump is able to muddy the waters with his lies, given that he’s appealing to a mindset prepared to accept anti-establishment conspiracy theories and in which the most the establishment can achieve in hurting Trump is to cut him down to their level of esteem. That still leaves Trump ahead, because he’s more relatable.

    Trump, and Trumpism, could be very hard to get rid of.

  36. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    26. May 2018 at 17:50

    deferred to elite opinion. Stupid autocorrect doesn’t take no for an answer.

  37. Gravatar of Bob Murphy Bob Murphy
    26. May 2018 at 18:23

    This is a lively post and comment thread! Various reactions:

    ==> Something changed in the Market Monetarist movement in May 2018 when the first commenter on a Sumner post labeled the NRA a terrorist organization and Scott didn’t even object. At least the GOP candidate rejected what some lady in the audience said about Obama.

    ==> Are we all just quibbling over the verb “spy” when done by the FBI, like it’s a definitional thing? Or are we saying, e.g., that the FBI did indeed spy on J. Edgar Hoover’s political opponents, but that the FBI didn’t spy on the Trump campaign?

  38. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    26. May 2018 at 18:54

    Bob Murphy,

    Is there a difference in your mind between the FBI spying on MLK, and them using an informmant in a campaign from which multiple people have already plead guilty to felonies?

  39. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    26. May 2018 at 19:00

    Trump supporters,

    There are some facts that can only be ignored by you, and that is that Trump surrounded himself with crooks, traitors, thugs, and incompetents during the campaign. He is obviously himself a crook, thug, and incompetent. He is clearly guilty of obstruction of justice, and likely other crimes. Last I knew, obstruction was a felony and is what brought Nixon down.

    And, the more that is revealed about this investigation, the worse things look for Trump. His son and son-in-law are clearly guilty of conspiracy to collude with people who were declared to be representatives of the Russian government with dirt on Hillary. A Russian oligarch with ties to Putin is seen on video entering a Trump tower elevator with Michael Cohen just days after the election. Both of Trump’s sons have stated that they benefitted from much Russian money in the past.

    And I’m leaving out lots of other evidence of wrong-doing, including abuses of power by Trump.

    The situation is clear, but you support a criminal administration anyway. History will not judge you well.

  40. Gravatar of Ken P Ken P
    26. May 2018 at 22:37

    Scott, Here’s a NYT link to a 1983 article where the very same “informant’ was accused of spying on Carter’s 1980 presidential campaign.

    Maybe there’s nothing to it, but it raises concerns for me.

  41. Gravatar of Bob Murphy Bob Murphy
    27. May 2018 at 14:01

    Michael Sandifer wrote:

    Is there a difference in your mind between the FBI spying on MLK, and them using an informmant in a campaign from which multiple people have already plead guilty to felonies?

    There could be a big difference, yes. But that wasn’t the point of my question. Rather, I was trying to facilitate communication on this thread.

    E.g. when Scott was saying to some people, “Nobody spied on Trump’s campaign,” I didn’t know if he meant

    (a) He didn’t understand what the other person meant.

    (b) He knew the person meant the FBI informant but disagreed that that was “spying.”

  42. Gravatar of Massimo Heitor Massimo Heitor
    28. May 2018 at 19:11

    Sumner suggests that political “dignity and character” is speaking kindly and respectfully about political opponents and limiting dispute to policy choices and maintaining Country Club manners with other Washington establishment insiders.

    Sumner isn’t practicing what he preaches. He’s practicing his own demagoguery and feeding his commenters the Trump bashing that they crave rather than limiting his critique to polite policy disagreements while otherwise lavishing his opponent Trump with personal praise.

    McCain campaigned in 2016 on “leading the fight to stop Obamacare” and then when he won his election, he voted the exact opposite way to keep Obamacare. That is grossly dishonest. The left praised him as a principled Republican because gave them his vote, but that isn’t principled at all. It’s the opposite. He turned on his very own campaign pledge and his very own voters.

    Unfortunately, I expect some trollish flippant comment back from Sumner, which suggests he’s just trolling Trump supporters rather than debating in good faith.

  43. Gravatar of Tom Brown Tom Brown
    31. May 2018 at 22:14

    Lol, great post Scott. These comments are classic. And I like what you write here:

    I find this stuff to be hilarious. The crazier and more paranoid the Trumpistas get, the happier I am. It just confirms what I always suspected about them.

    So true! I predict in 3 years half your commenters will be flat Earthers, convinced there’s been a giant conspiracy by the Illuminati, the “Deep State” and the “elites” to suppress the truth. Why? Trump will be one too. Lol!

  44. Gravatar of brave chicken brave chicken
    1. June 2018 at 19:00

    I’ve been wondering lately what motivated trump to boast with such confidence and bravado, that he could shoot someone ==> and not lose votes. What was behind that asinine statement — was it more than psychopathic glee and taunting, or was it based on some assessment or predictive analysis which indicated very clearly that a massive voter block was in fact fascist and dangerous. At some point, the trump followers morphed into a blood-thirsty cult — and the trump people realized they could literally get away with murder … and that was before the election. As our highly polarized nation faces a new midterm election, isn’t it possible (if not likely) that these supercharged empowered MAGA groupies will be highly disruptive — thinking they can do no wrong, or break any laws — if anything, it’s likely they’ll push the envelope of what democracy stands for — while their leader bates them on and uses the media to overwhelm the electorate with chaos.

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