Trump is right: a deep state exists within the US government. But it is a deep white state. This informal apparatus is neither liberal nor conservative, red nor blue, but impartial, and regulative.
Comey v Trump
The battle of Comey vs. Trump is an obsession across the US currently: Who’s right, who’s wrong? Or as I prefer to think of it, Where is each of them right, and wrong? Because no one tells the complete truth.
The fascinating question is, What motivates Comey in all of this? Consider these starting points:
- Comey is respected by both parties as a nonpartisan actor.
- He is nevertheless a politically shrewd actor; there is no way to succeed in the Beltway otherwise.
- Comey’s actions in opposing the President are odd. He used a second party to release his own memos. He agreed to testify in Congress, while his old organization, the FBI, is still pursuing their investigations. He testified, knowing full well that he would not be able to answer most of the Senate’s questions; and that by not answering, he was speaking volumes. Finally, Comey unequivocally said, in his opening statement, that the President lies. It is not what we expect of seasoned professionals. They usually speak from the facts, and let the jury – in the law court or the court of public opinion – decide for themselves.
- Comey knew very well that announcing the reopening of the Hillary Clinton case, that close to the election, was a violation of the rules. Worse, he knew it was unfair: he knew that the announcement would impact the election.
- Comey did not, however, announce the FBI’s investigation into possible ties between the Trump Campaign and Russia, even though the probe had started months before, and was a much larger potential problem than Hillary’s server.
- Given the preceding, it is unlikely that Comey reopened the Clinton case to help the Trump Campaign.
- I offer this suspicion: despite his comments otherwise, I believe that Comey knew that the reopened Clinton investigation would only last a few days, and would therefore have a limited impact. I cannot believe that a neutral actor would announce the reopening of an investigation into a presidential candidate, with the possibility that it might drag on through election day, when it would almost certainly throw the election to a candidate he wouldn’t, and apparently doesn’t, support.
- The Clinton loss stunned almost all of the pundits, who largely believe that Comey’s announcement was critical in the upset. We can guess that Comey was among those pundits.
It is important to remember that at the time that Comey announced the reopened Clinton investigation, Clinton was not only a lock for the Oval Office, but the polls were showing that the Democrats might take the Senate as well. I don’t think Comey was worried about the White House, nor the Senate per se. Rather, if Hillary were in the White House, and the Senate went to the Democrats, the impartiality of the Supreme Court would be threatened. Remember, liberals were hot-heeled over McConnell’s refusal to allow Obama to choose a Justice to replace Scalia, even though Obama nominated a moderate that the Senate had fully support for the federal bench. So there was a very real possibility that a far-left candidate would have emerged as the nominee, in retaliation.
From these, my suspicion is that Comey reopened the Clinton case to preserve the Supreme Court. Not to preserve it for conservatives; to preserve it as impartial. He wanted a Supreme Court that would be non-partisan.
Which fits with the starting points about Comey. He is very serious about defending the nation, and our laws. Partisanship, particularly in a long-tailed body like SCOTUS, is a threat to stability, to fairness, and to objectivity.
The Deep State
So I think Comey is doing what he swore to do: defend the government, the whole government.
Which brings up the leaks. President Trump has been railing against the leaks coming from the ‘deep state’, saying that they are coming from Obama partisans. There is one serious flaw in his argument: the leaks are largely coming from the FBI. I don’t think I’ve ever met a liberal law enforcement officer. I’m sure they exist, they’re just rare. Comey was the head of the FBI, and a conservative. So the leaks are probably coming from conservatives. But they are conservatives dedicated to protecting the nation above partisan interests, left, right, or from anywhere.
I suspect that the FBI officers are opposing, not a conservative President, but a far right, or even radical President.
The Deep White State
It’s the Deep White State. Red is Republican, Blue is Democrat. Law enforcement should be White. Much like the blindfolded lady law, the US legal system, from the rookie cop all the way to the Supreme Court, is supposed to be blinded to who the parties are. She only weighs their arguments on merit. The Law is supposed to be the guys in the white hats.
Hence, the Deep White State.
And the most important aspect of the Deep White State is the Supreme Court. If they are partial to one side or the other, America is at risk.
I suspect that Comey was trying to only slightly influence the election, in order to protect law enforcement at its highest, and most fundamental. In effect, he was putting his thumb on the scales, not to benefit one side or the other, but to keep them balanced. And his recent odd activities suggest that he is still fighting for the country, and is still part of the Deep White State. In his battle royale with the President, I think he’s saying, “I created this problem.”
“I’ll fix it.”
White Moving into Grey
Right now, the Deep White State is moving to grey. The Deep State is leaking documents, and attracting many vocal critics; but it is important to remember that the Watergate scandal was exposed through leaks.
Of course, if the leaked documents contain classified information, it is a felony. If the documents contain information that the democracy needs to know about, it is a courageous service to the nation, protected under whistleblower statutes.
And if the documents contain both? Then the Deep White State has moved from grey into dark, shadowy areas.
The Trump presidency is a new problem. We have a President who launches personal attacks on his critics, and then cries ‘Foul’ when he is attacked. We have a president who lies repeatedly, and then when confronted with indisputable proof of his lies, simply doubles down. We have a President who attacks our long-standing allies, and then praises nations who oppose us, and their despots as they reject democracy and the rule of law.
And most of all, we have a President who fired a man, from his own political party, who was investigating the President’s staff, and their possible involvement in activities that undermine the meaning of democracy.
But we have covered this before. In time of grave danger, should law enforcement stay within the rules, when it leaves the larger public at risk?
The Man in the White Hat
I chose the picture of John Wayne for this post because he is the archetype of the Man in the White Hat. Consider, however, that this promo picture comes from the movie, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. In the film, Jimmy Stewart plays an idealistic young attorney who enters a duel with the town’s bad guy, played by Lee Marvin. Marvin first shoots Stewart in the arm, taunting him, but miraculously the incapacitated Stewart gets off a wild shot that kills Marvin.
If you saw the movie, you know that in reality, John Wayne was safely hiding in the wings, and shot Marvin precisely as Stewart fired. That means it wasn’t really a fair fight. But then, it wasn’t fair fight before John Wayne intervened. Sometimes you cheat to protect the weak, and everyone. Perhaps it isn’t honest, but it serves honesty in the long run.
And it is distinctly American to break the rules in times of crisis.
John Wayne, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, courtesy of Paramount Pictures. All rights reserved.