In parts one and two of our guided tour of the Deep State, we looked at two anchors of the Federal Triangle in downtown DC, the Department of Commerce and the Environmental Protection Agency. And while Virgil looks forward to continuing his tour of the Triangle and other nodes of the Deep State, sometimes breaking news breaks in, and so we should pause to consider the latest.
On March 10, from his podium at the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House, President Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, was asked about the Deep State. The question:
Does the White House believe in a “Deep State” that is actively working to undermine the president?
And here’s Spicer’s answer:
I think that there’s no question when you have eight years of one party in office, there are people who stay in government—and continue to espouse the agenda of the previous administration. So I don’t think it should come as any surprise there are people that burrowed into government during eight years of the last administration and may have believed in that agenda and want to continue to seek it. I don’t think that should come as a surprise.
In other words, Spicer’s answer to the answer to the question was “Yes.” So now there can be no doubt that the concept of the Deep State will be discussed for a long time to come. And yet if Virgil might be permitted to quibble with Spicer, he would say that the Deep State is a lot deeper than just the past eight years—we’ll come back to that point.
But first, let’s hear from other voices on the issue of whether or not there’s a Deep State. As we can see, it’s gaining a critical mass of recognition, at least on the right. And that’s good, because, as they say, forewarned is forearmed.
On March 5, former House speaker Newt Gingrich made himself clear—as he always does:
There is an active Deep State opposition to a populist disruptive reformer. Many [in the government] believe it is their duty to break the law and lie. For Trump to succeed, there will have to be profound overhaul of the bureaucracy.
A few days later, Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) didn’t use the actual words “Deep State,” but his point was the same when he described the situation in Powertown: “The same people were there, and they don’t think the new owners or the new managers should be running the ship.” And then Kelly added this point about former president Barack Obama:
He’s only there for one purpose and one purpose only, and that is to run a shadow government that is totally going to upset the new agenda.
So is the 44th president setting up a permanent campaign against the 45th president? Obama denies any such intention; he says that he and his family are remaining in Washington so that his youngest daughter, Sasha, can finish high school. Of course, that explanation doesn’t quite tell us why former White House consigliere Valerie Jarrett has moved into the Obamas’ 8200-square-foot home in the swanky Kalorama neighborhood, just a couple miles north of the White House.
In fact, the real goal of the relocation, according to The Daily Mail, is to “oust Trump from the presidency either by forcing his resignation or through his impeachment.”
Meanwhile, others in Congress, too, are eyeing closely the shadowy armada arrayed against the new administration. In the words of Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), “I think it’s really the Deep State vs. the president, the duly elected president.”
And on March 9, Fox News’ Sean Hannity, was even more direct:
Deep State Obama holdovers embedded like barnacles in the federal bureaucracy are hell-bent on destroying President Trump. It’s time for the Trump administration to purge these saboteurs.
Interestingly, by coincidence, or perhaps not, the very next day President Trump’s Justice Department ordered the firing of 46 US Attorneys, all Obama holdovers.
Still, some in the Main Stream Media, even now, choose to deny that there is any such thing as a Deep State. One such is David Ignatius, veteran columnist for The Washington Post, who wrote on March 7 that what we’re seeing is simply the collision of President Trump and the properly established legal system:
Some [Trump] supporters claim he’s facing a secret coup from an intelligence and foreign policy establishment that constitutes a despotic “deep state.” But really, Trump is confronting the orderly process we call the “rule of law.”
Virgil thinks that it’s rich, indeed, for Ignatius to insist that there’s nothing going on except the proper rule of law. Why? Because it was Ignatius’ own reporting, back on January 12, that demonstrated the extra-legal power of the Deep State. That was the report that revealed that on December 29, Michael Flynn, named as Trump’s national security adviser in the new administration, had been intercepted talking on the phone to the Russian ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak. And from that first report, events tumbled, and as we all know, Flynn resigned from his White House post on February 13.
And yet a few days after that Ignatius story ran on January 12, Virgil wondered aloud how he got the information about a private phone call: “Now how did Ignatius know that?” That is, how did Ignatius learn about the Flynn-Kislyak conversation? Continuing, Virgil wrote back then, “The Postman won’t say, other than that he got his information from a ‘senior US government official.’” Virgil then pointed out that even if was legal to record the call—yes, it’s smart to surveil Russians—it’s not legal to leak such information to the media, especially if it involves an American citizen. “Such disclosures aren’t legal,” Virgil added with a sigh, “but once again, nobody in Washington, DC, seems to care.”
So we can see: In the Flynn case, the power of the Deep State wasn’t at all about the “rule of law.” It was about just the opposite.
Others, too, take the Ignatius line—even if their denials are weirdly weak and self-contradicting. Here, for example is a March 9 headline in Politico, the bible of the Beltway: “The Deep State Is a Figment of Steve Bannon’s Imagination.” The author, Loren DeJonge Schulman, starts out by firing both barrels at Bannon and anyone else who might have suspicions about the Deep State:
Here’s a handy rule for assessing the credibility of what you’re reading about national security in the Trump era: If somebody uses the term “Deep State,” you can be pretty sure they have no idea what they’re talking about.
Got that? Nothing to see here: So if you hear Spicer, Gingrich, Kelly, Massie, Hannity—or, of course, ol’ Virgil—nattering on about the Deep State, well, have a dunce cap handy.
So who’s the author of this don’t-worry-about-a-thing piece? We can see from her bio that Loren DeJonge Schulman, who now works at a Democratic-aligned think-tank in DC, has an extensive background in the politics of the Democratic Party and the Deep State, both.
So maybe it’s not so surprising that Schulman wouldn’t want anyone nosing around too much in Deep State matters. After all, nobody likes being snooped on, right? In fact, Virgil is reminded of the 1999 Brad Pitt movie, Fight Club, featuring these oft-repeated lines:
Welcome to Fight Club. The first rule of Fight Club is: you do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is: you DO NOT talk about Fight Club!
That was Hollywood’s way of expressing the most basic wisdom of any secret enterprise: Keep it secret!
So Virgil was surprised to see how Schulman chose to end her denial piece. After nearly 2000 words of mercilessly mocking the idea that there was any such thing as a Deep State, Schulman closed by . . . outing herself as a Deep Stater:
So the next time you hear someone using the term Deep State, send them a copy of this article. Ask them to stop using it. Tell them the term betrays their ignorance, and obscures and misleads far more than it illuminates. And if that doesn’t work, well, we Deep Staters will take matters into our own hands. [emphasis added]
One supposes that Schulman would say that her final words were just her way of being funny: What an arch sense of humor she has! And no doubt she got some yuks from her pals in Cleveland Park, Crystal City, and Chevy Chase. Meanwhile, other Americans, curious about how they are being governed, might wonder what’s so funny about being threatened by a well-connected Beltway apparatchik.
Yes, an attempt at humor, however ominous, is one possible explanation for Schulman’s close. Another possibility is that she is, in fact, proud to be a Deep Stater, and that her pride shines right through her feigned irony. That is, she is eager to signal to her friends and colleagues in the Deep State that she is truly one of them, even as she laughs it off.
Was her Politico piece a successful stratagem? Did Schulman succeed in playing her double game? That is, proving that she is one of the cool kids, even as she convinced readers that only dopes and paranoids worry about the Deep State? Virgil reports, you decide.