Washington's Recurrent Coup Attempts

Trump isn't the first president the swamp has tried to get rid of.

Although the term "deep state" is relatively new, the existence of a marginally-controllable bureaucracy has been an inescapable reality of government and other large organizations for hundreds if not thousands of years.  Rulers have been murdered by frustrated bureaucrats.  That extreme degree of lese majesty isn't particularly common in modern times, but it's routine for bureaucrats or other underlings to strive to thwart or depose managers they don't like.

A large, capable, effective bureaucracy is vital to complex civilizations.  We can't put up the Great Wall of China or the Egyptian pyramids, build the Roman roads or the interstate highway system, or get to the moon without bureaucracy.  Like fire, though, a bureaucracy is an essential servant but a fearful master: it must be kept strictly under control at all times.

Bureaucracies are essential to any large organization, whether it be public, private, or religious.  Private businesses go broke when they neglect their mission; a giant corporation that is taken over by its bureaucrats eventually dies and takes the bureaucrats' jobs with it.  Nations have this same check.  Government bureaucracies can grow and ossify until they take down the whole society either by costing more than government can afford or being unable to provide essential functions such as maintaining roads.

Despite decades of work by the Harvard Business School et. al., no one has discovered a workable means of making sure that a bureaucratic organization stays focused on its mission as opposed to just benefiting the people who work there.  People of a bureaucratic mindset tend to have only three goals:

  1. Less work to do this year.
  2. More spending money next year.
  3. A comfortable retirement as young as possible.

Striving to avoid work at greater expense is such ordinary bureaucratic behavior that people assume that all bureaucracies will seek to increase their budget regardless of results.  Most leaders are content to let the bureaucrats feather their nests so long as the waste and inefficiency doesn't get bad enough to threaten organizational survival.

The whisper of the ax when a real reformer comes along gets a bureaucracy's attention: a mortal threat to their accustomed power and privilege tends to stir bureaucracies to frantic action.  Deep state push-back against a threatened budget cut generally inflicts severe damage on the organization which funds the bureaucracy.

Our deep state has attempted coups against three sitting presidents, Mr. Nixon, Mr. Reagan, and Mr. Trump, all of whom spoke of slashing the bureaucracy.  The deep state drove Mr. Nixon from office, Mr. Reagan survived and Mr. Trump has survived, at least so far.

Before we discuss these anti-democratic results, it would be well to consider how the oldest and deepest states of them all functioned.

Asian Deep States

Before the invention of credible democracy as a means of choosing the next ruler, the saying, "Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown" was an understatement.  Rulers are surrounded by courtiers who think they could do the job better. The Old Testament documents a high body count when King Solomon succeeded his father David, when Jehu succeeded Ahab, and so on.  Each ruler must figure out how to avoid dying with his boots on.

Japanese shoguns forced nobles to spend six months at a time at the Imperial capital where they could be watched.  When they went back to their domains, they left their wives, children, and other close relatives as hostages for good behavior.

Minimizing the probability of rebellion by the nobility didn't protect rulers from anonymous assassins.  The palace had Nightingale floors - small metal chips placed under the floorboards so that no one could sneak up silently.  Any ruler who wasn't alert enough to protect himself given that much warning wasn't smart enough to rule anyway.

Chinese Emperors took a different approach.  The Palace in the Forbidden City had more than 1,000 bedrooms.  The only person who knew where the emperor was sleeping was a trusted eunuch.  Eunuchs have no family ambitions and the emperor always chose one who had made enough enemies that his survival depended on the emperor's survival.

This key subordinate would fetch the emperor anything he needed once he retired for the night.  If he wanted a particular concubine, for example, the eunuch would find her, have her take all her clothes off to make sure she had no weapons, roll her in a quilt so she'd have no idea where they were going, and deliver her to the Presence.

The English Deep State

Although people such as Mary Queen of Scots got offed every now and then after guessing the wrong way on political issues such as which religion England would follow, things got really hectic when a ruler died, particularly if he died unexpectedly.  The tale of the "Princes in the Tower" comes to mind.  King Edward IV died suddenly in 1483, leaving his 12 year old son to become Edward V of England.

The late king's brother escorted his two nephews to the Tower of London where all monarchs had spent the night before their coronations since the 14th century.  They were never seen again, and their lucky uncle became Richard III of England.

Whodunnit?  Did the uncle order their demise?  Did anybody?

Although it's becoming clear that the orders to go easy on Hillary and to engage in deep state war on Mr. Trump were tracked and supported from On High, we're pretty sure that Mr. Obama did not order Lois Lerner to give conservative groups a hard time.  He didn't have to because he'd gone on TV criticizing conservatives and "hoping" that the IRS would give them "strict scrutiny."  Surprise surprise, exactly that occurred.

Did the uncle order his nephews killed?  Probably not - the bureaucrats and household staff who operated the Tower, which at that time was a luxurious royal residence, would have every opportunity and incentive to manipulate the upcoming coronation in favor of the uncle by offing the boys.  Their disappearance caused a scandal, but once Richard III took power, talking about it became hazardous to your health and the scandal died out.

The practice of literally cut-throat politics brings a whole new meaning to "the politics of personal destruction."  Politics was very much a blood sport in those days.  Our modern democratic systems with more-or-less peaceful changeovers of power were designed with the express purpose of avoiding the old-school methods of choosing the next leader.  As Winston Churchill put it:

Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.

Our Deep State

Our mandarins and bureaucrats manipulate coronations by padding voter rolls, ballot stuffing, ballot harvesting, and other shenanigans.  The goal is the same, but there's a little less blood.

Our government spends so much money that scandals involving people trying to misdirect government funds are always just beneath the surface.  Few scandals become full-blown political crises.  What distinguishes scandals that consume the nation from those which never make it to the national stage?

It's hard to interpret political scandals properly in this era of "fake news."  The reason was summed up by an editor in the film, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.  He justified putting unrealistic spin on the story by saying, "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."  As newspapers have lost journalistic integrity, we have had many scandal-related legends foisted on us, especially since Watergate.

There are so many unidentified parties whose interests aren't obvious - leakers, "journalists," lobbyists, politicians, bureaucrats - that it's difficult to understand what's going on.

It's obvious, however, that big scandals are a way to attack political foes while hiding the political differences at issue.  This is especially likely after elections that threaten an established order.  Scandal is a way for defenders of the status quo to undermine anyone who's been elected on a platform of challenging their power or perks.

The key to understanding how modern scandals play out is to note that they are taken out of the political process.  They become legal dramas which are supposed to play out in non-partisan terms.  Once scandals "go legal," the people in charge of resolving them are "neutral" prosecutors, judges, and bureaucrats of the permanent, unelected government, not our elected representatives.

We've had four political scandals - Watergate, Iran-Contra, Whitewater, and Russiagate for which "special prosecutors" were appointed.  Congress and the Senate have oversight responsibilities as described in the Constitution.  Both houses are perfectly capable of summoning witnesses, locking up the silent for contempt, and conducting investigations.  Why, then, were these scandals turned over to special prosecutors?  Politicians resort to scandal when they don't believe they can win politically.  To paraphrase Clausewitz, scandal is politics by other means.

The Anti-Nixon Watergate Coup

Richard Nixon was the first Republican to win the south when he won the presidency in a landslide in 1972 and was removed from office less than two years later.  The Watergate scandal gave us the "XX-gate" label for all later scandals whether political or not.  Why did Watergate come about?  How was it done?  What did it mean?

When President Johnson took office in 1964, the White House, the House of Representatives, and the Senate were under Democrat control.  The Johnson administration created Medicare, Medicaid, and Head Start.  His Great Society created the National Endowment for the Arts, the Public Broadcasting Corporation, anti-poverty programs, and drivers' education.

All this brought about a vast increase in government spending and increased administrative authority in the federal bureaucracy.  President Johnson decided not to run for a 2nd term partly because of opposition to the Vietnam war and partly because voters were unhappy with the economic effects of his increased spending.  Economic growth had been 4.9% but inflation was 4.7%, and increased imports created a large balance of payments deficit.  Mr. Nixon defeated Hubert Humphrey, President Johnson's vice president, and took office in 1969.

President Nixon signed laws such as the Child Protection Act which increased the size of the bureaucracy during his first term, but he greatly feared the inflation that had resulted from President Johnson's increase in domestic spending to support his welfare programs on top of the increased spending on the Vietnam War.  He made it clear during his campaign for a second term that he intended to radically chop back government spending to cure inflation.  The New York Times noted that the transformation planned by Nixon to rein in the executive bureaucracy was as extreme as if an opposition party had won.

... would reduce the jurisdiction of the President's office over the long run, by eliminating social programs undertaken and expanded by Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson. Mr. Nixon wants to return this authority to state and local governments.

In his second Inaugural Address Mr. Nixon stressed not only turning authority back to the state and local governments but also more selfreliance of individuals at home and of foreign nations.

His intentions for his second term came to nothing.  By promising to use his overwhelming mandate to end federal programs and reduce the federal bureaucracy, Mr. Nixon posed a danger to the political establishment.  The swamp struck back.

People who lived through it will remember that there was tremendous build-up of partisan opposition to Mr. Nixon, but very little mobilization in his defense.  In those pre-Twitter days, it was impossible to mobilize support in the face of war being waged by the media once the fight left the political arena and was given to prosecutors, grand juries, and judges.

The weapons of Watergate haven't changed.  Deep Throat, the leaker who supplied the Washington Post, turned out to be Mark Felt, a high-level FBI official who had access to all of the classified information about the investigation.  Felt leaked artfully over the course of a year or more, helping to shape public opinion.  Sound familiar?

There are other similarities.  In 1980, Mr. Felt was convicted of violating the civil rights of people thought to be associated with the Weather Underground.  He ordered FBI agents to break into their homes in an attempt to prevent bombings - government operatives committing burglary should sound familiar.

Mr. Felt's actions seemed like a good idea in order to save lives - the Weather Underground was in fact a murderous terrorist group who killed quite a few innocents - but the way he went about stopping them was blatantly illegal.  Congress decided that we needed a legal, Constitutional means to more effectively fight that sort of extreme threat.

The FISA courts were set up to make it easier for government agents to spy on Americans suspected of terrorist associations; their whole point was to avoid legalistic inconveniences in the future.  Normal crimes produce evidence that the police can search for and use to get a warrant for more searching - if a surveillance camera catches a car with your license plate near a dead corpse, it's not hard for the police to take the picture to a judge and get a warrant to search your house for a gun matching the bullets found in said corpse.  That's not much help to the corpse, who is already dead, but it's what the rules require.

It didn't take too much investigation to figure out who was behind the 9-11 attacks, but that was cold comfort to the thousands already brutally murdered.  Yet up to the moment where Mohammed Atta entered the cockpit, he and his crew had committed no crimes!

FISA rules do involve a judge, but the evidence is secret, it doesn't have to be of a crime, it can be very weak or circumstantial, and there doesn't even have to be a crime yet.    We don't know for sure, but it looks like the deep state agents who spied on the Trump campaign were acting legally.  The fact that what they did was technically legal should be the real scandal.

People like Geoff Shepard, deputy counsel during the last 10 months of the Nixon administration, who've continued investigating Watergate using the FOIA act, have established that the prosecutors and judges involved in Watergate violated laws that should have ensured impartiality.  Instead, they acted as partisans against Mr. Nixon and his associates - somewhat like the FISA court, which approves well over 99.9% of warrants.

Geoff Shepard was invited to a CNN panel to discuss CNN's 4-part series on President Nixon.  His invitation was withdrawn once they realized that he would have presented a very different view.  The Federalist published an article about the questions he was not permitted to ask:

I would have asked Richard Ben-Veniste, deputy of the special prosecutor's Watergate Task Force and one of the lead prosecutors in the cover-up trial, just what was discussed in the secret meeting he attended between the four top prosecutors and trial judges John Sirica and Gerhard Gesell on December 14, 1973-just days after Sirica had turned over key White House tapes to the prosecutors.

I would have asked [him] just how he could have claimed, when the cover-up verdicts were announced, that "justice was done" when he knew of the whole series of secret meetings prosecutors had held with Judge Sirica, of prosecutors' failure to share exculpatory information that would have seriously undercut the veracity of their two lead witnesses, and their highly improper indictment of Charles Colson (a prominent Republican) on the flimsiest of evidence, especially when coupled with their decision not to indict Hunt's lawyer, William Bittman, who was far more culpable.

A specially recruited, 100-person team of highly partisan officials, whose top 17 lawyers all had served in the Kennedy/Johnson Department of Justice, postponed any Watergate indictments while they launched investigations into every aspect of the Nixon presidency, sent IRS and FBI agents to interview some 150 GOP donors to the 1970 midterm elections, and investigated (and leaked the results from) each and every potential GOP candidate for the 1976 presidential election, including Jerry Ford, Nelson Rockefeller, Bob Dole, and even Ronald Reagan—none of whom had even the remotest connection with the Watergate scandal.

Does this abuse of investigatory power during the Watergate investigation sound familiar?  At least they didn't roust any of their victims out in their underwear.

The Independent Counsel Act

The Independent Counsel act of 1978 was justified by using the argument that the executive branch must be subordinated to the rule of law.  The logic was that since the President controls the Department of Justice, it is unreasonable to expect someone who works for the President to investigate Presidential misbehavior. 

That's false logic, of course.  Both the Senate and the House have ample power to investigate and are Constitutionally fully independent of the executive branch.  But leaving it to them would keep the matter within the political process.  Turning it over to the lawyers makes it easier for the deep state to retain control and far harder for victims to resist.

Experience proves that concern was indeed unjustified: any special prosecutor protects the permanent, unelected government from political control, nothing more.  Only long-term deep state operatives have any chance of getting such appointments, the swampier the better.  The process is used to block any president or executive branch official who threatens the centralized executive bureaucracy put in place by the New Deal and enhanced by the Democratic majorities of the 1960s and '70s.

A special prosecutor transforms political and policy disputes which are supposed to be decided by the elected branches of government, and thus by the people, into legal disputes where the people have no part.  Shifting the fight to the legal arena turns it over to career bureaucrats, government lawyers, and judges who all favor increased spending and more power for the bureaucracy.  A legal fight is no fight at all - the desired outcome is foreordained.


Having learned how effective this technique can be, the deep state tried it again a decade later, when a special prosecutor was appointed during President Reagan's second term to investigate the Iran Contra affair.

To oversimplify a complex scandal, various government employees secretly facilitated the sale of arms to Iran, which was the subject of an arms embargo at the time.  They used profits from selling these weapons to buy weapons to send to the anti-Communist Contras in Nicaragua, which was also against the law.

Although attempts were made to blame the President, no credible evidence of his involvement emerged.  Mr. Walsh was appointed independent counsel in December of  1986.  Several administration officials were convicted, but the convictions were later reversed.  Two charges of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice were brought against  former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger; the perjury charge was dismissed.

President Reagan was more or less unharmed, but that doesn't mean the investigation was a waste of time; the deep state takes the long view.  A few years later, an upcoming presidential coronation was affected.

Six years after being appointed special counsel and just before the 1992 presidential election, Mr. Walsh obtained a grand jury re-indictment of Mr. Weinberger on one count of making false statements.  The new indictment referred to President George H. W. Bush who had been President Reagan's Vice President during the affair and who just happened to be running for re-election at the time.

Partisans say that Mr. Bush had been closing the gap with Bill Clinton and that this "October surprise" stopped his momentum: as we all know, Mr. Clinton won.  Even some Clinton officials thought the decision to announce an indictment just before the election was bizarre - particularly when the indictment was dismissed a few months later.

From Whitewater to Russiagate

The special counsel statute does a lot of damage to Republicans, but it isn't very effective when wielded the other way.  Newt Gingrich's Republicans tried it with Ken Starr, who investigated President Clinton's perjury and other crimes but didn't bring him down.  This should have been no surprise because Mr .Clinton favored expanding government programs; while Mr. Starr himself might have liked to achieve victory, every other gear in the federal government bureaucracy was trying its hardest to turn the other way.

Having failed to get rid of Mr. Clinton through the legal process, the Republicans switched to the political process of impeachment.  That not only failed, it improved Mr. Clinton's standing with the public.

Today's Mueller investigation, with its leaks, media firestorm, and final nothingburger findings, was just another attempt to destroy an anti-establishment president.  Whatever else anyone may think of Mr. Mueller, he is undoubtedly spawn of the deep state.

Instead of hiring a balanced team of investigators, he staffed up with Trump-haters.  Instead of pointing out that obstruction of justice was impossible because Mr. Trump committed no collusion, he left it vague to let his deep-state allies keep up the negative publicity about Mr. Trump.

President Trump has had even less favorable media coverage than Mr. Nixon, but his Tweets about "fake news" and the "witch hunt" have persuaded his supporters that his enemies are dishonest partisans rather than objective investigators or reporters.  His tweets kept the matter political, which has kept his enemies from defeating him through the legal process.

Indeed, the smarter Democrats realize this: Ms. Pelosi has stated that she sees no gain in impeaching Mr. Trump via the political process now that their trumped-up partisan legal attack has failed.  Her less-experienced and further-left fellow Democrats don't see the problem and want to proceed with impeachment regardless.

So Where Are We?

Instead of defending their powers under the Constitution, the House and Senate have yielded power to the administrative state.  The bureaucracy has become the government, administrative rule-making replaces lawmaking, and rule by bureaucrats has replaced rule by elected officials.  This has happened at every level of government, right down to the local level where school boards ignore parents' concerns about men in the girls' facilities.  This is supposedly because of federal requirements, but somehow nothing changes even when those trumped-up requirements are removed by Mr. Trump.

It's not at all clear that enough American voters are OK with being ignored, for deep-state growth to continue.  Similarly, we see that the French "yellow vests" aren't happy about growth of the EU bureaucracy, or even their own home-grown national elitist bureaucracy.  We know how it will turn out if the state isn't chopped radically, as Mr. Trump was elected to do.

The administrative state everywhere exists for the purpose of siphoning money out of the treasury, either to make bureaucrats more comfortable or to enrich senior-level bureaucrats, politicians, and well-connected cronies.  We've pointed out that our ruling elites have become so corrupt and steal so much that government can't really do anything constructive.

We got to the moon in 9 years.  We built 9,000 miles of Interstate the year after President Eisenhower signed the enabling legislation; it now takes more than 10 years to widen 10 miles of an existing highway by one lane and 13 years to start a highway upgrade.

Over time, bureaucratic bloat will destroy our economy and take down our society - the cancer kills the patient and they both die.  The liberals and deep state parasites driving this forget that when things get really bad, their wealth won't protect them, they will need private armies as in Brazil and Venezuela.

To get back to the Peter Pan theory of history, this has all happened before and will all happen again, to which we add, "and each time it happens, the price goes up."  When the Chinese bureaucracy got too greedy, they'd steal the army money and neglect the Great Wall of China.  The Emperor would have to raise taxes to make up for the theft and the waste.  Sound familiar?  California or Illinois, anyone?

At some point, either the peasants would revolt or the barbarians would storm across the broken-down wall and the weakened army wouldn't be able to stop them.  They'd storm the capital, kill the Emperor and any bureaucrats who weren't smart enough to hide, reset the bureaucracy, and start over.

Confucius didn't believe virtue could flow up from people to the rulers.  Our rulers are as corrupt as any Chinese dynasty ever got, so our voters attempted to enforce virtue by electing a different Emperor.  As in China, the bureaucrats fought back.

The battle is joined!  But at least our side finally has a leader who is actually willing to fight.

Will Offensicht is a staff writer for Scragged.com and an internationally published author by a different name.  Read other Scragged.com articles by Will Offensicht or other articles on Bureaucracy.
Reader Comments

Forgot the successful coups: JFK's assassination was the 1st and the installation of foreigner and usurper Obama was the 2nd. Arguably, Lincoln was the 1st actually. Outsiders may be used as patsies or even perpetrators, but it's always the PTB (whatever you call them), who've been calling the shots over all nations for the past almost 5 centuries now, perhaps even longer, in a generational drive toward 1 world gov't and religion alike. And they were SO NEAR their goal when Trump happened....

April 28, 2019 5:45 PM

"Mr. Nixon defeated Hubert Humphrey, President Johnson's vice president, and took office in 1974."
Mr. Nixon defeated Hubert Humphrey (President Johnson's vice president) in 1968 and TOOK OFFICE IN 1969.

April 28, 2019 8:48 PM

@Sandra Lee Smith:

Our ruling elites neither know nor care that ordinary voters see their one-world ambitions as treason. "Calling it Treason" at http://www.scragged.com/articles/calling-it-treason-1 explains this and shows that it's been going on for more than a century.

April 29, 2019 6:58 PM

I know; it's actually been going on some 500 years now and long before the US was a nation. But God's prophecies announced it well over 2,000 years ago. They're just the latest "iteration" of the globalist/1 world gov't crowd.

April 30, 2019 5:56 AM

This article really put the pieces together for me but it reminded me of the little scroll John had to eat in Revelation 10. It is sweet in your mouth, but as you digest it you become sick to your stomach.
Sandra Lee Smith has the right focus. The one world government will arrive and lead to a time when human annihilation looms. That will be the cue for Him to put an end to the rule of man over His creation.

April 30, 2019 7:54 AM

@GBillG: May I suggest you read UN Agendas 21 and 2030; and compare them against the Biblical prophecies concerning our time in Daniel, Ezekiel, Isaiah and Revelation especially; you seem pretty aware of those, and I think the documents from which the Leftists are and have been working for some decades will clarify further what you're seeing around us now.

April 30, 2019 8:51 AM

Another way to stage a coup is to load up the electorate with voters dependent on one party/candidate for their livelihood. ... a Dependency Class if you will. I remember a California Democrat bragging " if you can't win with the electorate you have get the one you need..."
Pretty obvious why the Dems want open borders and no voter ID. It's worked in California... with hordes of illegals getting tons of welfare benefits in their sanctuary cities. Add the gifted drivers license and voting is pretty much the next step. Let's hope CA isn't the country's future. Mr. Trump's wall and enforcement of immigration laws are more important than ever.

April 30, 2019 9:10 AM

Mr. Culver, I think you read that wrong. The author had it right, Nixon took over in '69. One question: Did they ever convict anyone for the "burglary" at the Watergate Hotel? I don't recall that.

May 2, 2019 5:29 PM
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