Trump Hears Echoes of Reagan as the Establishment Strikes Back
Chief executive isn't the first president afflicted by an out-of-control special counsel — the Gipper had Lawrence Walsh and the Iran-Contra scandal
As anyone new to Washington and indeed much of society knows, “The first rule of the bureaucracy is to defend the bureaucracy.” From the national government to state capitals, to county governments and school districts, all understand the bureaucracy exists to perpetuate the bureaucracy.
Whether the bureaucracy helps or hurts people is irrelevant. Whether the teacher bureaucracy helps or hurts students is irrelevant — unless the teachers can convince parents that the harm the bureaucracy does to their children requires more bureaucracy, which they often successfully do.
All bureaucracies exist to consolidate and extend power. “Thou shalt get kings, though thou be none,” said Macbeth.
President Donald Trump went to Washington as a tough critic of the corrupt bureaucracy, and while he has so far only made changes at the margins, he remains a threat; thus, the sacking of the offices of his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, at the direction of special counsel Robert Mueller.
Attorney-client privilege? This antiquated nostrum is only for those who subscribe to the rules. The irony is that insiders will break the law at a moment’s notice, while the outsiders subscribe to the rule of law. Irony again, the insiders will do anything — anything! — to maintain their hold on power.
Another day and another headline about Mueller’s investigation going overboard. A man, an investigator, evokes fear and trepidation as his ever-watchful eye probes illicitly into people’s deepest secrets. He visits house to house, person to person, and brings both the guilty and the innocent in line to the true faith. A true Stalinist.
The revolt must be quashed. The uprising put down. The leaders imprisoned or ruined. Preferably both.
No, we aren’t talking about the medieval Inquisition. We’re talking about Mueller, an officer of your government. But you wouldn’t know. He neither approaches the law evenhandedly, nor openly. Macbeth warned, “Wanton in fullness seeks to hide themselves.”
Were former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s lawyers’ offices ever ransacked? How about those of former Attorney General Loretta Lynch? Of course not. They are both members in good standing with the Establishment. They are protected species. As reported in “Animal Farm,” “With their superior knowledge, it was natural that they should assume the leadership.” Those in the Establishment always assume they know better. The rest of us are just deplorables.
This is not about Republicans versus Democrats. It’s about the Outies versus the Innies. President Ronald Reagan was an Outie. So the Innie, the despicably dirty and corrupt Iran-Contra special counsel Lawrence Walsh, went after Reagan, because he was a threat to the Establishment.
This time, we have the FBI raiding Cohen’s office, with the implicit accusation of bank fraud, lying to pay hush money to Stormy Daniels. So much for the rule of law and the Constitution. So much for the old role of the national media to act as an ally of the citizenry. Now they are a willing co-conspirator.
This would not have occurred in an alternative timeline with President Hillary Clinton. It’s occurring during the rule of President Donald Trump, because Mueller and Co. are continuing the age-old battle of the Establishment versus the anti-Establishment.
More than a year ago, outsider Trump was sworn in on Inauguration Day promising to clean up and clear out Washington. Immediately, Establishment politicians called for his impeachment. Heck, they called for it even before he was sworn in. Robert Mueller is part and parcel of that disgusting and dirty and corrupt and vile Establishment, as these politicians’ pawn in trying to get that wish, to knock down Trump and kick him out. And kick him.
It’s a mess, just the way they want it. What is important is to stop Trump from governing. He must be stopped, and he must be destroyed. But this isn’t anything new.
Raymond Donovan, Ronald Reagan’s first secretary of labor, was indicted in a highly publicized 1986 case by New York officials on fraud and larceny. It was a ridiculous, trumped-up charge that Donovan had connections with the Genovese crime family, with the goal of defrauding the New York City Transit Authority of over $7 million.
After an eight-month trial, the jury took less than 10 hours to acquit Donovan. He steadfastly asserted his innocence. “It’s a cruel thing they did to me,” he famously said afterwards. “The question is, should this indictment have ever been brought? Which office do I go to to get my reputation back?”
It was a black eye for the government but bankruptcy and ruin for Donovan. The bureaucracy went on, unrepentant, unpunished, unapologetic.
Donovan’s life was ruined on a fake charge simply because he was a Reaganite. He was an outsider, he was anti-Establishment. This is beyond the ken of historical illiterates such as Charlie Sykes, who recently and inaccurately smeared Donovan.
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich knows about the smears of the establishment. He was leading a revolution against the insiders. They struck back, filing more than 100 false charges against the Georgian; all save one were dismissed. The one that stuck was asking former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to appear at an Atlanta fundraiser. The Republic did not tremble. But for the time, the damage was done, the mission accomplished.
Walsh, charged with uncovering and investigating the Iran-Contra Affair in the late ’80s, was similarly an overreaching insider. In late 1992, rumors swelled that he was even going to indict former President Ronald Reagan.
“Walsh, in making his decision, will try to determine whether he can prove a conspiracy case and, if so, whether he feels he can gain a conviction against a popular former president for an alleged crime that happened six years ago and that has failed to generate much public outrage,” said The New York Times.
That sounds familiar: An investigator wanting to undo a presidency. In fact, one unnamed lawyer noted that to indict Reagan would require “prosecutorial overreaching.” History echoes.
Trump represents the struggle against big government and elite bureaucracy, whose prime directive is self-preservation. The first rule of bureaucracy is to defend the bureaucracy.
The Iran-Contra Affair was a major embarrassment to the Reagan presidency, but no truths or admission or hints existed, even to his death, that Reagan knew about the illegal arms-selling to Iran to fund Nicaraguan rebels. Reagan denied it, as did his vice president and Oval Office successor, George H.W. Bush.
Which brings us to context: Bush was running for re-election against Bill Clinton. And here it is, the old wound of Iran-Contra, seeping out again. Bush was not a popular president — he had huge shoes to fill and at the time, he was failing to live up to Reagan’s legacy — but Walsh’s poking around didn’t help, come November. Bill Clinton, the insider-faux outsider won the election, making Bush a one-term president with a damning report card.
So we find ourselves in the present. Again, history echoes.
Eric Hoffer, the great longshoreman/philosopher, once observed, “An intellectual need not be well-educated or particularly intelligent. What counts is the feeling of being a member of an educated elite.” And being a member of the Establishment.
Trump represents the struggle against big government and elite bureaucracy, whose prime directive is self-preservation. The first rule of bureaucracy is to defend the bureaucracy. Mueller and the Establishment — both sides of the aisle, naturally — are keen to keep it that way.
But come the revolution, Mueller and company will find themselves on the losing side.
Craig Shirley is a Reagan biographer and presidential historian. Scott Mauer is Shirley’s assistant.