Monday, April 23, 2018

Our Praetorian Guard

       As you may remember from your history classes, the Praetorian Guard was a select group of Roman troops that acted as the bodyguard of the Roman Emperor. Due to Roman law and tradition, the Guard were the only troops allowed inside of Rome. However, over time, the Guard became increasingly politicized and powerful, to the point that they took upon themselves the power to depose emperors and raise new ones in their place.
Proclaiming Claudius Emperor by Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1867) (Source)

       The United States has developed its own Praetorian Guard, who also have come to see themselves as king makers. In an article by Jack Goldsmith, entitled "The 'deep state' is real. But are its leaks against Trump justified?," The Guardian discusses the current fight to discredit President Trump. Goldsmith writes:
         America doesn’t have coups or tanks in the street. But a deep state of sorts exists here and it includes national security bureaucrats who use secretly collected information to shape or curb the actions of elected officials.

         Some see these American bureaucrats as a vital check on the law-breaking or authoritarian or otherwise illegitimate tendencies of democratically elected officials.

         Others decry them as a self-serving authoritarian cabal that illegally and illegitimately undermines democratically elected officials and the policies they were elected to implement.
         The truth is that the deep state, which is a real phenomenon, has long been both a threat to democratic politics and a savior of it. The problem is that it is hard to maintain its savior role without also accepting its threatening role. The two go hand in hand, and are difficult to untangle.

         The deep state has been blamed for many things since Donald Trump became president, including by the president himself. Trump defenders have used the term promiscuously to include not just intelligence bureaucrats but a broader array of connected players in other administrative bureaucracies, in private industry, and in the media.

         But even if we focus narrowly on the intelligence bureaucracies that conduct and use information collected secretly in the homeland, including the FBI, National Security Agency (NSA), and National Security Council, there is significant evidence that the deep state has used secretly collected information opportunistically and illegally to sabotage the president and his senior officials – either as part of a concerted movement or via individuals acting more or less independently.

           The hard questions are whether this sabotage is virtuous or abusive, whether we can tell, and what the consequences of these actions are.

Actually, the question is not hard, and the answer is that the actions of these agencies are abusive.

        The Constitution provides means of controlling the power of the President. Initially, there is the fact that a President must be elected by a majority of the electors in the Electoral Collage. This gives voice to not just the majority of voters, but also safe-guards the smaller states against a demagogue. Second, it provides for the impeachment of the President by Congress. There is no provision for unelected bureaucrats to decide who should be or shouldn't be President, and certainly no provision for these bureaucrats to sabotage a presidency based on gossip and innuendo.

           If there is some actual crime, take it to Congress for prosecution and impeachment (and, no, I don't believe that the FBI or DOJ have any independent authority to arrest the President). If they have no such evidence, then these agencies need to shut up and mind their place. And if they won't mind their place, then they pose a greater risk to national security than any foreign power, and, for that reason, need to be disbanded.

(H/t Vox Day).

No comments:

Post a Comment