State Department Departure: Evil, Incompetent, or Both

State Department ResignationsI don’t want to write about politics, but I feel I have something of a civic duty to say something at this point. Trump has been president just one week and it’s been even worse than I feared. I no longer think that he couldn’t possibly be worse than Mike Pence, except that he and everyone around him seem to be almost completely unqualified to do their work at the most basic level of competence.

Take yesterday’s story about the State Department resignations, Departure of Top State Officials Fuels Concerns About Talent Loss. Apparently, all political appointees submit their resignations when a new administration comes in. But standard practice is that the new administration refuses those resignations to allow for continuity. But not the Trump administration. No, it just accepted them.

Most of the Government Doesn’t Change

What’s important to remember here is that a government is not just our elected officials. In fact, it is just the visible tip of the iceberg. As you may know, roughly 90% of an iceberg is below the water. (You can see the same thing by dropping a cube of ice into a glass of water.) The “under water” part of the government is made up of all the civil servants who keep the country moving regardless of administration: Democratic or Republican, good or bad.

It is this make-up of government that keeps countries stable. It is the same way in every developed nation. Democracy is about a whole lot more than voting. Voting doesn’t even matter if you don’t have some degree of stability. We quite simply don’t have the time to switch from a social democratic dream to a libertarian nightmare and back every eight years. So over more than 200 years, we’ve developed this largest part of the government that is not partisan. And it is critically important. It’s why we have better lives than the people in many other countries.

(Yes libertarians, I know. If there wasn’t any government, then everyone would have peace and prosperity. The whole thing wouldn’t collapse into a kind of Neuromancer-type dystopia where corporations rule us. Nor would it cause the rise of a ruthless ruler like Robert Mugabe. The only problem with all that is that I’m spending all my “believe” energy keeping Tinker Bell alive. So I can’t wish your particular fantasy into existence. Sorry.)

Ignorant Contempt for Government

But in order for such a government to work, everyone has to accept it. And that has generally been the case. But certainly over the last 40 years, I’ve seen a rise in people who have what I can only term “glibertarian” views toward government. They aren’t libertarian, because they don’t think about it enough to be. Instead, they have a vague hatred of the government, even though they don’t have a clue about all the really important things that the government does (under Republicans and Democrats alike) to keep them safe and even reasonably happy. And so it comes to this.

Now we have a man in the White House who is the perfect fulfillment of this kind of ignorant resentment. He’s an authoritarian. Read Michael Hiltzik for just one side of that, Trump Is at War With Science and Knowledge, and That Should Terrify You. Yet he’s also totally incompetent. That brings us back to those State Department resignations.

What’s Up With the Resignations?

I don’t know if they are a sign of Trump’s authoritarianism or his incompetence. Or maybe it is both. The truth is, he could do a good old Stalin-style house cleaning at any time. Now, he actually makes the job that Rex Tillerson is going to do (For Exxon or the US? It’s not clear.) harder. Now these positions have to be filled.

The whole thing makes me very worried. Yochi Dreazen reported the truth, The Worst Things You’ll Read About Trump Come From His Own Aides. But does it matter that our very own Stalin is incompetent? Authoritarians are not known for being competent about anything — except staying in power. I’m not sure Trump will manage even that. And that would give us Mike Pence, which, hard as it is to say, would probably be the best thing for this country.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

8 thoughts on “State Department Departure: Evil, Incompetent, or Both

  1. Your Neuromancer reference is mistaken. I would rather live there than here. We already have all the downsides of that world, or soon will. The inverted totalitarianism of corporate rule, for one. And we have none of the upsides. High speed rail that runs up the entire Eastern Seaboard. An actual space colony. We traded those things for tax cuts for the 1%.

    • Why build a high speed railway that serves everyone? To these people, that’s blasphemy. Corporations have one sacred function; to separate customers from their money. Providing a good product is inefficient. The ideal company has no labor costs, produces no goods, and gets filthy rich. That’s why they love finance so much. Trump lover Peter Theil, a real piece of work, believes in this Rand nonsense of the rich just quitting society and creating their own super-paradise.

      And this goes back decades. These people hated the New Deal, not because it excluded blacks and women, but because it involved government “interference” with the magical wizardry of the business world. Which by definition can never be wrong, just as any government action can never be right. (Except the military, domestic surveillance, etc.) Who cares if Redwood National Park generates local tourism revenue? It’s a moral evil, for it stands in the way of lumber companies using “the market” to create economic growth.

      A little-noted thing when it happened. Remember those loons who took over a ranger station in Oregon last year, calling for revolution because they want the right to rape public land as they saw fit? They got off! Not guilty! I’m surprised one wasn’t nominated for Secretary of the Interior.

    • I was more focused on corporations with their own armies. Of course, they don’t need them in our society. The US military is at their disposal. So I’ll accept that criticism.

  2. They’re all in, now. As Elizabeth often states, it’s important to have people in office who know how to actually govern. These clowns don’t think that matters. They’re living out the old Grover Norquist dream of drowning government in the bathtub. If that causes general disruption, so be it — they can afford to look after themselves. They’re trying to break government so badly it can never recover. Never again tax the rich. Never again regulate corporate crime. And never defend the rights of the vulnerable to vote, to be free from exploitation, to live.

    They might succeed. They might tear down the GOP worse than Nixon. They might end up with their heads in baskets or melting in piles of radioactive goo. My crystal ball is hazy.

    Agreed that Monster Mike would be better than Trump. At least he’d actually be president. Right now I suspect Bannon is. Trump had better watch his back among these jackals. There ain’t one among them who’d fall on a sword for the team. Half are so dumb they’d just poke out an eye trying.

  3. I call it half ass fascism. On one hand, Cheeto and his main advisors are so incompetent they had no idea they were supposed to refuse to accept the resignations. On the other hand, they are okay with accepting them because those people might have supported Clinton/Obama and they want to erase her and everyone else associated with Obama. They also don’t want to be told no so they come up with things that they would be told no on (like the Muslim ban that blew up over the past 24 hours) but never ask the people who they don’t trust and don’t want to hear no from if what they want to do is any good.

    Which leads to the world wide chaos that just happened with the ban on people who were here legally, who were given legal authority to come into the country and who come from nations that don’t have business with the Cheeto empire. Everyone from a twelve year old girl to the Iraqi interpreters who put their lives on the line for us during the debacle known as the Iraqi war were stopped from coming in without due process of law. There was very little clarity given by the White House so the State and DHS officials were reduced to saying “um, maybe?”

    It sparked protests nationwide of course for those furious that Cheeto would do this. And I wonder if it was in retaliation for the hatred thrown his way by protesters in Philly at the GOP “We Need to Have Expensive Liquor” Retreat because it was so half assed.

    There is hope in how people are so insistent on respecting rights and for now the courts are with us. What happens in a year? This is a week’s worth of absolute chaos that has damaged the United States massively and continues to do so with a man who can’t even have private conversations with world leaders because the members of his staff and Pence/Bannon/Ryan know he is too mentally deteriorated to keep a conversation going. The leaks that are coming out are incredibly high at this stage of any presidency.

    The question is now-just how much respect for hierarchy do the Republicans have or is it that they will do anything to maintain power up to and including committing treason and what may be elder abuse?

    • I think “half-assed fascism” is quite right. They want all the perks of authoritarianism but not the actual organizing. They just feel they deserve maniacal supporters. Because they’re so great and accomplished in business and such.

      It’s really nice to see resistance on this ridiculous immigration ban. Did you read that scientists are thinking about their own march? And LGTBQ folks, too. Let’s keep it coming! There aren’t enough American Muslims for a big march, but I could see an immigrant march featuring them and others. They faced worse in the countries they fled from. I’m sure Trump unnerves them, but they aren’t scared of standing up to him.

      Sorry I’ve been crabby lately. I’ve been frustrated in the job search, the wife has been taking so much shit at work, I’m resentful of anyone with more career options. Yet we are all on the same side. Liberals disagree on stuff! That’s what we do, because we give a shit. I need to get over my distrust of the middle class. It’ll be a process. But I will work on it.

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