Well, my sometime pal Steve Bannon sure got one thing right. What stands between Donald Trump and outright tyranny is the deep state.
Just look at the witness list for the impeachment hearings: one foreign service officer after another—not a profession noted for attracting left-wingers, but for the most part honorable and principled people.
And when Trump tried to take over agencies of government with police powers, to use as his own private spying and operations forces, he ran into the same obstacles at the IRS, the CIA, and FBI, not to mention civilian agencies of government such as NOAA or the Centers for Disease Control.
This is an old story. Nixon set up the extralegal plumbers operation because he could not gain political control of the FBI and the CIA. And when Lyndon Johnson was furious because The New York Times kept reporting the truth about the fiasco in Vietnam, years later reporters Neil Sheehan and David Halberstam disclosed that their sources had been foreign service officers and CIA operatives who kept trying to warn the chain of command, to no avail, of the disaster in the making.
Lefties of my generation are not exactly enamored of the FBI, CIA, or even the State Department, whose hands are far from clean in one foreign-policy adventure after another. But their misdeeds are mostly those of their political superiors.
When the founders of this republic carefully devised checks and balances against despotism, they were not thinking of career civil servants, a category that scarcely existed. But as the courts have become Trump’s enablers, the deep state along with the Democratic House is our essential check.
So as you watch the impeachment hearings in the coming days and weeks, lift a glass to the deep state.