Bookworm Beat 2/20/17 — fighting the self-anointed fourth branch of government

CIA Fourth branch of government

The new phrase is “fourth branch of government,” referring to the Progressive bureaucracy fighting exile. It’s time to fight back.

The administrative state is not the fourth branch of government. When I said “interesting times,” I meant it. We all knew that our government had gotten too big and we voted for Trump believing that he would make good on his promise to shrink it.

Trump certainly has been trying to fulfill that promise, but the administrative state has been fighting back in ways we never imagined. Rather than recognizing that our Constitution makes it subordinate to the president, so that it must take its marching orders from him, the administrative state is setting itself up as a permanent government in opposition, determined to continue the policies that put Obama into office and kept Hillary out of office.

The Washington Examiner has written an excellent editorial that warns of the dangers in a self-styled fourth branch of government:

As we once noted in a different context, “civil disobedience is properly the tool of the citizenry, not of those entrusted by it to execute the law faithfully.” We also wrote that America “cannot survive every minor public official becoming a law unto himself.” This is just as true of unconstitutional actions by EPA employees as it was for the official about whom we wrote it — Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples even after the Supreme Court‘s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges.

The Examiner is not the only one sounding this warning. Bryan Dean Wright, a former CIA employee and a Democrat is sounding the same warning with special emphasis on people in the intelligence community. Noting the extraordinary power they hold, he says that the only way to keep a free state is for them to keep out of politics — especially since there are constitutional actions they can take if they’re genuinely concerned about a president’s loyalty to the state. (Me, personally, I would have been concerned about Obama’s secret deals with Iran. . . .)

When you’re trained as a spy, you’re taught how to handle these kinds of situations. Upon learning the information, it gets tightly compartmented (restricted) and sent to the Department of Justice or Congress for investigation. If the evidence is found to be credible, the constitution makes clear what happens next: impeachment.

That’s how American democracy should work.


However, some of America’s spies are deciding that that’s not enough. For reasons of misguided righteousness or partisan hatred, they’ve taken it upon themselves to be judge, jury, and executioner. They have prosecuted their case in the court of public opinion, with likeminded media outlets such as CNN, The New York Times, and the Washington Post serving as court stenographers.

Elected by no one, responsible only to each other, these spies have determined that Trump is guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors.

Will we slip so quickly into a banana republic, not because of anything Trump has done (his actions to date have been not only constitutional but consistent with prior presidents, including Obama), but because the Progressives will not give up power?

Lastly, if you want a superbly written article about the risks America faces at the hands of an unelected bureaucracy that refuses to hand over the power it accrued during the Obama era, read Matthew Continetti’s deservedly lauded essay asking who controls America.

Legislative roadblocks, adversarial journalists, and public marches are typical of a constitutional democracy. They are spelled out in our founding documents: the Senate and its rules, and the rights to speech, a free press, and assembly. Where in those documents is it written that regulators have the right not to be questioned, opposed, overturned, or indeed fired, that intelligence analysts can just call up David Ignatius and spill the beans whenever they feel like it?

The last few weeks have confirmed that there are two systems of government in the United States. The first is the system of government outlined in the U.S. Constitution—its checks, its balances, its dispersion of power, its protection of individual rights. Donald Trump was elected to serve four years as the chief executive of this system. Whether you like it or not.

The second system is comprised of those elements not expressly addressed by the Founders. This is the permanent government, the so-called administrative state of bureaucracies, agencies, quasi-public organizations, and regulatory bodies and commissions, of rule-writers and the byzantine network of administrative law courts. This is the government of unelected judges with lifetime appointments who, far from comprising the “least dangerous branch,” now presume to think they know more about America’s national security interests than the man elected as commander in chief.

For some time, especially during Democratic presidencies, the second system of government was able to live with the first one. But that time has ended. The two systems are now in competition. And the contest is all the more vicious and frightening because more than offices are at stake. This fight is not about policy. It is about wealth, status, the privileges of an exclusive class.

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Bookworm came late to conservativism but embraced it with passion. She's been blogging since 2004 at Bookworm Room about anything that captures her fancy -- and that's usually politics. Her blog's motto is "Conservatives deal with facts and reach conclusions; liberals have conclusions and sell them as facts."