The deep state has deep roots

Published 10:37 am Wednesday, August 15, 2018

This country’s 30th President, Calvin Coolidge, led the nation through the Roaring Twenties, a time of social upheaval and rapidly changing mores. The United States had expended much blood and treasure in World War I, and soldiers returning from the European front contributed to the fast-paced modernization of the U.S.

Coolidge was known as “Silent Cal,” because of his reserved nature and conversational reticence. He took office in 1923 after the sudden death of Warren G. Harding, whose presidency was scandal-ridden. Coolidge was re-elected in 1924 but declined to run for a third term in 1928.

Coolidge was popular initially for cleaning up the corruption in the Harding administration and maintained popularity throughout his terms in the White House. He was a business conservative in favor of limited government, tax cuts and laissez-faire economic policies.

Email newsletter signup

Coolidge was one of the first U.S. presidents to condemn the Deep State. In an address at the College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Va., on May 15, 1926, he criticized the growing bureaucracy in Washington.

“No method of procedure has ever been devised,” Coolidge said, “by which liberty could be divorced from local self-government. No plan of centralization has ever been adopted which did not result in bureaucracy, tyranny, inflexibility, reaction and decline. Of all forms of government, those administered by bureaus are about the least satisfactory to an enlightened and progressive people. Being irresponsible they become autocratic, and being autocratic they resist all development.

“Unless bureaucracy is constantly resisted,” Coolidge continued, “it breaks down representative government and overwhelms democracy. It is the one element in our institutions that sets up the pretense of having authority over everybody and being responsible to nobody.”

Applying Coolidge’s broadside against big government uttered 92 years ago to today’s Environmental Protection Agency, IRS, Veteran’s Affairs, Department of Education and other behemoth agencies wielding real power in D.C., demonstrates Coolidge’s prescience.

Bureaucracies have been stifling productivity for a long time. The Han Dynasty in ancient China organized a complicated bureaucracy according to the teachings of Confucius. Ancient Egypt and the Roman Empire had their own bureaucratic systems. Today’s European Union is perhaps the apotheosis of the growth of government by unelected, faceless apparatchiks.

The United States is not far behind.

The recent exposure of bureaucratic malefactors has been enlightening, but few get punished. Lois Lerner at the IRS discriminated against conservative 501(c)(3) applicants, took the Fifth Amendment before Congress, then retired with her huge pension intact.

Former IRS Commissioner John Koskinen arrogantly thumbed his nose at congressional oversight, but retired unscathed after a failed impeachment attempt by House Republicans.

Former Attorney General Eric Holder, refused to turn over documents related to the fast and furious scandal, in which the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives deliberately allowed licensed gun dealers to sell weapons to straw men for Mexican drug cartels. One of the guns was used to kill U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry in 2010. Holder was found in contempt of Congress and referred to a Democrat U.S. Attorney for prosecution, who did nothing. Holder recently announced he was considering a run for the Presidency in 2020.

Gregg Jarrett, in his  New York Times Best Seller “The Russia Hoax: The Illicit Scheme to Clear Hillary Clinton and Frame Donald Trump,” describes the Department of Justice, FBI and State Department’s creation of the Russian collusion allegations out of whole cloth, and their engineering of the appointment of Robert Mueller as Special Counsel.

Jarrett’s “Russia Hoax” has generated an entire new roster of potential bureaucratic wrongdoers. The list includes Bruce Ohr, Andrew McCabe, James Comey, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, John Brennan, Susan Rice, Samantha Power and many, many more. Given the proclivity of the deep state to protect its own, it’s likely that only a few of those involved may suffer significant consequences.

It’s enough to make even Coolidge scream.

Michael Henry writes in Oxford and can be reached at