Monday, November 13, 2023


We know that Donald Trump wants his second term to be an authoritarian nightmare for his enemies. If he wins, our only hope might be an administration that can't actually do what Trump and allies like Stephen Miller have planned.

Axios reports:
Former President Trump's allies are pre-screening the ideologies of thousands of potential foot soldiers, as part of an unprecedented operation to centralize and expand his power at every level of the U.S. government if he wins in 2024....

Hundreds of people are spending tens of millions of dollars to install a pre-vetted, pro-Trump army of up to 54,000 loyalists across government to rip off the restraints imposed on the previous 46 presidents.
We're told that many of the hires have "very unconventional and elastic views of presidential power and traditional rule of law." I'm sure that's true. We're also told that they're "smart, experienced people." I have my doubts about that, especially when I read this:
The most elaborate part of the pre-transition machine is a résumé-collection project that drills down more on political philosophy than on experience, education or other credentials.

Applicants are asked to "name one person, past or present, who has most influenced the development of your political philosophy" — and to do the same with a book.

Another query: "Name one living public policy figure whom you greatly admire and why."
If you're as old as I am, this might sound familiar, because it's how the George W. Bush administration hired people to oversee Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein:
To pass muster with [Jim] O’Beirne, a political appointee, applicants didn’t need to be experts in the Middle East or in postconflict reconstruction. They did need, however, to be a member of the Republican Party.

O’Beirne’s staff posed blunt questions about domestic politics: Did you vote for George W. Bush in 2000? Do you support the way the president is fighting the war on terror? Two people said they were even asked their views on Roe v. Wade.

Many of those chosen to work for the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), which ran Iraq’s government from April 2003 to June 2004, lacked vital skills and experience. A 24-year-old who never had worked in finance was sent to reopen Baghdad’s stock exchange. The daughter of a prominent neoconservative commentator and a recent graduate from an evangelical university for home-schooled children were tapped to manage Iraq’s $13 billion budget, even though the former had no accounting background and the latter lacked experience managing finances of a large organization.
That's from a 2006 Washington Post article by Rajiv Chandrasekaran, who would go on to write a book about what went on in Baghdad's so-called Green Zone. The publisher's description of the book, Imperial Life in the Emerald City, noted that the young hires "spent the crucial first year of occupation pursuing goals that had little to do with the immediate needs of a postwar nation: flat taxes instead of electricity and deregulated health care instead of emergency medical supplies."

That might be our best hope if Trump wins again: that his top aides will hire inexperienced zealots who spend so much time trying to dismantle the government that the FBI can't solve crimes and the Social Security Administration can't distribute checks. And I know that the MAGA revanchists don't want government to work, but if they create a situation that's like a permanent government shutdown, even politically disengaged normies might feel frustration and anger, all while the zealots -- who never expected to have to do stuff while they were busy dismantling stuff -- struggle to accomplish tasks that would have been easy and routine for the bureaucrats they've pushed out.

Maybe it won't work that way, but we can hope.

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