I've been saying for years that "drain the swamp" was not about corruption

I've been saying for years that "drain the swamp" was not about corruption

by digby

To answer her question, they smear because they enjoy it. Seriously. Rudy and Hannity and Don Jr didn't have to do it last spring when they were trying to get rid of her. They like it. It gets them off.

"Drain the swamp," is not what the media says it is. I just talked about that again this week.   And after watching Trump try to intimidate witnesses in the impeachment hearings, it's become more clear than ever. Anyone in government who refuses to break the law for him is subject to having their reputations and careers destroyed with one tweet and a subsequent pile-on.

His insults toward Marie Yovanovich as she was testifying were grotesque. But as Steve M at NMMNG points out, that was just the beginning:

More intimidating, I think, was this:

The phrase “I hired Donald Trump to fire people like Yovanovitch" trended on Twitter on Friday morning as Marie Yovanovitch, former US ambassador to Ukraine, testified in front of the impeachment inquiry held by the House Intelligence Committee. And while it may have seemed like a spontaneous outcry from the president's supporters, the phrase has spread at a rate consistent with the coordinated inauthentic behavior expected from a network of bots or sock puppet accounts.... 
A representative for Twitter told BuzzFeed News that the company was looking into whether the activity was coordinated. Later in the day, several accounts in BuzzFeed News’ data set were suspended.
He points out that the law certainly seems to indicate that someone as close to the Trump administration as Junior could be seen to be obstructing justice by intimidating witnesses. After all, Yovanovich is still employed by the federal government.

But that' the least of it:

But this feels worse than witness intimidation. It seems Khmer Rouge-y: Junior and the spammers don't just seem angry at the witnesses because they've exposed Trump's misdeeds. They clearly believe that these people were worthy of being purged before Trump's inauguration, just because (in Junior's words) they're "career government bureaucrats." They regard that alone as a firing offense.

They want to purge everyone with expertise. They don't want to replace them with people who are similarly skilled but corrupt -- they want to replace them with unskilled hacks, or with no one at all. It's not just corruption -- it's nihilism.

And look who spewed it all over the airwaves yesterday:

“My support for Donald Trump has never been greater than it is right now. It is paramountly obvious watching this, these people have to go. You elected Donald Trump to drain the Swamp, well, dismissing people like Yovanovitch is what that looks like. Dismissing people like Kent..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 16, 2019

....and Taylor, dismissing everybody involved from the Obama holdover days trying to undermine Trump, getting rid of those people, dismissing them, this is what it looks like. It was never going to be claen, they were never going to sit by idly and just let Trump do this!” Rush L
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 16, 2019

In Stalin's time they called this a purge. Which is exactly what it is.

I've heard a lot over the past three years about the left being McCarthyist because they are agitated about the expansionist, interventionist behavior of Russia's hardcore authoritarian leader, Vladimir Putin. (I've never really understood this criticism since lefties have always been opposed to filthy rich, authoritarian oligarchs. It's not like Putin even pretends to be a communist.)

Anyway, this is what McCarthyism looks like, kids. And it's even worse than that. Whereas the McCarthy witch hunt was ostensibly ideologically based (a bad thing, of course) this is based entirely on the cult of personality around this moronic barbarian who got into the White House on a fluke. There literally is no reason for this except blind devotion to his authoritarian stupidity and a hatred for anyone who opposes him.

I wrote this a while back about Trump's definition of "drain the swamp":

I will Make Our Government Honest Again -- believe me. But first, I'm going to have to #DrainTheSwamp in DC. https://t.co/m1lMAQPnIb

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 18, 2016

His "ethics reform" plan was:
First: I am going to re-institute a 5-year ban on all executive branch officials lobbying the government for 5 years after they leave government service. I am going to ask Congress to pass this ban into law so that it cannot be lifted by executive order.

Second: I am going to ask Congress to institute its own 5-year ban on lobbying by former members of Congress and their staffs.

Third: I am going to expand the definition of lobbyist so we close all the loopholes that former government officials use by labeling themselves consultants and advisors when we all know they are lobbyists.

Fourth: I am going to issue a lifetime ban against senior executive branch officials lobbying on behalf of a foreign government.

Fifth: I am going to ask Congress to pass a campaign finance reform that prevents registered foreign lobbyists from raising money in American elections.
His personal lawyer Michael Cohen obviously didn't read the third item on that memo. And it's interesting that someone in Trump's campaign thought it was important to pretend they cred about foreigners raising money in elections.

That tweet came on the heels of the first time Trump used the phrase "drain the swamp" in the 2016 campaign which was very late in the game, just three weeks from election day. Although he had said earlier that “nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it” he didn't really run explicitly as a political reformer.

But as Newsweek reported, in October his message changed:

Trump promised to “drain the swamp” at a rally that day [October 17, 2016] in Green Bay, Wisconsin, the first time he did so during the campaign. He did it the next day, October 18, in Colorado Springs, Colorado. In Fletcher, North Carolina, he called Clinton “the most corrupt person ever to seek the office of the Presidency.”
One week later, former FBI Director James Comey announced that the FBI had found emails from Clinton on former congressman Anthony Weiner's laptop and Trump ran with it:
Hillary Clinton's corruption is on a scale we have never seen before," he said in New Hampshire. Later, in Maine, he said Clinton’s use of a private email server—which Comey had already decreed did not merit criminal charges—was the “biggest scandal since Watergate.”
The reason to bring this up isn't to point out Trump's hypocrisy which is shooting fish in a barrel. The fact is that despite his tiresome repetition of the slogan "drain the swamp" since the election it wasn't one of Trump's signature chants like "lock her up" or "build that wall." It was something of an afterthought, a sort of extension of his claims that the system was "rigged" against him to steal the election. As the various investigations into his nefarious doings unfold it is obvious that it was another projection of his own foibles on to his opponents.

Nonetheless, it is an article off faith among many of the chattering classes that he ran as a reformer of the system who promised to clean up Washington. But the Trump administration's approach to dealing with the institutions of government is much more old fashioned. They are simply governing by way of personal loyalty and fealty to the president rather than expertise, experience or seniority. It's a spoils system, and it's not a very efficient one.

This article by Evan Osnos in the New Yorker about the way the razing of the federal workforce at all levels is an eye opener:
Across the government, more than half of the six hundred and fifty-six most critical positions are still unfilled. “We’ve never seen vacancies at this scale,” Max Stier, the president and C.E.O. of the Partnership for Public Service, a nonpartisan group that works to make the government more effective, said. “Not anything close.”

Some of the vacancies are deliberate. As a candidate, Trump promised to “cut so much your head will spin.” Amid a strong economy, large numbers of employees are opting to leave the government rather than serve it. In Trump’s first nine months, more than seventy-nine thousand full-time workers quit or retired—a forty-two-per-cent increase over that period in Obama’s Presidency. To Trump and his allies, the departures have been liberating, a purge of obstructionists. “The President now has people around him who aren’t trying to subvert him,” Michael Caputo, a senior campaign adviser, told me. “The more real Trump supporters who pop up in the White House phone book, the better off our nation will be.”
If they cannot find a Trump loyalist to fill a position they simply leave it empty.

Trump's definition of "populism" is unique. Osnos writes:
In the 2013 novel “A Delicate Truth,” John le Carré presents the “deep state” as a moneyed, cultured élite—the “non-governmental insiders from banking, industry, and commerce” whose access to information allows them to rule in secret. Trump’s conception is quite different. A real-estate baron, with the wealthiest Cabinet in U.S. history, Trump is at peace with the plutocracy but at war with the clerks—the apparatchiks who, he claims, are seeking to nullify the election by denying the prerogatives of his Administration.

And by "bureaucracy" he means law enforcement, the state department, intelligence community and common bureaucrats who enforce regulations and monitor compliance with the law along with anyone else Trump and his henchmen see as enemies of the state. Even the usual suspects at the conservative think tanks who usually have the inside track on jobs in a new Republican administration (or, as with Iraq, a new occupied country) have been mainly shut out because so many candidates were on record being critical of Trump, which meant hiring them was out of the question.

Many people claim that underneath the bluster, Donald Trump is just another Republican who happens to have a big mouth and likes to use twitter. But while he was made possible by the modern conservative movement and a political system that enabled such a man to become president, he is, nonetheless, sui generis. This razing of federal government institutions nothing we've ever seen before.

The story Osnos tells about the elimination of experts and the deliberate erasure of institutional memory in department after department is chilling. It will be very difficult, if not impossible, to replace these people even after Trump is gone. His lasting legacy may be the destruction of the federal government as we know it.