Spies from the party are keeping an eye on government officials and reporting to the leader on the behavior of those officials. The Stalinist Soviet Union, circa 1937? Nope. Trumpist Washington, 2017.
The Washington Post is reporting that the White House has installed a network of political operatives in cabinet agencies. Those operatives are tasked with monitoring the loyalty of cabinet secretaries and reporting back to Rick Dearborn, a deputy White House chief of staff. The whole thing sounds so, well, communist that the Post says the spy assigned to watch over defense secretary Jim Mattis has been nicknamed “The Commissar” by workers at the Pentagon.
President Obama famously brought together a “team of rivals” on his cabinet to offer a variety of points of view. But Trump, who values loyalty over competence, isn’t interested in discussion, and certainly not dissent. Like the CEO that he is, he wants subordinates who faithfully toe the party line.
Kevin Knobloch, who served as chief of staff to Obama energy secretary Ernest Moniz, told the Post:
It’s healthy when there is some daylight between the president’s Cabinet and the White House, with room for some disagreement. That can only happen when agency secretaries have their own team, who report directly to them. Otherwise it comes off as not a ringing vote of confidence in the Cabinet.
If Trump wanted to convince people that he’s not a puppet of Russian strongman Vladimir Putin, this is not exactly the way to go about doing it. Commenters on the WaPo article were quick to jump on the similarity to how things are done in Russia.
There were a few who saw the irony in Trump’s addition of another layer of government while promising to eliminate things like those pesky regulations that protect the air and water.
People who have been clamoring for a businessman president for years have gotten their wish. Lost in all the conversation about “running the government like a business” is this simple fact: businesses are not democracies. In fact, the top-down organization style of many businesses is unabashedly authoritarian and resembles a dictatorship much more than it resembles the traditional organization of the U.S. government.
Trump’s placement of “Politburo” members resembles something Putin or his communist predecessors would do. But it also resembles the way many companies enforce the company line and make sure any deviation from the company line is either quickly squashed or is kept from public view. But the president is not a CEO — at least not in his capacity as president — nor is he a dictator. But this revelation may be the clearest indication thus far that a dictator is exactly what he intends to be.