The Corner

Politics & Policy

Deep Staters to the Rescue! 

(Jim Young/Reuters)

Of all the things I’ve written that vex my most ardent Trump-supporting friends (and enrage to the point of incoherence some of my non or former friends) is my assertion that Trump is a person of bad character and my invocation of the phrase “Character is destiny.” I’ve lost count of the number of people who feel compelled to insist this is not true or that I am somehow a hypocrite or inconsistent for saying it (I don’t think I’m a hypocrite or inconsistent on this point, but it’s worth noting that even if I were, that’s not a rebuttal of the charge against Trump. It’s simply shooting the messenger).

I still believe Trump is a person of indisputably bad character and I still believe his presidency is likely to end badly because of it. But the Mueller Report has shaken my confidence somewhat — but not because it paints Trump in a good light (it doesn’t) nor because it exonerates Trump on the gravest and most extreme charges of treason and conspiracy. No, it makes me wonder whether or not the Deep State or the Establishment — or whatever you want to call the shadowy, supposedly elitist cabal, I hear Trump’s biggest fan’s demonizing night after night — might just save his bacon.

Reince Priebus, Donald McGahn, NSA Director Mike Rogers, and countless other Deep Staters and Establishmentarians did Trump one enormous favor after another by not taking him very seriously when he demanded they do dishonorable, inadvisable or possibly illegal things. Or they took him seriously, and therefore disobeyed him. Perhaps some knew that because of Trump’s nature, his time horizon is a few feet from his nose and they wouldn’t have to pay a price for disobedience because Trump would soon forget his demands. Or perhaps some would have refused no matter what. Either way, they worked harder to save Trump’s presidency than Trump did.

For those most invested in it, the story of Trump’s presidency is one where he’s a person of great character but he’s also the authentic voice of the American people, with a clearer and wiser vision for where he should take the country. When Trump says he knows “more than anyone” about virtually every topic under the sun, they may grant it’s hyperbole but they don’t wince at the absurdity of it.

But the story – familiar for some of us — on display in the Mueller report is that the president has been wildly out of his depth from the beginning on the most basic matters of governance. He was saved from himself, time and again, by the very sorts of people his cable show praetorians think are undermining him from within. And, as Ramesh notes,  it’s not just the Deep Staters and the Establishment types, even Corey Lewandowski showed better judgment than Trump when he disobeyed the president. I have every confidence this dynamic is true not just about issues of collusion and obstruction, but about most policy matters as well. I wish the folks managing the world’s greatest manager had more success in some areas, but they surely deserve a lot more credit for the accomplishments of this administration than a typical one, starting with the fact that they probably kept the president from being impeached.

I still think character is destiny and all that, but perhaps with the help of Deep Staters and the GOP Old-Guard, the Can of Destiny can be kicked down the road far enough that Trump will only have to worry about how he’ll be seen by future generations.

Jonah Goldberg, a senior editor of National Review and the author of Suicide of the West, holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute.

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