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Thursday, September 10, 2020

More On Woodward's 'Moderate Dog' Story

Moderate Dog, of course, is Jim Mattis--disgraced former SecDef who went from Mad Dog to Moderate Dog when Trump found out Mattis was just another Deep State lackey (see here and here). Once Trump had taken Mattis' measure he was eager to dump him for someone who would advance Trump's policies, rather than act like Defense was a private empire. Predictably, GOP senators back Mattis, just like they backed Sessions at DoJ. Whatever. Trump got his way, and a good thing it was.

There's a good article at Red State, commenting on Bob Woodward's claim that James Mattis Contemplated Going “Seven Days in May” On President Trump. The thrust of the article is that, while Woodward's general narrative is "imminently [sic] believable," it contains some improbable details. For example, Mattis is said to have retired to Washington National Cathedral to pray, whereas is Mattis is reported to be Catholic. I'm agnostic on that. The author's larger point, however is that Woodward's narrative is Dan Coats' payback to Trump for his own richly deserved firing.

Beyond the who struck John stuff, however, the author offers some interesting commentary, about Trump and the Deep State. After running through the background--an excellent read, by the way--he reflects on Trump's entry to DC life:


Trump ran as a legitimate outsider. Lots of guys run as an outsider, but virtually none of them are. It is all kabuki for the rubes in the cheap seats. When they are elected, they are surrounded by the same old faces we’ve seen in a half-dozen other administrations. When Trump was elected, it was despite the best efforts of the GOP establishment to defeat him in the primary and sandbag him in the general. He was faced with unremitting hostility, and he had no band of loyalists with whom to fill the vacant policy positions in the administration. This forced him to fall back on hiring resumes. Mattis had a great reputation; Trump was enamored with generals. Tillerson had run a highly successful multinational corporation, and Trump liked that. He did reward early supporters, which is how Jeff Sessions ended up as a weak-sister Attorney General when a wartime consigliere was desperately needed. 
With key policy posts held by people who were not only personally disloyal to Trump but who opposed his policies at every step, he was hamstrung, and the fact that he managed to accomplish anything at all is a miracle. 
Assuming this story is true, it paints a shameful picture of Jim Mattis. He’s not the legendary “warrior monk,” he’s a disloyal and duplicitous man who took a job from a man he had no intention of serving to the best of his ability and then proceeded to sabotage him behind the scenes. Not a good look at all.

But who ever thought hardly anyone scrambles to the top of the heap in DC by being an honorable person?

Still, this leaves me wondering, as before: Who was it who set Trump up with a pretty solid White House Counsel office? They've served him pretty well and loyally, through thick and thin. Surely that didn't happen by accident. Whoever it was, they did Trump and the nation a major favor and prepared the way for Bill Barr's entry into the lists. Because I think Barr is plenty smart enough that he would never have taken the AG job without the knowledge that he had some significant allies.

14 comments:

  1. Isn't Giuliani the likely source of influence in the counsel's office? (I'm guessing.) The Federalist Society? (He got the trial balloon names for potential Supreme Court nominees from somewhere.)

    Chris Christy turned out to be a dud as an adviser...

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    1. Right, about Christie. The Federalist Society can't be the adviser as a body. Giuliani? I don't think Giuliani is a personal fit with the guys who staffed the WHC office--those guys were from Barr's circle, not strictly Federalist--although most certainly belonged. Someone had access to Trump well before the election and had an understanding of what was needed to run the legal shop efficiently. My guess is Kellyanne Conway--contrary to the hit piece on her at the AmCon today.

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    2. How about Barr himself.

      Rob S

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    3. The way I see it, though, someone had to connect Trump to someone like Barr. Christie, for example, would have been too busy promoting himself to tell Trump, hey, Barr's the guy who can set you up with a top notch WHC office. Conway, otoh, moves in some of the same or similar circles.

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  2. My step-son watches CNN all the time, so I heard some of the discussion there about Woodward's book. He reports that Dan Coates persistently thought (still thinks) that Trump was under the control of Russian Intelligence.

    Then James Clapper came on CNN, and he was asked about that. Clapper said that Trump's failure to denounce Russia indeed is compelling evidence that Russian Intelligence has some control over Trump.

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  3. "You had stories of a “suicide pact” involving Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, and Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin whereby they agreed if one of them was fired, then the other two would quit, and the uproar could possibly trigger a 25th Amendment action by the remaining cabinet secretaries." Excerpt from the Red State post.

    These DS hacks made a common mistake in believing their own PR, to wit: that DJT was a shallow self-promoter who stumbled into an office he didn't really want and would be glad for the pro's to actually run things while he just kept the grift going for one term. Then they went to their first serious Cabinet meeting. When they came out they thought, "Holy moly! Not only does he have an agenda, but it's what he promised in his campaign; and, double holy moly, expects us to actually carry it out! Doesn't he know how Washington works! He must be nuts." And so the opinion he's "unfit" took root among the DS aristocracy.

    Also I am intrigued by the apparent goto ploy of resignation as a threat or punishment for none compliance to the wishes of apparatchiks. We saw it in the Flynn case and I seem to remember it occurring a couple of other times but can't put my finger on just when/where. Do these tools really think they or so indispensable, or that we, the ostensible sovereigns, really give a hoot-in-hell about their bureaucratic butt-hurt.

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    1. Obviously Mnuchin hadn’t bought into this plot.

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  4. Replies
    1. But I still say that someone hooked Trump up with Leo.

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    2. I had never heard of Leo. The WaPo had long, long “investigation” piece on him here:

      https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/leonard-leo-federalists-society-courts/

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    3. long, long “investigation” piece on him

      No doubt!

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  5. Here’s one version of how Barr connected with Trump. I know. It’s Wikipedia. But here it is:

    n June 2018, Barr sent an unsolicited 20-page memo to senior Justice Department officials. He also provided copies to members of Trump's legal team and discussed it with some of them.[84] In his memo, Barr argued that the Special Counsel should not be investigating Trump for obstruction of justice because Trump's actions, such as firing FBI Director James Comey, were within his powers as head of the executive branch.[85][86][87] He characterized the obstruction investigation as "fatally misconceived" and "grossly irresponsible" and "potentially disastrous" to the executive branch.[88][89] The day after the existence of the memo became known, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said "our decisions are informed by our knowledge of the actual facts of the case, which Mr. Barr didn't have."[90] Democrats later characterized the memo as Barr's "job application" for the Attorney General position.[91]

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Barr

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    1. No. People in the admin had tried to get Barr on board long before that. The point is that there were good people near Trump at the start of it all--lawyers--who had his back when he needed it most and who also recruited more of their own kind.

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