“The Constitution doesn’t allow titles of nobility. The president can name his son Barron, but he can’t make him a baron.”
That was Stanford University law professor Pamela Karlan last month, in one of the more entertaining episodes of the Democrats’ impeachment show. Professor Karlan apologized for dragging Barron Trump, 13, into her squalid non-argument, but she wasn’t backing off.
“If you don’t impeach a president who has done what this president has done,” Karlan testified, “then what you’re saying is that it’s fine to go ahead and do this again.” Given the cast of characters, that was entirely understandable, fully predictable, and completely without legal significance. On the other hand, the partisan Democrat’s reference to nobility might prompt reflection about current power arrangements in America.
Around the time of the American founding, a host of princes, dukes, earls, counts, and such still held forth across Europe. These were supposedly people of “noble birth” whose titles, fiefdoms and power derived entirely from family connections. This pampered, parasite class consumed considerable state treasure while performing few if any obligations for the people they ruled.
Say what you will about the French, they knew what to do when it came time for a change. For its part, America’s constitutional republic was not going to allow titles of nobility. Still, Karlan’s testimony hinted that a similar arrangement might still prevail under different names. Consider, for example, Marie Yovanovich.
President Trump fired her, but at the time of her testimony she was still called “Ambassador,” as though this was some kind of permanent official title. Yovanovich was teaching at Georgetown and according to news reports, still employed by the State Department. So the “foreign service” she joined in 1986 shapes up as a kind of permanent fiefdom. Consider also the National Security Council.
Established in 1947, this council is part of the executive office of the president, his “principal forum for considering national security and foreign policy matters.” It has come to harbor partisan snoops like Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who as John Yoo noted communicated in English with Ukrainian officials about how to handle Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani. According to Yoo, a former DOJ official, “some people might call that espionage.”
When Rep. Devin Nunes referred to Vindman as “mister,” the NSC drone shot back that the proper way to address him was “Lt. Col.” So in his mind, rank has become a title, and the NSC is post to ride herd on the president, not to serve him.
Unlike Vindman, who actually served in the U.S. military, FBI “Director” Christopher Wray was never an FBI agent. In 2003, the Yale alum drew the attention of fellow Yalie George W. Bush, who nominated Wray Assistant Attorney General in charge of the DOJ’s criminal division. Wray rejects the term “spying” for the deep-state campaign against Trump, and Wray supported “Director Mueller” in his investigation.
In Wray’s mind, “Director” is a permanent title, not a job description. As observers might note, even after the massive IG report on FISA fraud, Director Wray saw no criminal misconduct in the origins of the Russia probe, only procedural mistakes. So in Trump’s view, Wray will never be able to fix the FBI.
As in all federal agencies, the FBI harbors squads of Assistant Directors, Deputy Assistant Directors and such, with the titles punctiliously decked out in upper case. True to form, Pamela Karlan was a Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the DOJ. As with all federal agencies, it is possible to hold a fancy title and grab big bucks while performing little if any work. Consider the case of the “Senior Policy Advisor,” John Beale, once the highest paid official at the Environmental Protection Agency.
Beale told EPA bosses he was a CIA agent assigned to Pakistan but he was actually lounging around his vacation home. For years Beale performed no work while bagging lucrative retention bonuses. Incredibly enough, Beale continued to draw an EPA paycheck even after he retired.
As these cases confirm, agencies of the administrative state are a “swamp” that needs to be drained. To that end, these agencies should be outed as the neo-aristocratic fiefdoms of titled bureaucrats who rank themselves high above the American people. In Washington, as the late Frank Zappa put it, “they just takes care of number one. And number one ain’t you. You ain’t even number two.”
True to form, the titled American noblesse does not want to oblige in the slightest. In an election year, they want the Democrat Party to remove the duly elected President Trump from office rather than let the people make the call on November 3, 2020. It is currently fashionable to say the impeachment quest helps President Trump, but triumphalism should give way to caution.
America’s titled federal nobility is far more powerful than the Dukes and Earls of old, and our aristos enjoy collaboration from members of Congress. At this writing, Mid-Year Exam and Crossfire Hurricane veteran Peter Strzok is fighting for reinstatement with the FBI, which will never be fixed by Christopher Wray
At the outset of 2020, not a single member of the coup clan has been indicted. As President Trump likes to say, we’ll have to wait and see what happens.