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There may actually be a ‘deep state.’ It’s just not the one Trump fears.

Posted at 3:00 PM, Sep 06, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-06 17:00:43-04

Steve Bannon must be smirking. He was right all along, sort of. His obsession with the 25th Amendment. His whispers to President Donald Trump about a “deep state” out to get him.

According to a New York Times op-ed by an anonymous Trump administration official, the Cabinet did actually seriously discuss the 25th Amendment early in Trump’s presidency. But those talks never went anywhere.

And the cabal working against Trump, according to his administration’s anonymous senior official, is very different than the one bent on his ultimate political destruction.

The op-ed describes an active and subtle campaign by many who work at the White House to sabotage the President’s more spectacular whims and pursue a “two-track Presidency,” separating what Trump brags to the public and what his government does quietly on his behalf.

“This isn’t the work of the so-called deep state. It’s the work of the steady state,” according to the author.

That sort of sabotage, whether it’s in the best interest of the country or not, sounds like it’s ripped straight from Bannon’s whispers to Trump about the government, holdovers from the Obama administration, members of the intelligence community, all bent on bringing him down.

Trump long ago mainlined Bannon’s paranoia about the “deep state” and expanded that to include the FBI. The New York Times op-ed, although it describes a very different conspiracy, is sure to further wind him up on the idea. Early Thursday morning, while coverage of the op-ed dominated morning TV, Trump tweeted again about the “deep state,” which he said is in cahoots with “the Left” and the media.

“The Deep State and the Left, and their vehicle, the Fake News Media, are going Crazy – & they don’t know what to do. The Economy is booming like never before, Jobs are at Historic Highs, soon TWO Supreme Court Justices & maybe Declassification to find Additional Corruption. Wow!”

It’s not exactly clear what he’s referring to with “declassification,” although it could be related to how the FBI used FISA warrants to investigate former Trump campaign chairman and current convicted felon Paul Manafort during the presidential campaign.

The author of the op-ed does mention Russia, but in the context of everything the administration has done, despite Trump’s frustration, to crack down on the country, enacting tariffs and expelling diplomats.

The author speaks of admiringly of “first principles” — political ideas he or she says Trump lacks. The author complains that, “Although he was elected as a Republican, the president shows little affinity for ideals long espoused by conservatives: free minds, free markets and free people. “

Hard to imagine that being at the tip of a bureaucrat’s tongue. It’s even more difficult to imagine a dedicated Obama administration holdover praising Trump’s accomplishments, as the author does, to include “effective deregulation, historic tax reform, a more robust military and more.”

That’s not the language of “the Left” that Trump ties to the “deep state.” It’s the language of the GOP before Trump took it over and remade it.

The real deep “stable state” of the op-ed is made up of people he hired and appointed and the people he needs to make the wheels of government turn. That’s got to drive him bananas. And because this person wrote the op-ed but didn’t go public, he won’t be able to trust anyone around him, which will only further isolate him.

CNN was reporting Thursday that denials issued by his Cabinet secretaries making clear they were not the writer of the op-ed were being printed and presented to the President for his review.

Far from wanting to bring Trump down, the so-called “stable state” is trying to keep things from going completely off the rails at Trump’s whim and to enact a conservative agenda.

“There is a quiet resistance within the administration of people choosing to put country first,” writes the author.

In these descriptions you can see former White House economic adviser Gary Cohn, in Bob Woodward’s reporting, removing documents on South Korean trade from Trump’s desk so that he would forget about them.

You can see a leak, perhaps from the Pentagon, on the exorbitant cost of Trump’s military parade, which essentially killed the idea. Or their essentially ignoring the President on the issue of transgender troops.

The Pentagon has been a hotbed of “stable” statecraft, if that means tamping down on Trump.

Whether the quiet efforts to contain the President are something to be praised or pilloried is something up for serious debate. Plenty of people from both sides of the aisle were taking shots at the author of the op-ed Thursday.

“Set aside whether you love or hate Donald Trump and his policies,” wrote Republican Scott Jennings. “Is it right for unelected people to make decisions for him?”

Democrats were also concerned. “Frankly if you’re concerned about the stability of the President and the stability of the nation, I’m not sure why you would prick him in the side, make him even more paranoid, and end up perhaps having a purge inside the White House,” Sen. Chris Murphy said on CNN.

You can imagine an intense mole hunt at the White House that isn’t going to make the work environment any better there. Trump can’t exactly fire every senior official who works for him. The federal government is a massive beast and there are thousands of senior people who report up to the White House.

But he can and will continue to complain about a “deep state.” Probably the wrong one.