Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.
Personnel is policy.
That’s how Washington actually works. You can study the candidates, weigh their character against their policy pronouncements, against their public persona, against their opponents, and at the end of the day you can elect the right person for the right reasons and they can still disappoint you. Not because they’re dishonest or incompetent, but because the people they bring to power with them may not place service above their own aims and ambitions.
In his latest book, In Trump Time: A Journal of America’s Plague Year, former Trump adviser Peter Navarro writes that the Deep State in both parties did everything it could to destroy the administration of President Donald J. Trump. When Trump won the presidency, he assembled a polyglot administration including America-first proponents such as Navarro, and Deep State actors who veered between merely disdaining Trump’s populist nationalism to actively undermining it. Trump himself had little to no way of predicting which side a given official would end up on.
The Deep State did not get so deep without developing the ability to shapeshift and cloak its selfish aims in noble rhetoric for decades. Trump’s brand of conservative populist nationalism was a whole new kind of politics, using planks from the likes of Milton Friedman, Ronald Reagan, Barry Goldwater, a dash of Douglas MacArthur and P.T. Barnum, and Billy Graham, to fashion a new platform that thundered across the fruited plain, captured previously blue Rust Belt states, and toppled the Clinton cabal.
Donald J. Trump ran to “make America great again,” and as Navarro writes in “In Trump Time,” he spent every waking second focused on doing that. Trump set out to do the impossible, secure the border, bring American jobs back from overseas, lift up America’s working class to restore the American dream, and take on all challengers from Beijing to Moscow to the DNC and the ivory towers in government and academia. The Deep Swamp hated him.
Trump was largely successful and had the gaudy economic performance to prove it. Under him, the United States had historically low unemployment, particularly among the demographics the media usually claim are “left behind” by Republican presidencies. He led America to energy independence and then dominance. International rivals genuinely feared him, which meant they would not dare take him on. Trump made America safe again.
But the Trump colossus had an Achilles heel. Personnel is policy. As Navarro details with all the receipts, Trump found himself undermined as he fought to make America great again by the usual suspects — the media, academia, and the Democrats — and by many so-called allies in his own administration and the GOP. Navarro, a Peace Corps volunteer in his youth and a Harvard-educated economist, identifies suspects throughout the Trump administration who, either by choice or by circumstance, ended up undermining Trump. Many, according to Navarro, actively sabotaged him on behalf of the swamp that resented him, hated him, and feared him, because unlike many previous presidents and the current one, he would never be their puppet.
Trump’s greatest strength with his most ardent supporters was also his greatest weakness with the swamp: He did not come from them, was not one of them, did not see the world the way they do, and had no use for them. They are mercantilists; Trump is a patriot. So they set out to destroy him at every turn, even using the blight of the COVID pandemic to run interference for China and damage the American president in the midst of crisis.
Navarro highlights a critical moment when the media and Deep State came together to wreck Trump. On January 31, 2020, with the economy thriving and Trump looking a sure thing to win a second term, he announced the ban on travel from China. The Democrats and media instantly pounced, decrying him for “xenophobia” while also denouncing him for acting too late.
Within his administration, Navarro writes, the decision was bitterly fought by the Deep State actors around the populist president: Dr. Anthony Fauci, Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Surgeon General Alex Azar, even his presumed loyalist, Vice President Mike Pence. Navarro had had to present a “Paul Revere” memo outlining the dire consequences of not acting, and blasted it across most of the administration, in the days leading up to January 31 in order to get the swamp out of the way so Trump could act.
Trump’s decision undoubtedly saved lives. At that moment China was still allowing flights out of Wuhan to the world. Each planeload could carry the deadly virus. Writing in Rage months later, Deep Swamp media kingpin Bob Woodward flipped the facts and put Fauci and others in the role of advocating the travel ban — because by then, it had proven to be the right call and they wanted credit for it. But in the moment, the swamp fought Trump because of who he is, as it fought him tooth and nail throughout his entire term and continues to smear him to this day. As for the media that thrives on Washington leaks, Navarro writes that he tried to leak the “Paul Revere” memos to get around the Deep Swamp and move policy forward. But because the memos cast Trump in an accurate, positive light, Navarro couldn’t even give them away. The swampy media just wasn’t interested. It was too busy swimming with the rest of its fellow swamp creatures.
Against this backdrop, with the Deep Swamp narratives from the questionable November 2020 elections swarming, January 6 loomed. What was going through Trump’s mind? Pence? Had the election been stolen? Navarro was there and chronicles one of America’s most controversial days — In Trump Time.
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