Busy week for Washington and the political class it succors. So busy that a headline screaming for the attention of our leaders came and went barely leaving a footprint.
MAJOR SURVEY FINDS RECORD LOW CONFIDENCE IN GOVERNMENT
Strange that headline didn’t create much of a disturbance. But, then, maybe not. Our elites were, no doubt, too busy to notice or be bothered by the fact that the executive branch of government “enjoys” (the AP’s phrasing) the confidence of a full 11 percent of those polled by Gallup. Congress beat that, coming in at 5 percent.
Ordinarily, one would expect news of this sort to stimulate a lot of chin pulling along with the creation of a special commission to study the problem and report back in six months at a couple of thousand pages.
But this week, there was just too much going on.
Above all else, there was the matter of Hillary Clinton’s e-mail. This story is of interest because, unless you are among the 11 percent, the official line is so implausible. In a political culture where a top player’s every move and word is focused-grouped and war gamed and studied to exhaustion by those “old Washington hands,” it didn’t occur to anyone to ask if it might not be such a good idea to take the secretary of state’s communications private?
And she merely decided to do so for the sake of “convenience,” so that she wouldn’t have to lug around two digital devices?
Assuming she couldn't have been tutored in the techniques necessary to put two accounts on one device, as many have found it easy enough to do, then why not detail someone to carry Mrs. Clinton’s devices for her? Someone, perhaps, from the Secret Service.
But, then, that outfit has had its own troubles. Not long ago, the president’s elite body guards allowed an intruder to jump the fence that surrounds the White House, run across the grounds, and make it into the building. He was carrying a knife.
Then, there was an episode where agents, traveling with the president, had themselves a party with hookers and lots of strong drink. And, then, just this week, while we were all wrestling with the matter of Mrs. Clinton’s style of personal and private diplomacy, a couple of Secret Service agents who had been doing a bit of drinking, drove a government vehicle into a crime scene investigation just outside the White House and nearly ran over a package that was being treated as a possible bomb.
The package turned out to contain a book. One of the agents was a member of the president’s protection detail.
The Secret Service belongs, of course, to that executive branch of the government in which 11 percent of the citizenry still has confidence. It is what we like to call a “troubled” agency. After those earlier embarrassing “incidents,” its director was fired. (She actually “resigned” but all grown ups understood the deal.) One sympathizes with how it might be difficult for any administration to get its hands fully around, say, the Department of Agriculture. Or the Department of Education.
But the Secret Service?
The president and his “people” deal with Secret Service, up close and personal, every day. In fact, every hour of every day. If the Secret Service is broken, then what about the rest of the government?
The answer to that question is … who knows?
There is a lot, in fact, that we don’t know about how we are governed and by whom. A couple of weeks ago, the Federal Communications Commission (quick, name one member) announced that it had voted itself some nifty new regulatory powers. Over the Internet. Now, there was some discussion around the issue of whether or not the FCC had the power to just step in and rule the Internet. This being Washington, the commission answered the question in its favor. This is how, of late, “stuff gets done.”
Following the president’s example, you do what you want and then say, “So sue me.”
The FCC, then, granted itself these powers without consulting Congress. After this coup, the question asked by many was, “What new rules do you propose?” The implicit follow-up being, “And just how onerous and Byzantine will they be?”
The FCC answered, helpfully, “We’ll get back to you on that.”