Incompetence? Or Sabotage?

There’s an old saying that even paranoids have enemies.

When Trump appointed Mick Mulvaney to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau–despite a provision in the law creating the Bureau that seems to vest appointing power in the departing head of that agency–I had a sudden epiphany. (Or–more probably–indigestion. But bear with me.)

When he was in Congress, Mulvaney voted in favor of killing the agency, which was created after the financial crisis to protect consumers and keep an eye on Wall Street. He has argued that the agency has too much power; he’s called its regulations “harsh.” In other words, he fits the profile of almost all Trump appointees: he wants to dismantle the agency he is being appointed to run.

Leave aside, for now, the lawsuit over this appointment. My “epiphany” isn’t about this particular appointment. In fact, it is a conspiracy theory–and I should be ashamed of entertaining it, but it seems so persuasive….

What if Putin really is blackmailing Trump? And what if he is demanding, as payment for his silence, the decimation of America’s federal bureaucracy?

Think about the people Trump has appointed. Betsy DeVos wants to destroy public education. Scott Pruitt wants to erase the EPA. Just this weekend, the New York Times ran a story about Tillerson’s hollowing out of the State Department. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke wants to shrink or eliminate national monuments. Ajit Pai is intent upon repealing net neutrality. Don’t get me started on Sessions. In fact, every single person Trump has appointed has approached the job with a hatchet in hand.

I’ve previously attributed this continuing disaster to the profound incompetence that characterizes this administration. But really, mere incompetence can’t explain all this. Maybe it’s malevolence–his obsessive hatred of Obama and his determination to erase everything Obama did–but why would Trump deliberately and intentionally destroy the agencies of  federal government? Clueless as he is, even he would have to know that history wouldn’t be kind to an accident of the Electoral College who presided over the destruction of American government.

Putin is a terrible human being and a ruthless despot, but unlike Trump, he’s smart. The various ways in which Russia influenced our election were clever; we’ll never be able to calculate the actual effects of that stealth operation. Putin also knows that Russia could never defeat the U.S. militarily. Trump’s election victory was probably an unanticipated gift. If he really does have the goods on our unstable, needy, none-too-bright President, why not use that leverage to make Trump do his dirty work?

He wouldn’t have to deploy a single soldier….

We’ve already seen incalculable damage to  America’s profile abroad. We’ve already watched as Trump’s “troops” have undermined, understaffed and rendered impotent some of our most important federal agencies, dramatically weakening the country.

If all that isn’t the result of Putin blackmailing Trump, what could possibly explain it?


  1. IMO it is “sabotage” emanating from the board rooms of banking, industry, and right wing churches and not-for-profits. With big donors leading the way, control over Congress and the White House has been achieved so that any and all regulations can be swept out of the way of more and more profits and more and more power into the hands of a few. And who did they get to lead this decimation of the government? Why the most “incompetent” man in the entire USA… Donald J. Trump.

    At this point in Trump’s presidency, it is hard NOT to see design to the madness. Frightening is too soft a word for what is happening.

  2. I’ve actually wondered the same thing. You aren’t alone thinking this. Problem with the theory is that Trump seems to enjoy his role way too much for it to be blackmail.

  3. This blog sent me scurrying for a back copy of “Intelligence Report”, published by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Winter 2013. The article I sought is “Conspiracy Act”; a report about one of my long-time favorite actors, Richard Belzer. Stated in the article, “But the popular actor is also an increasingly florid conspiracy theorist and author who recently has come to describe the United States as a “fascist” country ruled by ‘sociopaths.” The article proves that old adage, “Just because we are paranoid doesn’t mean they are not after us.” The publication date makes this article and Mr. Belzer’s comments prophetic in my estimation and, for myself, makes this blog, “Incompetence? Or Sabotage?” easily answerable. It is sabotage being hidden behind Trump’s escalating mentally unstable incompetence which, those of us who have been paying attention, have witnessed in the news for more than 30 years. The vast number of Trump’s family members, cabinet appointees, the lack of needed appointment vacancies and the majority of Congress cannot all be suffering from “Incompetence”; but are they all deliberately “sabotaging” the government and in turn, this entire country and our diplomatic relations with allies of long standing? Are they deliberately supporting his adoration and his overt – and covert – support of Putin and Russia and his neo-Nazi, White Nationalist, KKK racist values?

    Why would our Congressional members, no matter how much the Republican party has changed, WANT to sabotage this country and themselves? Of course, their blatant racism and the agenda they set has been obvious since the night Barack Obama was elected President of the United States of America. Putin would not only not have to deploy one soldier…our tax dollars are paying for the destruction of freedom of speech and freedom of the press both here and abroad.

    I vote for “Sabotage”; no question about it.

  4. Incompetence? Or Sabotage?

    This is where we are. The two most likely explanations for the Orange Dunce.

  5. Your only error might be in thinking this is an either/or situation. I would argue that DT and most of his appointees and surrogates are both willfully ignorant and woefully incompetent. Unfortunately they have the power to harm/ruin our country and its people for years to come.

  6. We are witnessing the implementation of Steve Bannon’s goals. Remember, he has close ties with Jeff Sessions and the handful of rich, powerful, theocratic (Koch bros., Mercers, et al) actors who clearly want the power structure of this country to be taken away from government (and by extension, the people) and delivered into the hands of the privileged few. Sowing chaos and dismantling government are part of Bannon’s plan. So far it’s working. I don’t think all congressional Republicans are necessarily “in” on the plan, but due to current political finance laws they cannot work against their donors, even if it better serves their constituents.

  7. “…mere incompetence can’t explain all this. Maybe it’s malevolence–his obsessive hatred of Obama and his determination to erase everything Obama did–but why would Trump deliberately and intentionally destroy the agencies of federal government?”
    I suspect malevolence. Why not erase that system which is so dangerous to white male privilege that it actually provides the means to elect a black man? To the malevolent mind, and to no other that I can think of, that has to stop.

  8. There is another answer: the super rich want a freer hand to exploit the resources and people of our nation. That is not to say Putin hasn’t mucked around in our election and our current administration. The ultra-rich people are afraid of democracy. I can see them colluding with Russia to create a stronger oligarchy here.

  9. Incompetence? Absolutely. Sabotage? Certainly. The party that openly hates government convinced the electorate that it should run government. This is the result. Putin merely got lucky beyond his wildest dreams. With Russian interference, the legitimacy of the election would have been questioned regardless of who won. Does he have something on the vulgarian? Yeah, probably. Let me boldly speculate that it has something to do with money laundering. Lots of it. But the destruction of the country at the hands of the Grifters, Oligarchs, Plutocrats has been going since the days of Gingrich.

  10. The coup so many people are thinking of actually happened fifty-four years ago when John Kennedy and his brother Bobby were murdered. What we are seeing now is the second consolidation of ruthlessness–the first was by the Reagan administration– by the same interests that assassinated the Kennedy brothers.

  11. It is sabotage, and with it comes the incompetence and appearance of incompetence. Remember, these people surrounding Trump are not the brightest bulbs in the lamps. He couldn’t possibly have anyone around him who was smarter or more competent.

    Here’s Gene Robinson’s take from this morning’s WAPO on what lies ahead:
    We will all pay a price for Trump’s nihilism

    Consumer advocates protest outside the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. (Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press)

    By Eugene Robinson Opinion writer November 27 at 7:42 PM
    The Trump administration’s approach to governance is that of a bratty toddler confronting a neat stack of blocks: Knock it down and scatter the pieces. It may take years to rebuild what President Trump and his minions are destroying.

    This is not the systematic move toward small government that conservatives have long sought. It’s a lurch toward bad government, inadequate government, incompetent government. In some cases, it’s driven by spite; in others, by sheer cluelessness. Ultimately, we will all pay a price for Trump’s nihilism.

    The most recent example is the chaos at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an agency established in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis as a watchdog against abuses. Perhaps the bureau’s best-known action to date was levying a $100 million fine against Wells Fargo for opening hundreds of thousands of deposit and credit-card accounts without the customers’ knowledge or consent. All told, the bureau has saved nearly $12 billion for consumers.

    The story must be told.
    Your subscription supports journalism that matters.
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    This record, according to Trump, is a “total disaster.”

    Trump claimed in a weekend tweet that “Financial Institutions have been devastated” by the CFPB. That is nonsense. The much more likely reason for his criticism of the bureau is that it was established while Barack Obama was president. Trump has been unable to establish a proper legacy of his own, so he is intent on erasing his predecessor’s.

    The battle for control of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

    The White House and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau are in a standoff over who will become its acting director: Leandra English or Mick Mulvaney. (Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)
    CFPB Director Richard Cordray resigned Friday and, as specified by law, appointed an acting director — Leandra English, who had been Cordray’s chief of staff. But Trump, relying on a different federal statute, appointed his own acting director, Mick Mulvaney.

    You’d think Mulvaney already had enough to do, since he serves as White House budget director. But perhaps he relishes the extra work, since he was harshly critical of the agency when he was in Congress. In any event, he dutifully showed up at CFPB headquarters Monday morning with a bag full of doughnuts for “his” staff. English, meanwhile, has filed suit in federal court claiming it’s really “her” staff. And the bureau, with two masters, is paralyzed.

    The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, by contrast, has no master. In its 41-year history — it was founded during the Gerald Ford administration — the office established to advise presidents on scientific matters has never gone so long without a leader. From 135 staffers under Obama, it has been slashed to 45.

    Perhaps this sort of thing was to be expected from Trump, who has described “global warming” as a Chinese hoax. The thing is, however, refusing to believe in science doesn’t make you immune from its effects. Anyone with doubts about the law of gravity should think twice before jumping out of a second-story window.

    Meanwhile, China is racing ahead and has already become the world’s leader in clean energy. A functioning White House science office, staffed with qualified scientists, would tell the president he is wrong to focus on coal, the fuel of the Victorian era, while ignoring the renewable-energy sources that will power the rest of the 21st century. But Trump hates being told he’s wrong. He chose an Environmental Protection Agency director, Scott Pruitt, who perhaps has even less regard for what science tells us about greenhouse gases and atmospheric warming. The result has been to make the world’s most powerful nation mute and irrelevant in the global conversation about climate change.

    Even more alarming is the way our diplomatic corps is being decimated by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. This is a bipartisan issue: Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) added his name to a letter complaining that U.S. diplomatic power “is being weakened internally as complex, global crises are growing externally.”

    Tillerson, who once reportedly referred to Trump as a “moron,” is both sane and intelligent, unlike so many other Trump appointees. But he has approached the State Department as if he were an ambitious mid-level corporate executive tasked with downsizing an overstaffed branch office. He has forced out a host of senior diplomats, hired consulting firms to advise him on a reorganization, agreed to slash the department’s budget by up to 31 percent and refused to fill jobs that his predecessors considered vital.

    But Tillerson’s main job isn’t management, it’s diplomacy. With every career ambassador and senior officer who is elbowed out the door, a lifetime’s worth of contacts and expertise depart as well. The administration will sorely miss that wisdom in a crisis.

    Future presidents will have to restore what Trump and his team are casually destroying. Ignorance and petulance, rather than reason, now reign.

  12. Remember Grover Norquist? His ultimate goal is to make government so small, you could drown it in a bathtub. He and the Republican Party have required all Republicans running for office to sign a no tax pledge for nearly 30 years. Now they have all branches of government under their control and the plan is well under way. If the new tax bill gets passed, adding $1.4 trillion to the deficit, the next step is a return of Republican deficit hawks to say we must have new budget cuts, especially to Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security to make up for the loss of revenue. Soon, there will be no safety net and precious little government. Bannon spoke of the deconstruction of the administrative state earlier this year. That goal is very nearly achieved.

    And just another aside, the most frightening thing in the news over the past couple of days is that the Koch brothers are taking over “Time” magazine.

  13. Why the disjunctive? Why either-or when it clearly is both sabotage and stupidity in the same package? As to Putin, let’s not forget the bridge from Moscow to Washington, i.e., Bannon, a self-professed Leninist who openly confesses that his ambition is to “destroy the administrative state.” See any connection to Lenin’s destruction of the Romanov dynasty? I do.

    Bannon’s thinly disguised hope to “destroy the administrative state” is nothing less than a promise to destroy our democracy in favor of authoritarian control (see the current mini-coup of seizing control of the CFPB, the first substantial coup, if successful, of many more to come). Bannon is probably more politically powerful today than he was when officially in government (and subject to more press scrutiny). He is the ventriloquist; Trump is the dummy, a dummy who is not really interested in governing but is rather preoccupied with destroying all initiatives of Obama, reducing taxes on the superrich (and himself), nursing grudges and demanding adulation and praise.

    Putin was a colonel in the old communist police state apparatus and is an authoritarian today who has Trump blackmailed up to the latter’s ears, but Bannon is the philosophical bridge between Putin and Trump. Trump hasn’t a clue as to the forces of history and how they operate, but Bannon doesn’t operate from such a deficit. Trump is an amoral and ignorant real estate and branding salesman trying to cover up his gross incompetence with bluffing, insults, braggadocio and daily diversions.

    He needs to be removed as soon as possible if our democracy is to survive because, when he goes, the Putin-Bannon bridge is likely to collapse, and while we may still be subject to right wing propaganda, we may well have removed a real and present threat to our democracy. We need not wait for Mueller’s indictments, if any, since he has no jurisdiction in re impeachment in any event. We have a truckload of grounds for impeachment, and all impeachments must originate in the House – so call your congressperson, often. Our democracy is at stake.

  14. “Future presidents will have to restore what Trump and his team are casually destroying. Ignorance and petulance, rather than reason, now reign.”

    Vernon; “Beyond here there be dragons.” “Be afraid, be very afraid!”

    What will remain to be restored; of the government, the people or the environment? The current government is nearing the near total destruction level which is still the condition in much of Puerto Rico; one of our territories with the same rights and protections as all 50 states. They of course are Hispanic and not worthy of Trump’s government’s attention; an offshore territory left to its own devices, no offshore banks located there to protect their money.

    Can a list be located within the system of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to document who is protected and what process is currently in place to provide that protection? The currently expanding American Caste System must make the job of Acting Director/Director a most difficult one to know who is to be protected and who makes these decisions.

  15. This sounds like a reasonable conclusion based on the evidence. Still you would think the GOP broadly would be more ethical . The oldest and best tactic in war is to have the enemy destroy themselves.

  16. Seriously Sheila, – the Russians?? The Russians have been for some time a lead story on CNN or MSNBC. Both of these “News Networks” work over time trying to connect disconnected dots, leaks and suppositions by a series of “experts”. It is like a perpetual motion machine.

    Are there links between Trump, etc., and some Russians, possibly. However, this is not some secret nefarious plot hatched out in the Kremlin. At it’s core this has everything to do with greed and power. The flow of money emanating from the 1% and multi-national corporations from one country to another has over taken any notion of Patriotism. Profit is their God.

    The national flag has been replaced by what is best for the Oligarchs or the Multinational Corporation. There is no allegiance to a set of values that benefits and binds humanity. The Core Values of the 1% and Multinational Corporations is how to make more money, Trump is the visible manifestation of this.

    “It’s no secret on where the Trump administration is getting their ideas,” wrote Mustafa Santiago Ali, a former senior official at the EPA’s office of environmental justice, in the Guardian. “They are running a systematic playbook put together by the Heritage Foundation.”

    Who funds outfits like the Heritage Foundation?? Not the Russians, it is our own Oligarchs. You need to look closer to home and not in the Kremlin. The solution set for these Oligarchs and Multi-National Corporations is to eliminate any rule or regulation that impedes profit. Trump’s appointees are best viewed from the philosophy of what is good for the Heritage Foundation is good for AmeriKa.

  17. Shiela, at the age of 65, military family and experience and a person who makes sure he has to have his birth certificate. old passport and business licence on him at all times along with my drivers license! – In this Nation in this day – the idiots are in charge, and the capitalist dictatorship provided all we need to see that letting industry banking and the military go unchecked for sooooo long.., IT is what gave us this %%%%%%%%%%%% idiot. Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us in 1958 – they won we let them and that is going to come back to bite this Nation in the ass so hard I can almost hear the cryin’ now!… mark my words – ROME HAS FALLEN.

  18. Gerald; is anyone keeping track of where Bannon is and what he is up to when not in front of cameras supporting neo-Nazis, White Nationalists, the KKK and child molesters? Is he a primary target for the Mueller investigation or did being removed from the White House remove him as a primary target?

  19. JoAnn – It is hard to keep track of Bannon since he left Trump (if he did), but his continuing influence on the Republican Party is plain to see with his endorsement of an Alabama pedophile for the Senate and some of the right wing positions he has embraced since (officially) leaving government. We are also told that he has phone conversations with Trump daily, so his move out of a chief adviser’s position may have been only cosmetic to beat the political heat. He is back to his old position as a Breitbart executive, a “news” service funded by oligarchs, and presumably has taken up where he left off spewing right wing propaganda to Trump’s base. I think we need to save our time and energy not on Bannon, a terminal pro-Leninist, but rather on Trump, because if Trump goes, Bannon has no vessel to popularize his anti-democratic garbage.

  20. I agree that incompetence isn’t adequate to explain it. Malevolence/sabotage covers the facts better, but where it’s coming from can’t be definitely pinpointed. Blackmail’s a possibility, but corporatists whispering in Trump’s ear is the most likely source. Alternatively, such a well-documented case of arrested development might just be acting out teenage vandalism – in his 70s.

  21. I thought it was obvious when the Trump team changed the platform to favor Russia during the Republican convention that Trump either owed so much money in Russia or was being blackmailed.

  22. The history of America is a 300-year episode of forcing other, weaker countries to bend to our will, even if we had to kill their democratically elected leaders or to threaten to destroy them if they considered any economic arrangement other than capitalism. The 20th century paid homage to that idea by accelerating it to warp speed. Trump is merely a buffoon who continues that tradition while savaging his own uninformed supporters. When Trump is gone, the Pax Americana period will continue. If we are lucky, the person leading the process will be a little less vile and possibly not a sociopath. If we are very lucky, he/she will pull back a bit on the throttle.

  23. I’m afraid it is the confluence of all of the above each chipping away at the same block that’s sinking the ship of state. What’s changed IMO is not our enemies but their tools.

    Please go back and review the TED talk from yesterday.

    Law enforcement and regulation react and try to shutdown what shows up in terms of tools that allow those who choose to impose what’s good for them on others to be successful. It is the old arms race where the only response to escalation is more escalation and for the moment the bad guys are in the lead.

    At the moment those whose goal is the disassembly of America have a loose coalition with a very strong and nefarious tool, IT pusuasion architecture, developed for business, to impose all of their anti-freedom anti-American make more money regardless of the impact on others best for them “business plan” on us through treachery using social media as a carrier. Typhoid Mary.

    All of the bad guys win all of America looses.

    Will the takeover be complete enough to be self sustaining? I am beginning to believe that the odds favor so.

  24. Sabotage! Thanks for allowing your wonderful mind to think outside the box,Sheila.

    By who may not matter. It is not an either/or situation, think in terms of probability theory and chaos theory. There is no definitive black and white outcome to our seemingly loss of the democractic process of the US. History has shown us over and over again how government models change, and the results. We seem to be in a field of chaos The true outcome will be a result of occurrences as we go forward.

    Currently the winning bet does not appear to be on the side of the Average American.

    Thanks for all the posts, and the great thoughts of you all. Interesting times we are living in.

  25. It’s an astonishing angle that may well be pertinent, but I truly believe it’s much simpler and more traceable. First, “follow the $Money$”, Both paid and owed. The funds (bribes )that pour in from the Mercer’s, Koch Brothers and other politically active billionaires leave a direct trail to Trump , his Cabinet appointees and his Republican enablers in Congresss. Second, the billions of $ Dollars$ of Debt that he personally ,and his son and son in law specifically , has to have some bearing on these decisions. And third, his voter base and financial sponsors have always made cutting and dismantling Federal Government Agencies, Staffs and Programs their first and most important mission…Rob

  26. You give Trump way too much credit when you say even he would have to recognize that history would not be kind to him for dismantling the federal government. Regardless of who is feeding him the names of people to appoint, be it Putin or Bannon or whoever, the GOP congress is going along with those appointments gleefully. This is in fact what the GOP has been salivating about for years, waiting for the moment to be right. This reflects the new face of the Republican party.

  27. Kathie; you nailed it. When a spoiled rotten child is allowed to run amok wherever he happens to be, it is not the child’s fault; the fault lies with the parents. The Legislature is explained first in the Constitution because it is their responsibility to see to it that the Judicial leader, the president, is NOT ALLOWED to run amok through the entire government and destroy diplomacy with other nations. Trump’s ego is in control of this country and that ego only looks into his mirror, never beyond. What will it take to get Congress to act; after the nuclear war with North Korea has begun…and it looms closer daily. Supposedly; it takes Congress to agree to declare war but it also takes Congress to protect the Constitution, democracy and Americans but Trump has probably wrapped his garbage in the original. The short fat guy with funny hair and the tall fat guy with funny hair are the world rulers today via their international pissing contest.

  28. I honestly don’t blame 45 for the state of our country, I blame Congress. For a decade now, they have fought the President with everything they had. I think Katie hit the nail on the head when she mentioned that it IS congress that is making all of this worse. We have the stupidest man alive as President and the Congress should stand up and shut down our government until this leader is gone. And then, one by one, we need to remove every single IDIOT in Congress, I don’t care which party they belong to, get the bad apples out and get them to work, for once. I am so sick of seeing 45 on tv everyday making a mockery of our country to the world, I doubt we will ever recover from this sickness. Like JoAnn has said for years, FOLLOW THE MONEY.

  29. Putin and his Trump puppet don’t need to sabotage our government and democracy as we know it. The Koch Brothers and Mike Pence are doing it on their own from the inside out, from suppression of voting rights to decimation of state and national executive branch rule-making and employees as well as all levels of the federal judiciary including the U.S. Supreme Court. They’re on a mission and on the move. I wish Katy would bar the door.

  30. I can’t put much stock on Sheila’s theory. But I can’t completely discount it, either. As the saying goes, crazier things have happened.

    On the one hand, we have the variant on Occam’s Razor: of the various theories, the simplest is most likely the correct one. On the other hand, we have Sherlock Holmes: when the evidence eliminates all other possibilities, the one that is left, no matter how unlikely, is it.

    The weakness in Sheila’s theory is that accomplishing this possible goal of Russia would require more than Trump merely picking bozos to be Cabinet secretaries. They would have to be in on the conspiracy. And, some of the people (perhaps like Sec. of State Tillerson) are probably bright enough that they will ask questions of experts to make up for their own ignorance/inexperience.

    The saddest part for me is that we even have to consider Sheila’s theory as a possibility.

  31. Interesting, Sheila! After discarding all the other possibilities, I have come to the conclusion, and I have expressed the conclusion that Congress, and the administrations in the States have been bought and paid for by corporations and those wishing to not just hold onto, but increase their wealth.

    The result is that we have a slave administration, made up od individual slaves. I shrink in horror to imagine the pressure put on these poor people and their families. Unless they resign and get out of politics they can’t break free. It would be very difficult to to maintain their current lifestyle and the education of their children to consider the idea.

    NOW, why had I not considered that President Trump might have been harassed, intimidated, blackmailed or, yes, bought?

    I think you are on to something, and the sooner we are exposed the the pertinent facts about Russia, the better!

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