NAHAL TOOSI and ANDREW RESTUCCIA report:
“The articles — which have appeared in Breitbart News, the Conservative Review and other outlets — have alarmed veteran officials in both parties as well as current executive branch staffers. They say the stories are adding to tensions between career staffers and political appointees as they begin to implement Trump’s agenda, and they worry that the stories could inspire Trump to try purging federal agencies of perceived enemies.
The claims posted on the conservative sites include allegations of anti-Israel and pro-Iran bias against staffers at institutions such as the State Department and the National Security Council. Breitbart News, whose former executive chairman Steve Bannon is now Trump’s chief strategist, has even published lists of workers that the president should fire.
Washington veterans say they can’t recall similar targeting of government employees, who are required to stay apolitical and generally shun the spotlight.
“It’s deeply unfair to single people out and question their loyalty,” said William Burns, president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a former longtime diplomat. “It’s demoralizing for institutions. It’s demoralizing for professionals, and it’s offensive.”
Elliott Abrams, a veteran of the George W. Bush administration who was passed over last month for the role of deputy secretary of state because of his past criticism of Trump, agreed with Burns. Career staffers, he said “are trying to do their jobs and will respond to presidential leadership — including from a new president when an administration changes.”
U.S. civil and foreign service officers have long been seen by Republicans and Democrats as the backbone of government — subject matter experts who help political appointees administer their policy agenda regardless of who serves as commander in chief. But many in the Trump administration and its allies on the right are skeptical of career staffers, believing they are part of an American “deep state” that is working in secret to undermine the president.
Several people who have been targeted did not respond to requests for comment. But one said the information being spread is unnerving, in part because even if Trump’s top aides don’t always believe the reports they read in the conservative press, they may still feel pressure to act from voters in the Republican base who do believe the accounts.”
Wow, what a grotesque distortion by the right wing media of the critical role of the career civil servant in American Government!
Political appointees in the Executive Branch are usually expected to show of loyalty to the President and the Administration. But, career public servants are non-political, merit-based, appointees who are sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States, not to be personally loyal to any particular President or Administration. In fact, a requirement for any long-term career civil servant is the ability to serve conscientiously and effectively in administrations of either party which happens to be in power.
That being said, of course a civil servant who fails to carry out direct orders from his or her superiors, including political appointees, or who consciously undermines agency programs is insubordinate and subject to discipline up to and including removal. But, even in those situations, there are legal requirements which must be followed for discipline and removal. Civil servants can not be summarily dismissed just because they worked for or helped carry out the programs of the previous administration, which, after all, was their job.
In most countries outside the Unites States and a few other so-called “Western Democracies,” government is the personal possession of the ruler. He or she controls the mechanisms and staffing of government and hands out government positions as rewards to cronies, family members, and supporters. The devices of government are used largely to reward friends and punish and suppress enemies. The general populace has no real expectation of honesty, integrity, or assistance in any matter. Bribes are a routine requirement for obtaining any favorable action or avoiding any sanction. Indeed, I spent the better part of the last 13 years as an Immigration Judge hearing daily accounts of such abuse from individuals seeking refuge in the United States.
The modern U.S. system of government where civil servants owe allegiance to the Constitution and people of the United States, rather than to our individual political rulers, is the “gem” of our democracy, stability, and success as a nation. An attack on the merit civil service by the right wing media and also, sadly, by some GOP legislators is a direct attack on the foundations of our nation.