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Here’s the Ultimate Swamp Creature: a Trump apologist. “He didn’t do anything wrong!”


So there’s this guy, Peter Wallison, 78 years old. He’s a rightwinger and has been a Washington, D.C. fixture for decades. His career began as a young acolyte to Nelson Rockefeller, a moderate Republican. Moving steadily rightward, he served on Bob Dole’s unsuccessful 1976 vice-presidential campaign. Then, under Ronald Reagan, he worked for Treasury Secretary Don Regan until, in 1986, he hit the big time: White House Counsel to Reagan. After that, he hooked up with the ultra-conservative American Enterprise Institute, where he currently holds the title of Senior Fellow in Financial Policy Studies.

In other words, they don’t get any swampier than Wallison. Yet this guy has made a career out of bashing Washington “elites,” and with the current resident of the White House, Wallison is in his element. You know all that hysterical Republican bull about “the deep state”? Well, Wallison has baptized it with a new name, a bit less hysterical, but no less fake: The Administrative State. Criticizing this so-called Administrative State has proven to be a cash cow for Wallison: he has a newish (2018) book out, Judicial Fortitude: The Last Chance to Rein In the Administrative State, alleging the Republican meme that an unaccountable bureaucracy has replaced the legislature in governing America.

Never mind that the “independence” of Congress is only an issue for Wallison and his fellow rightwingers when Democrats control one or more Houses, as they do now. No, “administrative agencies of the Executive” (such as the SEC, FDA, Fannie Mae, FBI, Census Bureau, Civil Rights Division of the DOJ and so on) now govern America—and we all know who runs them: unelected liberals—Democrats—America haters!

Wallison wants to get rid of these horrible bureaucrats: demolish the Administrative State, which apparently means mass firings of all Federal employees. Who, then, would run the country? Wallison’s answer will not surprise you: Corporations! Because, you know, corporations are people too.

Wallison has infinite trust in the wisdom, compassion and decency of big corporations, for which he often acts as apologist. Gigantic multi-national banks did not cause the Great Recession of 2008-2009, he alleges. What did? Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which made buying houses too easy; this is why Wallison wishes to privatize them both. Notwithstanding the fact that economic historians have generally put the brunt of the Recession’s cause on deregulation of banks, here is Wallison’s counter-intuitive take:

The Great Recession “was the result of this view that it was the failure to adequately regulate the financial system that caused the financial crisis. My view is that it was actually government housing policy that caused the financial crisis.”

Of course! Wells Fargo was over-regulated! We all know how that turned out.

Now, we can argue about whether federal housing lending policy was overly lenient in the years leading up to the Great Recession (which occurred, incidentally, under George W. Bush, the Great De-Regulator). Certainly, no decent American could argue with the intention of making housing more accessible to a greater number of Americans. But Wallison throws the baby out with the bathwater: there are no good federal agencies, just corrupt ones. The answer to America’s problems, he says, is to elect Republicans—and more Republicans—and bring a wrecking ball to the Administrative State. Just leave everything to Exxon Mobil, Facebook, Bank of America, Archer Daniels Midland and Boeing, and all will be well!

Nor is it surprising that Wallison has been doing his best to discredit the Case for Impeachment. In a zinger right out of the Republican playbook, he alleges that Trump’s evident intent to bribe or extort Zelensky was not really bribery at all, and thus does not rise to the level of a High Crime or Misdemeanor. What Trump actually did–by withholding aid and in that notorious phone call–Wallison does not bother to explain. But he does state, flatly, that “Trump’s alleged obstruction actions [refusing subpoenas, not cooperating in any way with lawful Congressional investigations] could not possibly be a crime.”

Why not? I thought a U.S. president had to respect the investigative power of the co-equal House of Representatives. But no: Wallison, citing no less an authority than the discredited crypto-Republican lawyer Alan Dershowitz, argues than no one can prove Trump committed any crimes at all.

Well, of course not! Trump will not allow the most knowledgeable witnesses to testify! He will not turn over requested documents to the investigative committees! And he lies about it all on Twitter, while his enablers repeat his lies in rightwing media. This deliberate concealment of evidence surely looks criminal, to anyone with an objective mind and an ounce of common sense. In fact, Wallison reverts to the old tu quoque defense: Every politician plays these little games. Trump is only doing what all of them have done. “Presidents and candidates for president do this all the time and are not charged with a crime.”

Really? They obstruct Congress all the time? Presidents routinely withhold funding and weapons already approved by the Congress, from a country Trump wants to fabricate “dirt” on his most feared political opponent? Did Obama do that? George W. Bush? Bill Clinton? George H.W. Bush? Ronald Reagan? Does Wallison offer any historical facts to back up his theory? Not that I can find. He merely asserts it, as if his august resume were enough to lend such nonsense credibility.

I could cite many more disturbing fallacies by Wallison, but let me conclude with this: Peter Wallison is the Original Swamp Monster. For that old, white, male, far-right Trumpite to suggest that there’s an “Administrative State” running things in Washington is the height of ridiculousness. But then, the entire Republican Party, of which Wallison is a bastion, is based on ridiculousness. And,  with the election of Trump, it has entirely lost its moorings, and is adrift in what we may call the Wallison Sea of Pettifoggery.

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