White House Photo

Trump, the GOP and the ‘Swamp:’ A Dangerous New Low in Bureaucrat-Bashing

In the wake of impeachment proceedings, disrespect for and threats against the career federal workforce have escalated.

President Trump’s proposed fiscal 2021 budget released Monday included a laundry list of federal workforce reforms, from overhauling the civil service system to increasing employees’ contributions to their retirement plans. Those proposals were prefaced by an introduction that harkened back to the president’s Christmastime display of affection for the 2 million people who have dedicated their careers to serving the nation. 

“As the president expressed in his recent holiday letter to executive branch employees,” the budget document declared, “the vast majority of federal workers, whether they are Veterans Affairs doctors or Border Patrol officers, are dedicated to the mission of public service.”

That holiday letter, you may recall, was entitled “To Our Incredible Federal Workforce.” Unfortunately, that term “incredible” has become a double-edged sword. Because at the same time the president lauds federal employees, he and other Republicans have lined up to question the credibility, integrity, qualifications and even patriotism of federal employees in recent months. The result is a dangerous new low in bureaucrat-bashing.

Trump’s admiration for federal employees is a relatively recent phenomenon. During Public Service Recognition Week in May 2019, he lauded “the valuable role they play in our communities.” But just a few months earlier, during the epic government shutdown, he shared articles on Twitter declaring that few federal employees worked hard or accomplished much.

The recent impeachment proceedings against the president provided the catalyst for another round of fed-bashing. In October, as hearings got underway in the House, an official White House statement declared that in the proceedings, “radical unelected bureaucrats [were] waging war on the Constitution.” The president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., tweeted that “America hired [Trump] to fire people like” former ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, acting ambassador to Ukraine William B. Taylor Jr. and State Department official George Kent. They are “career government bureaucrats and nothing more,” he said. 

Then, in the aftermath of the Senate’s vote not to remove President Trump from office, the administration moved swiftly to oust White House and State Department officials deemed insufficiently loyal to the president. These included the highly respected Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who had testified before the House impeachment committee. Vindman was escorted from the White House grounds and immediately attacked by the president himself.

“Fake News @CNN & MSDNC keep talking about “Lt. Col.” Vindman as though I should think only how wonderful he was,” Trump said in a series of tweets. “Actually, I don’t know him, never spoke to him, or met him (I don’t believe!) but, he was very insubordinate, reported contents of my “perfect” calls incorrectly, & was given a horrendous report by his superior…”

As Trump and other Republicans unloaded on military officers and diplomats for daring to speak out against the president’s actions regarding Ukraine, House Republicans went a step further, tarring federal employees across government at an event to unveil a plan to overhaul the civil service.

“The fourth branch of government is the bureaucracy,” declared Rep. Mark Johnson, R-La., chairman of the Republican Study Committee at the event. (That “branch” was represented by a gray suit-wearing “swamp monster.”) Agency leaders, the Republicans said, need more authority to punish government employees, because “the Trump administration has at times been burdened as common-sense proposals are undermined by partisan federal bureaucrats.”

“Without a federal workforce made up of true civil servants that are talented, patriotic, and hardworking, meaningful reform cannot be implemented,” they declared.

Note the contrast: “true civil servants” and “partisan federal bureaucrats.” 

The lawmakers at the event presented no evidence of systemic partisanship on the part of career federal employees—who, almost to a person, pride themselves on their strict political neutrality and dedication to faithfully carrying out elected officials’ initiatives. (And if it were true that federal workers are motivated by partisanship, Republicans might be surprised at how many are Republicans.)

Bureaucrat-bashing has been a staple of political discourse for decades now, across the political divide. But it’s one thing to declare or insinuate that government employees are unmotivated or lacking in talent. It’s very much another to characterize those who dare to challenge the president as “insubordinate,” “partisan” and not “true civil servants.” That type of language is a direct threat against the “incredible” career employees, managers and executives who seek to do their duty even under the most trying of circumstances.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.