January 9, 2020
As you know, the impartiality of decisions and observations of members of the U.S. intelligence agencies, such as the FBI, have been questioned because members of those agencies have privately expressed political views not in accordance with the political views of Members of Congress. The most obvious of these were the emails of two FBI members who were critical, in their personal correspondence, of the President. That they were dumb about thinking that their views would go unnoticed by the rest of the intelligence community goes without saying, at least from what I assume they must have learned when they took Spying 101 in spy college; “never put anything in writing.” I might also point out, in case the lessons learned from their investigations into Clinton’s use of her personal email account to conduct official business were lost on them, that the opposite applies; never use your government email server for your personal correspondence (especially your love letters). Whether or not their political orientation prejudices their ability to make impartial observations in their intelligence findings I don’t know, but I do know that from my observations of the political views of civil servants —and they have been many—, it is that they don’t.
However, those Congressmen—sorry, Congressfolk—are very certain of their ability to keep their own political decisions independent of those corporate Political Action Committees and wealthy individuals who give them large campaign contributions. A good trick, if you ask me.
“Dear wealthy donor,” they might write on their thank-you notes, “Thank you for your contribution of $24,999.95 to my re-election campaign. However, I have to inform you that your contribution has nothing to do with the fact that I will be voting against your wishes now and in the foreseeable future. I know this will not in the least affect your decisions to contribute to my future re-election campaigns, and I applaud your impartiality and integrity and look forward to your forthcoming largess.”
We often project our own faults (which we do not even suspect we have) on others (who we do suspect of having theirs). The belief in the integrity of Congressfolk when it comes to themselves is perhaps belied by their subconscious thinking; “If I can be bought and paid for by the pharmaceutical industry there is no way on earth that any government employee can separate their political beliefs from influencing their ability to do their job impartially.”
Of course, that used to be the case and it was known as “political patronage.” Government employees were expected to be loyal to the party in power. When, say, a new Chief Executive belonging to Party A replaced the old Chief Executive belonging to Party B there was a mass turnover in the government workforce. The fact that every government employee of Party B persuasion was replaced by new employees of Party B persuasion was seen for what it was—a payoff for favors rendered. A quid pro quo, as it were. That was before some bleeding-heart government reformers came up with the civil service laws which assured that garbage collectors were hired because of their ability to move garbage—of which there is plenty in government—rather than their party affiliation.
People believe what they want to believe, and Congressfolk believe they are the only honest people on the planet. I respect that, but I’d respect it a lot more if their honesty were a lot more insightful.
Jim Elliott served 16 years in the Montana Legislature as a state representative and state senator and four years as chairman of the Montana Democratic Party. He lives on his ranch in Trout Creek. Montana Viewpoint appears in weekly papers across Montana and online at missoulacurrent.com.