The word “Byzantine” describes an incomprehensible, unreasonable level of complexity. It came to our language as many words do, from French. The reference is to the court of Byzantium in Constantinople, where the diffuse power and responsibility made even the simplest of tasks difficult. It was an empire built for stability, not change, and no one was capable of challenging the ruling class.
We are in the process of learning just what this means in Washington. Barataria has discussed this before as well as the underlying psychology which will drive it, but as it unfolds it is important to watch. If our Republic is to survive the next four years we must understand what is in the process of happening.
The intelligence briefing to the Senate Armed Services Committee seemed clear enough on the surface. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Russia had stepped up its cyber espionage operations, but stopped short of declaring the Russian election hacking an “act of war,” saying that would be “a very heavy policy call” more appropriate for others to make.
Clapper wasn’t ready to go that far, but he did spell out just what happened. He described the Russian efforts as a “multifaceted campaign”, which featured “classical propaganda, disinformation, and fake news”.
Over the next few days we will see the response from Trump, but we can predict it. So far the incoming President has only been dismissive of US Intelligence. Characteristically, he resorted to ad hominem attacks on the intelligence community as a whole, citing the lack of weapons of mass destruction in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
We can only expect that he will, characteristically, double down and only intensify his attacks.
The reason why this occurs is what is critical. Trump has already shamed Congress into being submissive, challenging them on an attempt to eliminate the Office of Congressional Ethics and causing their reversal in less than 24 hours. It was a truly classic power move from a man who is going to consistently do everything possible to consolidate power in his own hands.
Resisting this will be a steady parade of politicians doing what they found worked best over the last eight years – grandstanding and repeatedly doubling down themselves. It won’t work. Trump is not Obama.
What will prove effective against this administration will be exactly the opposite tactic. Anything which catches Trump’s famously scattered attention will be dealt with as brutally as possible, always with an eye to catch or destroy whatever is at hand. Anything that has to get past him will have to operate in the shadows.
Don’t think for a second that the bureaucracy and many members of Congress aren’t good at this.
This will mean that, increasingly, what is displayed in the media is nothing more than a show being orchestrated by one side or the other for public consumption. This will be tremendously useful for the purpose of creating a distraction, keeping attention away from the real work being done elsewhere. But that is all it will be.
Many will blame the media when this happens, too. They will be wrong.
How can we see this unfold? For all the bravado of the congressional hearing held today it is not what is important. What we have to watch for is how something else is undercut by the intelligence community, likely in a place where they have more power than Washington’s establishment. That implies it will be outside the US.
If Trump has an ally in Russia, look for the bureaucracy to have foreign allies of its own.
This will become obvious once these hearings are over. Where the testimony certainly has shocked everyone absolutely nothing will come of it. In a month this will all be a distant memory. Other things will happen and suddenly Trump will be in a corner of some kind lashing out at someone or something we haven’t heard of today. That’s when we will learn more about what happened in the election, in case you missed it while it was going down.
The long and short of it all is this: pay no attention to the main show. This is a power game, pure and simple. It will play out in a series of what appear to be surprises coming out of nowhere as things leap out of the shadows suddenly. Never be surprised as it all goes down.