Things sure seem tough at the CIA right now.
President Donald Trump was in the middle of receiving a highly classified briefing on Afghanistan at his New Jersey golf club when he suddenly craved a malted milkshake.
“Does anyone want a malt?” he asked the senior defense and intelligence officials gathered around him, an august group that included the head of the CIA’s Special Activities Center, which is responsible for covert operations and paramilitary operations. “We have the best malts, you have to try them,” Trump insisted, as he beckoned a waiter into the room where code-word classified intelligence was being discussed.
The malt episode, which took place a few months after Trump took office in 2017, became legendary inside the CIA, said three former officials. It was seen as an early harbinger of Trump’s disinterest in intelligence, which would later be borne out by the new president’s notorious resistance to reading his classified daily briefing, known as the PDB, and his impatience with the briefers, current and former officials said.
Ugh, nooooo, the president was more interested in milkshakes than the dirty business of running the global empire! (Insert “yes yes I know Trump is not actually good on foreign policy” disclaimer here.) The article goes on to say that America’s intelligence agencies have been too “political” under Trump, with the president demanding to hear only what makes him feel good, and trying to use the national security state as a weapon for his own goals (unlike in the past, when the intelligence community was only used for apolitical things like “lying the world into war in the Middle East because the president wants it”).
As if all that wasn’t enough, American imperialism got a nasty little shock on Sunday night, as Bolivians decisively chose to return the party of ousted former President Evo Morales to power. This marks a humiliating rejection of the vicious and repressive coup government which deposed Morales in 2019 on entirely specious grounds with the staunch backing of the United States and its allies in Latin America. What happened to the good old days when the CIA could foment 15 coups before breakfast, throw in a death squad for fun, and make everything stick? What’s happening to our institutions???
Luckily for our poor, bedraggled spies and evildoers, there is hope. Joe Biden is on the horizon! In Biden, the intel community sees a man who will still allow all the drone strikes, warrantless spying, and foreign interference they adore (just like when he was last in office) but without the exhausting chaos of the Trump administration. From the Politico story:
Trump’s actions, and the endless partisan battles over the Russia probe and impeachment, have left the intelligence community bruised and battered. Former Vice President Joe Biden’s advisers and allies in Congress are already thinking about what a heavy lift it will be to restore morale inside the agencies, legitimacy on Capitol Hill and public trust in the intelligence community’s leadership should Biden defeat Trump in November, according to more than a dozen people close to the candidate.
“This will be among the most important things a President Biden would need to do—and that he’ll want to do—immediately,” said Tony Blinken, who served as deputy secretary of state and deputy national security adviser under Barack Obama and is a top adviser to the Biden campaign. “I know from several conversations with him about this that he has deep concern about what has been done to the IC these last several years in terms of the politicization, and repairing that starts at the top with the president.”
Hell yeah! Let’s get the CIA and NSA feeling good about themselves again! That’s what we all want, right? We want some of the governmental organizations that have always done the most damage around the world to get that little spring back in their step—to tap our phones with a smile, to wage our forever wars with joie de vivre, to drone strike weddings in a way we can be proud of again. That’s the Joe Biden promise, folks.
I know all that may sound a little wild, but that’s what a “return to normalcy” means to these people, and there’s every likelihood that whoever is placed in charge of the intelligence apparatus under a Biden presidency will be greeted rapturously by the Democratic rank-and-file. After all, the liberal class has long since elevated Bush/Obama-era monsters like known perjurer James Clapper, illegal spying enthusiast Michael Hayden (quoted at length in the Politico story), and drone-happy torture supporter John Brennan to sainthood status, giving all of them cushy TV gigs and treating them as moral arbiters of what the Trump administration is up to. It’s the same deranged response to the last four years that has turned the racist warmongers at the Lincoln Project into Democratic heroes.
Make no mistake, Trump desperately needs to lose in two weeks, and a Biden presidency will of course be better than a second Trump term. But let’s be real about what we’re setting ourselves up for when it comes to stuff like this. It will be a return to the way things were—to the system working smoothly, to the “institutions” functioning again. For that to excite you, you have to think that a functional CIA, for instance, is a good thing. You have to love that system. You have to want the American empire to get back on track. If you don’t, prepare to be disappointed.