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When The Washington Post Was Silent On The Clinton-Obama Purges

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Jeffrey Lord Jeffrey Lord is a Pennsylvania-based contributing editor of The American Spectator. He writes at his own web site, and is the author of Swamp Wars; Donald Trump and the New American Populism vs. the Old Order.
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The Washington Post recently had another Trump meltdown. The topic this time? The great Trump “purge.”

Here’s a sample of the hysterical headlines: “Trump embarks on expansive search for disloyalty as administration-wide purge escalates.”

This jewel begins as follows:

President Trump has instructed his White House to identify and force out officials across his administration who are not seen as sufficiently loyal, a post-impeachment escalation that administration officials say reflects a new phase of a campaign of retribution and restructuring ahead of the November election.

Johnny McEntee, Trump’s former personal aide who now leads the effort as director of presidential personnel, has begun combing through various agencies with a mandate from the president to oust or sideline political appointees who have not proved their loyalty, according to several administration officials and others familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

Then there was this from The Post’s editorial board: “Trump puts an unqualified loyalist in charge of national intelligence.”

PRESIDENT TRUMP’S campaign to purge the government of anyone not blindly loyal to him continued Wednesday with the appointment of Richard Grenell as acting director of national intelligence.

These stories were not alone either, as elsewhere in the leftist media there was much the same theme of handwringing and teeth-gnashing over Trumpian “purges” of those “not blindly loyal to him.”

Hmmmm. Hypocrisy, much?

U.S. President Donald Trump looks up toward the Solar Eclipse on the Truman Balcony at the White House on August 21, 2017 in Washington, DC. Millions of people have flocked to areas of the U.S. that are in the “path of totality” in order to experience a total solar eclipse. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Let me start with a personal story so that, as The Post motto goes, we don’t let democracy die in darkness. Back in the time of the ancients known as 1992 and the end of the Bush 41 administration, I was working as a senior Bush political appointee, ensconced at the Department of Housing and Urban Development toiling as a congressional relations aide for my boss, Secretary Jack Kemp. (RELATED: ‘Obviously I Can Beat Him Again’: Hillary Clinton Says She Could Win In 2020)

The 1992 election was over and the transition between the outgoing George H. W. Bush administration and the incoming Bill Clinton administration had begun. One fine transition day I showed up for work to find a letter waiting for me. The letter was from one Bruce Lindsey. He had served as the National Campaign Director for the Clinton campaign, and he would soon be in the White House with his friend the new president. As today’s Clinton Foundation helpfully points out in a bio of Mr. Lindsey (he is now on the board of directors for the foundation), he was director of the Office of Presidential Personnel, supervising the approval of political appointees.

The letter I had received said, in essence, “Dear Jeffrey. Thank you for your government service. You are dismissed. Please be out of your office by noon on January 20, 1993.”

I was not alone in receiving this letter. Every single Bush political appointee at HUD received the same letter from Mr. Lindsey a pattern repeated at every government agency staffed by Bush political appointees. (RELATED: Trump Invites Hillary Clinton To Jump In 2020 Presidential Race On One Condition)

To borrow from The Post of current days, I and my colleagues were targets of a great Clinton “purge.” My loyalty to the new president was suspect, as was that of all my colleagues. So we had to go. And we did.

I don’t recall any hot and bothered stories from The Post in 1993 treating Bruce Lindsey as they are treating Johnny McEntee, the Trump aide now taking over exactly the same office of presidential personnel once run by Bill Clinton’s Bruce Lindsey. The Bruce Lindsey who, to borrow from The Post on Mr. McEntee, had a “mandate from the president to oust or sideline political appointees who have not proved their loyalty”– to Bill Clinton.

U.S. President Barack Obama, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Former U.S. President Bill Clinton attend a memorial service for Ambassador Richard Holbrooke on January 14, 2011 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Holbrooke passed away in December after undergoing heart surgery to repair a tear in his aorta. (Photo by Kristoffer Tripplaar-Pool/Getty Images)

In fact, as the transition began between the outgoing George W. Bush administration and the incoming Obama administration, The Post was running a story headlined, “Obama Gives Political Ambassadors Their Pink Slips.” The December 2008 story by The Post’s Glenn Kessler began:

The incoming Obama administration has notified all politically-appointed ambassadors that they must vacate their posts as of Jan. 20, the day President-elect Barack Obama takes the oath of office, a State Department official said.

The clean slate will open up prime opportunities for the president-elect to reward political supporters with posts in London, Paris, Tokyo and the like. The notice to diplomatic posts was issued this week.

Then there was a story in The Hill, also from December of 2008, headlined, “Obama dismisses Bush Pentagon appointees.” This story began:

Despite keeping Defense Secretary Robert Gates in the Pentagon, President-elect Obama’s transition team informed 90 Bush appointees their services will not be needed after Inauguration Day.
Scott Gration, a senior official on Obama’s transition team, called and emailed several of President Bush’s Pentagon appointees about 10 days ago to inform them they were being dismissed.

But curiously, there was this story from The Washington Times towards the end of Mr. Trump’s first year in the White House, in September of 2017 The headline, “78 Obama appointees ‘burrowed’ into career jobs, watchdog finds.” This story said:

A government watchdog found that 78 political appointees of President Obama managed to “burrow” into career government jobs over a six-year period.

A Government Accountability Office report obtained by The Washington Times on Wednesday shows that seven of Mr. Obama’s political appointees switched to career jobs without obtaining necessary approval from the Office of Personnel Management. Of those, four were later denied the jobs by OPM and three left their posts.

Congressional Republicans warned Mr. Obama last year against moving political appointees into career positions, and President Trump has stated frequently that he believes some employees in the federal workforce are Obama holdovers working against his agenda.

In fact, no less than The Post itself headlined this a mere 11 days after President Donald Trump had been sworn in; “Resistance from within: Federal workers push back against Trump.” The story said:

The signs of popular dissent from President Trump’s opening volley of actions have been plain to see on the nation’s streets, at airports in the aftermath of his refu­gee and visa ban, and in the blizzard of outrage on social media. But there’s another level of resistance to the new president that is less visible and potentially more troublesome to the administration: a growing wave of opposition from the federal workers charged with implementing any new president’s agenda.

Less than two weeks into Trump’s administration, federal workers are in regular consultation with recently departed Obama-era political appointees about what they can do to push back against the new president’s initiatives. Some federal employees have set up social media accounts to anonymously leak word of changes that Trump appointees are trying to make.

So taken altogether, what do we have here?

What we have is what should be blindingly obvious: new presidents want their own team of political appointees — appointees loyal to them — running the various departments and agencies of the government that new president was elected to head. And they have the constitutional right to do so. (RELATED: Hillary Refuses To Answer Question On 2020 Run)

That is why I was being told by Lindsey, soon to be the new director of the Office of Presidential Personnel in the Clinton White House, to clear my desk and be out the HUD doors by noon on Jan. 20, 1993 — the exact moment Gov. Clinton became President Clinton. I was not a Clinton loyalist — so I had to go. And to the point, I agreed completely that it was improper to stay on and pretend to something that wasn’t true, not to mention to pretend that it was true while secretly using my position to sabotage the Clinton agenda.

What Trump is doing with the appointment of Johnny McEntee to exactly the same job once held by Lindsey is to have McEntee do exactly what Lindsey did: root out the non-loyalists and replace them with, in this case, Trump loyalists. It is precisely what was done when President Barack Obama took office and promptly began dismissing everybody from Bush-appointed ambassadors to Bush political appointees in the Pentagon.

The McEntee task has been complicated because the Obama-appointees played cute with the incoming Trump administration and moved to “burrow” themselves into the bureaucracy as career workers, precisely as the Government Accountability Office reported. From which perches they could sabotage the new president they detested.

In other words?

In other words, Trump is not only right to task McEntee with rooting out those appointees who are not Trump loyalists — just as predecessors Obama and Clinton did. But just as was true of Obama and Clinton it is also true that Trump is well within his rights to fire appointees not seen as Trump loyalists.

U.S. President Barack Obama (R) jokes with former U.S. President Bill Clinton before awarding him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in the East Room at the White House on November 20, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The Post was silent as a church mouse about Clinton or Obama “purges” when Bush 41 or Bush 43 appointees were shown the door because of a presumed lack of loyalty to President Clinton or President Obama.

Now The Post pretends to an obvious bald untruth, which is that Clinton and Obama did not do exactly what Trump is doing. When, in fact, they did.

Without a peep of objection from The Washington Post.

Imagine that.

Jeffrey Lord, a former CNN contributor, is a columnist and author. He is a former associate political director in the Reagan White House. In his Washington career, he has served successively as a senior aide for a U.S. congressman and a U.S. senator, chief of staff for former Reagan cabinet member Drew Lewis in the 1984 Reagan-Bush campaign, and as an aide to HUD Secretary Jack Kemp. He writes at his website,

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