The revenge of the bureaucrats

The opening hearings on the Ukraine scandal demonstrated that mundane government processes and seemingly colorless bureaucrats are what keep our country going. It was these sorts of unknown public servants who maintained the executive branch functioning during Watergate — and are doing so now while our distracted president and his acolytes try to circumvent the rules…

While the three witnesses came across as unusually admirable, they’re not atypical of their breed. They will endure only so much abuse or see only so much scandal around them before rising up in some way. All three testified in defiance of the president.

Mr. Trump cannot fathom such people, because they’re not interested in big money or fame. The “bureaucracy” may seem sluggish, stubborn and unimaginative at times, but it also can stand as a bulwark against assaults on the laws and the Constitution by the passers-through who inhabit the administration of the moment. Mr. Trump made a big mistake by demeaning civil servants from the outset (his awkward, self-reverential speech to the C.I.A. on his first full day in office was an embarrassment and also an omen) and then setting about trying to make them irrelevant.

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