President Donald Trump is a man in a hurry. Throughout his campaign he laid out his priorities. He’s a man who likes to get things done and is intent on keeping his promises. We've seen this before. But draining a swamp is never easy.
In January of 1995 we were part of the first (and historic) Republican House majority in 40 years. In the 1994 election, under the leadership of Newt Gingrich, House candidates signed the Contract with America that promised a 100 day agenda to transform Washington.
Some might say it was a commitment to “drain the swamp”. During those first 100 days, over 300 roll call votes were taken. We voted on every item that had been promised. We kept our word and set a course to actually balance the federal budget.
Today, President Trump is committed to achieving the same record of performance during his first 100 days. Promises made, promises kept.
As President Trump begins the process of implementing commitments and draining the swamp through his executive orders and legislative initiatives, he needs to clearly understand that the swamp will undoubtedly fight back.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has already slow-rolled the confirmation process of the President’s new cabinet.
The angry left has mobilized and encouraged protestors to attempt to create the impression that his new policies lack public support.
Even some Republicans are proving to be less than helpful. These actions were all expected. Candidate Trump got a taste of this opposition during his campaign.
What is conceivably new and maybe somewhat unexpected in terms of its scale and impact is the fourth branch of the U.S. government – the bureaucracy.
Perhaps the most glaring example of the power of the bureaucracy was the decision by his acting Attorney General to refuse to defend the President’s Executive Order on a refugee pause as new enhanced vetting protocols from seven countries were developed.
The swamp now has officially claimed its first victim of the administration, Mike Flynn. Flynn made a mistake, no doubt about it. But he fell victim to the bureaucracy that was not fond of him or his reform agenda. It collected information secretively and then leaked it to a willing and eager media.
Team Trump will soon see that this is just the tip of the iceberg. The federal bureaucracy is full of employees who do not share his world view. From Foggy Bottom to NOAA to the IRS, they have become increasingly politicized. The bureaucracy would be happy to undermine and “resist”. Some have already begun and it will only get worse.
President Trump must recognize this threat to his agenda. He needs to gather his team and get them on the field. The president has the ability to fill roughly 5,000 positions. While that number may seem massive, it pales in comparison to the almost three million workers in the fourth estate. Many if not most of who are committed to maintaining the status quo.
Candidate Trump ran a clean and successful campaign that lasted about 18 months. If he expects to be a successful two-term president, he will need to build a strong core of supporters throughout the executive branch who share his same vision.
Bringing change to Washington is complex.
Newt Gingrich has advised President Trump. If you are determined to drain the swamp, beware of the alligators.
Newt speaks from personal experience. He was a true transformational leader who confronted the status quo.
The swamp fought back taking advantage of every “mistake” made by the former Speaker.
The bottom line for Speaker Gingrich was that after four years, the swamp had claimed Newt Gingrich as its victim. And it then came creeping back.
Balanced budgets and strong economic growth soon vanished. The bureaucracy and federal spending that fed it soon started rising again.
If President Trump wants to truly transform America he will need loyal teammates to make it happen. He will need to run a tight ship. Yes, these alligators are relentless.
No one should doubt what’s at stake here. President Trump is serious about draining the swamp, and as we are currently witnessing, the swamp will surely fight back.
Trump’s team needs to find a way to improve quickly because if they don’t, Mike Flynn will have been the first of many who will fall victim to the predatory swamp!
Pete Hoekstra is the Shillman senior fellow at the Investigative Project on Terrorism. He is the former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and is author of "Architects of Disaster: The Destruction of Libya."