I correspond with a fellow whom I’ve known for almost 50 years. He’s a pleasant person with a good sense of humor and an easy-going personality (which masks dogged determination). His career as a defense analyst lasted for 40 years, the final 20 years of which were spent as a senior civil servant in the U.S. government. He was considered for a deputy-assistant secretaryship but didn’t get the post.
I suspect that there are many like him in the active ranks of the civil service: senior civil servants who have risen to the level of being considered for — and sometimes getting — deputy-assistant secretaryships. They are mainstays of the deep state. They know where all the bodies are buried, and — being denizens of the D.C. area and mostly Democrats — they tend to push the agenda of Democrat administrations even when there’s a Republican in the White House. When it isn’t prudent to actively push the agenda of a former Democrat president, it is quite possible to obstruct a sitting Republican president’s agenda.
In that regard, my correspondent has several traits which I suspect are not uncommon among senior civil servants: nostalgically loyal to those served and respected in the past; intelligent but not creative; resistant to change; polite in the nth degree; offended by crudeness; and eager to seem agreeable to those around him.
Members of that species are quite capable of dragging their feet (needing more time, more information, more staff) in order to derail or delay the furtherance of policies that they find too “radical”. They redouble their efforts if they have bosses whom they consider too bold, brash, or crude — or simply bent on rocking a boat that needn’t be rocked (which is most of time). They are able do such things while seeming to be ideal civil servants: dedicated to the agency’s mission, subservient to their current bosses, organized and hard-working, and never (openly) pursuing an agenda other than the one (officially) before them.
Such behavior is so natural to them that they don’t consider themselves obstructionists, and aren’t detectable as such. They are therefore all the more effective as operatives of the deep state.
I want to make it perfectly clear that I am not saying my correspondent would do such things, just that he represents a type that is capable of such things. Consider it a passing thought, for what it may be worth.