Veteran journalist George Stephanopoulos found himself in a heated exchange with Senator JD Vance (R-OH) over the role of bureaucracy in government and the president’s authority over the Supreme Court.
The discussion, which initially focused on Vance’s controversial remarks likening his stance to that of Andrew Jackson’s defiance of the Supreme Court, quickly escalated into a broader debate about the power dynamics between the elected branches of government and the administrative state.
Senator Vance, a rising figure in conservative politics, articulated his view that the federal bureaucracy has become an impediment to the execution of the elected government’s agenda. He clarified his earlier comments, saying, “No, no George, I did not say fire everyone in the government.”
“I said replace the mid-level bureaucrats with people who are responsive to the administration’s agenda,” distinguishing his position from a more radical overhaul of government personnel. This became a focal point of contention as Stephanopoulos pressed Vance on the implications of his stance for the rule of law and the separation of powers.
The conversation took a particularly tense turn when Vance cited the example of the Trump administration’s efforts to withdraw troops from Syria and Jordan, which he claimed were obstructed by Defense Department bureaucrats.
“So what happened? We have people who are sitting ducks in the Levant right now, three of whom just got killed, because the bureaucrats aren’t listening to the political branches.” This, Vance argued, exemplified how bureaucracy undermines the elected government’s authority and poses real-world consequences.
During Donald Trump’s presidency, one of the notable foreign policy decisions was the announcement to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, where they had been deployed as part of international efforts to combat ISIS. This decision was controversial and met with mixed reactions both domestically and internationally. Proponents of the withdrawal argued it was a step towards ending endless wars and fulfilling campaign promises to bring troops home.
The announcement to withdraw troops from Syria was made in December 2018 and was met with significant controversy, including criticism from members of Congress, some of Trump’s own advisors, and international allies.
“If those people aren’t following the rules, then of course you’ve got to fire them and of course the president has to be able to run the government as he thinks he should,” Vance claimed.
As the interview progressed, Stephanopoulos questioned Vance’s interpretation of the Constitution, particularly regarding the president’s obligation to adhere to Supreme Court rulings.
Vance countered by asserting, “The Constitution says that the Supreme Court can make rulings, but if the Supreme Court, and look I hope that they would not do this, but if the Supreme Court said the President of the United States can’t fire a general, that would be an illegitimate ruling and the President has to have Article 2 prerogative under the Constitution to actually run the military as he sees fit.”
The exchange reached a crescendo when Stephanopoulos abruptly concluded the interview following Vance’s assertion that his views were in defense of constitutional legitimacy, with Vance attempting to add, “No, no, no, no, George. George. George,” before being cut off for the next segment.