(Maness and Palin, tackling a gator, 2014)
Maness discussed swamp-draining and other issues during a Facebook Live interview which we conducted, Wednesday afternoon.
Colonel Rob Maness is not just any ‘ol “swamp-drainer” advocate. A May 2014 US Senate race ad depicted him fighting the Washington DC gators. In the ad, he tied up gators living in the Louisiana swamps to represent just what he would be doing were he able to do his gator-hunting at the nation’s capital. In May 2014, he also picked up the endorsement of Tea Party star, Sarah Palin.
A month later, a June 2014 Maness’s press release said:
I say "Team Maness" because we are all in this together. I may have to give the speeches, but we are all fighting against the status quo of Washington.
It’s time to drain the DC swamp! That means throwing out the gators who are chomping away at liberties and devouring our tax dollars.
Today, we're releasing a new radio ad from Gov. Palin set to begin airing just after the Fourth of July. I wanted to share it in advance with you. Take a listen here and keep an ear out for it on the radio!
Maness was not the first to use the slogan "drain the swamp" in describing DC. Democrat Nancy Pelosi used it when alluding to the ethics scandals of the 2004 Republican Congress. Ron Paul deployed it in his 2012 run. There surely might be others.
Later, in September 2014, Palin campaigned with Maness. The theme was getting rid of those gators from the swamp.
The Colonel wasn’t able to get rid of all of the Louisiana gators or “drain the swamp” but he did come out of political nowhere to garner a respectable 13-plus percent in a three-person campaign against a well-funded Republican party-insider former US Congressman Bill Cassidy and a longtime Democratic Party powerhouse, Senator Mary Landrieu. Cassidy went on to beat Landrieu in the runoffs.
After the loss, in late 2014, he along with Ted Cruz, David Vitter and Bill Cassidy launched GatorPAC and in an early 2015 press release he said, “In the heat of that election cycle last year, I launched GatorPAC to inspire and recruit conservative activists and citizen leaders to help “drain the swamp” that is Washington.
In 2016, with the support of major national Tea Party figures such as Palin Rick Perry, Ben Carson and Sen. Rand Paul, he once again went swamp-draining, only to lose his bid to replace retiring US Senator David Vitter, in an unwieldly 24-person field. Through his two US Senate campaigns and his GatorPAC, his campaign and PAC used the #draintheswamp hashtag.
It came as a pleasant surprise when--during the final weeks of the 2016 Presidential race, Trump picked up the “Drain the Swamp” call and #draintheswamp hashtag-- which quickly competed with “Make America Great Again”. The rest is history.
How does the Air Force Colonel grass-rooter from the Louisiana swamps feel about Trump’s swamp- plumbing success, so far?
Maness said in the Facebook Live interview, Trump “has really not let me down as far as my expectations goes. He appears to be picking a mix of folks that are aligned with different factions in the Republican Party in some cases but also picking some folks that are due from outside government in other agencies and that's what I would expect a businessman to do,”
The Colonel was also pleased what he called the Trump transition transparency, citing the very public job-hunt-media-buzz in the lobby as cabinet prospects await the elevators to take them up to the Trump Towers White House North in the clouds, to meet with the billionaire President-elect.
Maness said Trump:
“realizes and his team recognizes that he's got a certain base at the grassroots level that really supported him, and then he thinks, I believe, that they deserve to have at least that level of knowledge as to what's going on. They're not going to agree with all the picks, I don't believe. I think that you've seen a big dust-up over the Mitt Romney discussion than the interviews with him even coming out from his campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, so people aren’t always going to agree, but I think he's Trump's a businessman and he's doing what a businessman with these--he's trying to find folks that have the right skill sets that he's looking for, regardless of what faction or what they did during the campaign. And I think that's a good I thing.”
Maness said, despite the media immediately claiming that the Trump transition was “a terrible transition”, "I think it's doing very very very well".
Now, again, back to the swamp. Before Trump went through the actual business of swamp-draining, one might argue Trump might have drained his own transition swamp by replacing its chairman.
“When I developed that hashtag 2014-2015 with GatorPAC, we were talking about draining the swamp inside of DC and getting the career politicians and lobbyists out of the group. I think to a degree when he fired Chris Christie as the transition manager and fired all the lobbyists that were kept being brought in by the Mr. Christie to do that, that's what his intent is--as far as the nomination so it's debatable whether those are the nominations that are going to drain the swamp or what we're just continuing to build on the same old bureaucracy. “
Yet, despite the great promise, Maness does have at least some pause, as do many other Trump rooters, grass rooters. Despite targeting Wall Street (and specifically Goldman Sachs) and Wall Street Bankers during his campaign speeches and commercials, Trump has picked two cabinet officials who look less like swamp plumbers, and more like some of the gators and other critters that habitat it. During the campaign, Trump said Hillary Clinton was under the “total control” of Goldman Sachs. Some eye-brows have been raised about Trump’s two “money and economy” picks, former Goldman Sachs partner, Steven Mnuchin for the Treasury Secretary spot and banker and private equity billionaire Wilbur L. Ross Jr for the Commerce Secretary.
When asked about the two picks that have somewhat muddied the swamp waters, Maness said:
“One thing you can say about Treasury and Commerce as they are outsiders from a government perspective, they're not part of the current political establishment inside DC, and they haven't been in politics before. Having said that, one guy is a Goldman Sachs just like Tim Geithner was from Wall Street under President Obama, there are some things I have some concerns with and I think the grassroots folks do too, who believe in the "drain the swamp hashtag" because what we're looking for is a complete clean slate as much as possible to get after bureaucracies and get them under control for the American people. I think that's what people see out here is that a lot of them believe the bureaucracies have grown so large and their unelected folks and with the tendency to over-regulate that's been going on the last few years, especially folks are very concerned what they see it happening in their lives.”
“I think nationally folks were going for Mr. Trump as the outsider, somebody not been part of the political establishment, not from inside the Washington DC Beltway, and that's what folks want, because they see a need to really to step back a little bit from this entrenched bureaucracy and these career politicians and put somebody new in there. “
Interestingly, while the Capital swamp sucking sound appears very loud, for now, down ballot, Maness feels there might be some muting, a kind that actually hits back home. Maness has suggested that the two runoff candidates (out of a 24 candidate-field), are not swamp drainers at all, but “have been in politics for many many many years. And it would be considered career politicians, so the down ballot effective going for the outsider that had not been part of the political establishment really didn't have that much of an effect from what we could tell”.
For the “Drain the Swamp” founder and gator fighter, Colonel Rob Maness (and probably millions of others around the country), the waters are now starting to recede within the beltway basin, if not nationally.
Just how many gators and how much muck swamp remains in DC and elsewhere from this point on, obviously remains to be seen.