A trenchant throwaway line in the London Times’ obit for former Nixon hatchet man Charles Colson refers to the “plumbers” he assembled as “inept and incompetent”. So true.

Paranoia of government rests on the contradictory presumptions that it is both hopelessly ineffective yet simultaneously brilliant at covering up its terrible and unethical performance.

The reality of most government conspiracies has been more prosaic and therefore more reassuring. Conspirators tend to be no better than at hiding things than they are at doing any other activity in which they engage. It is therefore unsurprising that when a paranoid, dishonest and destructive President of the United States personally asked his most trusted aide to run a spook operation, it was an end-to-end shambles that brought down the administration.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]

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Keith Humphreys is a Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University and served as Senior Policy Advisor in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy in the Obama Administration. @KeithNHumphreys