Anonymous Op-Ed Roils Official Washington and the White House

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump arrives to speak at a campaign rally in Akron, Ohio, Monday, Aug. 22, 2016. Behind is former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump arrives to speak at a campaign rally in Akron, Ohio, Monday, Aug. 22, 2016. Behind is former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)


Today the New York Times ran a rather stunning op-ed. It is anonymous and claims to be from a top level member of the Trump administration. This is how it starts:

President Trump is facing a test to his presidency unlike any faced by a modern American leader.

It’s not just that the special counsel looms large. Or that the country is bitterly divided over Mr. Trump’s leadership. Or even that his party might well lose the House to an opposition hellbent on his downfall.

The dilemma — which he does not fully grasp — is that many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.

I would know. I am one of them.

To be clear, ours is not the popular “resistance” of the left. We want the administration to succeed and think that many of its policies have already made America safer and more prosperous.

But we believe our first duty is to this country, and the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic.

That is why many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.

And the op-ed goes on to lay out what the author objects to about Trump, but apparently doesn’t object to so strongly that he or she would resign.

In addition to his mass-marketing of the notion that the press is the “enemy of the people,” President Trump’s impulses are generally anti-trade and anti-democratic.

Don’t get me wrong. There are bright spots that the near-ceaseless negative coverage of the administration fails to capture: effective deregulation, historic tax reform, a more robust military and more.

But these successes have come despite — not because of — the president’s leadership style, which is impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective.

This is the point where bullsh** detectors start going off and red lights start flashing. Why? Because of what follows:

The result is a two-track presidency.

Take foreign policy: In public and in private, President Trump shows a preference for autocrats and dictators, such as President Vladimir Putin of Russia and North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, and displays little genuine appreciation for the ties that bind us to allied, like-minded nations.

Astute observers have noted, though, that the rest of the administration is operating on another track, one where countries like Russia are called out for meddling and punished accordingly, and where allies around the world are engaged as peers rather than ridiculed as rivals.

On Russia, for instance, the president was reluctant to expel so many of Mr. Putin’s spies as punishment for the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain. He complained for weeks about senior staff members letting him get boxed into further confrontation with Russia, and he expressed frustration that the United States continued to impose sanctions on the country for its malign behavior. But his national security team knew better — such actions had to be taken, to hold Moscow accountable.

This isn’t the work of the so-called deep state. It’s the work of the steady state.

The problem is that a lot of this is demonstrably false. For instance, Congress forced the sanctions after the assassination attempt in Britain. President Trump has had to fight the foreign policy and defense establishment every step of the way in his management of our relationship with Israel. Trump promised to pull the plug on the Iran Nuclear Deal and did it despite, again, the bellyaching of State and Defense and the Euros. NATO defense contributions are up. ISIS is basically crushed. Iran looks to be at the high-water mark of its influence. New trade deals have been negotiated (not going to argue the merits of those deals but only that they happened because of Trump’s insistence), and none of the second track of the presidency this assclown extols would have been possible under a Hillary Clinton presidency.

Back to the bullsh** detector. I’ve been at a moderately senior level in some big organizations. What this sounds like is a disgruntled mid-level person. Were I going to finger an area, I’d look at a) communications or b) speechwriting. Speechwriting, in particular, tends to attract a lot of people who believe they can do the job much better than their boss.

Given the instability many witnessed, there were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment, which would start a complex process for removing the president. But no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis. So we will do what we can to steer the administration in the right direction until — one way or another — it’s over.

Again, this is crap. To involuntarily remove the president under the 25th Amendment requires a majority of the cabinet to agree, it requires Congress to agree to act within 21 days, and it requires a two-thirds vote of both Houses of Congress. It would also require the president to go along with the removal because he could start firing cabinet secretaries and replacing them with acting secretaries.

Here are some random tweets on the subject.

We know this isn’t true. The writer refers to a “top official” which implies someone higher than a “senior official.” If the writer was a cabinet secretary they wouldn’t have made that distinction. They would make it, however, if the NYT knows their identity and their position and is trying to be accurate against the inevitable exposing of this person.

Did I mention speechwriter? Why yes I did:

But then again:

“To cover my tracks, I usually pay attention to other staffers’ idioms and use that in my background quotes. That throws the scent off me,” the current White House official added.

I think this is getting way too cute. There is no hard and fast rule for these anonymous titles and no requirement that a paper stick with the rules they routinely use. The NYT wants impact on this but they aren’t going to narrow it down enough to help blow his or her cover. In fact, the NYT once referred to Scooter Libby, when he was Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff, as a “former Hill staffer.”

The White House, as one might expect, is not terribly happy.

And I think this is exactly right.