There really is no getting around it: This New York Times op-ed by a senior administration official is literally extraordinary — and also astounding and fascinating.
I agree with Ross Douthat that it was no-brainer for the Times to publish it, but whether the author should have written it is a far more debatable proposition.
First, if the Times hadn’t run it, the Washington Post or (maybe) the Wall Street Journal would have — and rightly so. Simply put: It’s eminently newsworthy (I am assuming the author truly is a senior official of sufficient standing to justify publication). It’s also more compelling than your typical op-ed fare, to say the least.
The far more interesting question is: What inspired the author to write it — and to write it now?
If you’re part of a secret cabal to contain the president’s erratic behavior, it seems counterproductive to notify the erratic president about it. What better way to fuel his paranoia and his persecution complex?
One possible factor: the Woodward book. Bob Woodward has let the cat out of the bag that members of the administration are doing precisely what the author claims. I understand that the official word from the White House is that Fear is a tissue of lies, but the op-ed author clearly doesn’t see it that way.
While I am still trying to figure out a high-minded and patriotic reason for why the author wrote this, it’s a little easier to imagine a self-interested reason for it. The author writes:
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.
It seems plausible to me that the author is betting that when “it’s over,” there will be many recriminations. He — or she — has gotten out in front of that. The author is now on record with an explanation that may — may — seem less self-serving than if offered when the Trump presidency is over. …
Brit’s gotten a lot of grief for this take, and I will admit I find his finger-pointing at “Never Trumpers” on the right to have some glaring flaws, the chief of which is that it’s a bit of a strawman. Most of the Never Trumpers and Trump-skeptics on the right that I know routinely express their gratitude that General Mattis and others are in the administration trying to minimize the damage and push optimal policies.
But Brit has a point. These people are doing a service to the country. It just seems to me the better interpretation and a more worthy target for Brit’s ire are the people — many of whom appear on Fox (where I am a contributor) — who constantly signal to both the base and our TV-addicted president that Trump should always go with his instincts and that his judgment is always correct.
The lesson of the Woodward book and this op-ed, it seems to me, isn’t that conservatives should drop their objections and criticisms of the president, but that they should make Republican voters demand a higher standard from him. Many of this administration’s greatest accomplishments — most obviously its judicial appointments — do not stem from the president’s principles or his instincts, but from a political calculation that there are some things he must do to maintain conservative support.
What is true of anonymous administration officials should also be true of Republican voters: Do what you can to get the best results possible from Trump rather than encourage him to just go with his gut whenever he feels like it.
So does Steven Crowder, though less than seriously:
The author was kept anonymous mostly because leftist media hates Trump and protects their sources when the source is criticizing Trump. But you and I both know had this OpEd been critical of Hillary, the author would’ve been doxxed. Forced to move into a shack somewhere on the Island of Guam. But that’s neither here nor there. There’s been much speculation about who the real author of this ballyhooed piece is.
We have some theories.
Mike Pence – Since taking the official office of “Waiting for the president to croak,” Mike Pence has been relegated to the side table, where he only dines with his wife. Tired of being number two, despite being far better looking and with the voice over capabilities rivaled only by Darth Vader, Mike Pence finally made his initial move to steal the presidency.
Nikki Haley – She’s so hot right now. Way too hot to simply flip all the birds at the UN. You know Nikki Haley is hoping to make Thug Life happen in La Casa Blanca.
Ben Shapiro – Our favorite little Jewish hobbit has had it out for The Donald since Hillary lost the one ring to rule them all. Sure, Shapiro has launched his own line of products, starting with a tumbler crafted from finest samplings of Gandalf’s poop. But make no mistake. Little Bilbo Shapiro wants to punch kick Trump into the fires of Mordor.
Heidi Cruz – It’s a hard knock life being married to the son of Kennedy’s assassin. Who may also be the Zodiac Killer. Lyin’ Ted’s better half finally snapped, though, when Donald Trump insinuated she was fugly. So Heidi laid in wait, readying herself for the right moment to pounce on the man who stole the presidency from Grayson Allen.
Asia Argento – We’re not sure how Asia snuck her way into the White House, but I think maybe she gave Barron Trump a lollipop. I’ll let you guess what shape the lollipop took. Asia’s grand plans were foiled after Melania caught Asia sending Barron thirst tweets. Thus banishing her from the White House. Angered, Asia Argento contacted The New York Times to dish out the goods. Rumor has it should Asia’s true identity be revealed, she’ll pin the blame on Robin Williams.
Apu fromThe Simpsons– Who knows what this shifty little Indian sketch has been doing of late. All I know is, he’s tired of be a stereotypical Indian cartoon with a stereotypical accent. When Ryan Reynolds denied him a walk-on-role in Deadpool 2 for being too obviously Indian, Apu broke all his sharpened pencils. He snuck into the White House and has been there ever since. His motive is naan of your business.
Thanos – When Donald Trump mocked Kim Jong Un about who had the bigger nuke buttons, Thanos snapped.
MARTHA! – Sick of being a punchline for frustrated, mostly Marvel fanboys, MARTHA! infiltrated the Trump White House, disguising herself with only black glasses. Plot twist this: The only person who needs saving now is DONALD! Blast your way through this house at the very last second as a dirty man with greasy long hair has a gun to your head, because you spent far too long playing kryptonite gas games with Clarky-poo, Batman. We dare you.
Kevin Spacey– The man who played President Frank Underwood was determined to be remembered as more than just a diddler of small boys, so he delivered a real FU. I think he made his way into the White House as an unassuming gimp. And after studying the wall behind Trump, finally got his revenge. According to my inside sources, Spacey sent Trump a cutout of the New York Times article in an unassuming, but bloodied box.
So does Rich Galen:
Last week was the final proof that there is a difference in the way those of us who live and/or work inside The Beltway look at the world and how the other 326 million people living in the United States see it. …
When I say “everyone” was thinking and talking about it, I’m not talking about guests on the cable nets, or the political insiders sitting at the bar at Landini’s in Old Town Alexandria. The – this is true- the guy who runs the 15-items-or-less lane at the Safeway asked me who I thought it was. People who recognized me walking down the street asked me who I thought it was. People sitting in restaurants asked me who I thought it was.
My answer was the same: If it wasn’t Donald Trump, I have no idea.
In fact, I Tweeted:
“I’ve narrowed the potential author of the @nytimes op-ed to three people: John Barron, John Miller, or David Dennison.”
Which generated over 1,900 “Likes.”
For those of you who may have missed the America’s Got Talent episode of “The Many Names of Donald Trump,” those are among the pseudonyms used by Trump when he would call newspapers pretending to be NOT Donald Trump, but a PR guy extolling the virtues of Donald Trump.
The fact that reporters on the other end of phone knew it was Trump didn’t stop them from playing along, nor Trump from thinking he was pulling the wool over their eyes.
Same as today.
To be serious for a moment, the Times said the op-ed was written by “a senior official in the Trump Administration.” Note he or she is not specifically IDd as a “senior official in the Trump White House, so depending on your definition of “senior,” it could extend to just about anywhere in the Executive Branch.
The op-ed claims there is a fully functioning group of “the resistance” whose job it is to help the “Administration to succeed” as it simultaneous works to “preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.”
The author (or authors) suggest that “there were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment.”
That’s the one that lays out the steps required for a sitting President to be removed from office short of being defeated at the ballot box.
It is not easy. It takes a majority of sitting Cabinet Secretaries and supermajorities – 2/3rds – of the members of the House and the Senate to declare the President unfit and for the Vice President to be sworn in as President. …
If this “resistance” inside the Trump Administration is true and they are actively working to propel policies they agree with and thwart those they do not, it is chilling.
Every White House and its extended Administration has factions. Every political appointee things he or she knows best how to run the world and will happilly share that knowledge in the back bar at the Old Ebbitt any weeknight.
In the end, though, there is one “decider-in-chief” and that person sits in the Oval Office in the White House, not in some small office in the HUD building.
The New York Times’ editors felt the person who wrote this piece was “senior” enough to warrant sharing his or her thoughts with its readers without our being able to judge the veracity of those thoughts against what we know (or would shortly know) about the author.
This will, like all the 18-hour tornadoes that have come before it, will be supplanted by yet another cloudburst.
The next storm building quickly is the new book by Bob Woodward which has leaked so perfectly that we know a great deal of the nuggets, but having Woodward on a book tour will certainly provoke Presidential ire.
I suspect we will, sooner or later, learn who wrote that op-ed and it will generate another day of intense examination.
In the meantime, the game of the week here in Our Nation’s Capital has been “Whodunit?”
I’m betting on the butler in the library with the candlestick.