Today the NY Times has taken the extraordinary step of publishing an unsigned, anonymous opinion piece that is another appalling, damning inside-the-White House report on the unfitness of our president by “a senior official in the Trump administration.” Everyone wants to know: who wrote it? But is it the stroke of truth we need to begin to untangle the deceptive web of an unfit president?
The NY Times op-ed links to another Times’ article about the revelations of Bob Woodward’s soon-to-be-released book, and the headline is focused on Secretary of Defense General James Mattis. Perhaps the link has nothing to do with the unnamed author, though why link to that particular article in this particular op-ed? The op-ed against Trump is also focused on foreign policy, particularly regarding Russia, mentions approvingly “a more robust military” and ends with more kind words for the recently deceased Sen. John McCain, a military man who had the courage to unanonymously criticize President Trump. There have also been reports that Trump is thinking of replacing Mattis, so what does he have to lose.
But, on the other hand, Mattis just released a statement regarding quotes attributed to him in Bob Woodward’s book: “While I generally enjoy reading fiction, this is a uniquely Washington brand of literature, and his anonymous sources do not lend credibility.” So why would Mattis lie to discredit Woodward’s book and then submit an anonymous op-ed to the NY Times which essentially corroborates it? Maybe to keep his cover and place in the “resistance.” Maybe because he felt guilty for lying and for his role in the Trump White House and wants to justify himself.
All this, of course, is speculation. The list of possible scribes is long.
And just whom the author is does not matter much. (As soon as the NY Times leaks the name to the NY Times, we’ll know whom the author is.) What matters most is what the ramifications of the op-ed are. Had the author not hidden his or her name, the statement of a senior official close to Trump would have had much greater impact. As it is, Trump can claim more of the same “fake news” and a media out to get him. If we don’t start seeing a bolder, more courageous resistance from Republicans in the White House and Congress, we can’t count on them to come to the aid of their country. We will have to rely on Democrats and/or indictments
The writer of the op-ed is clearly a conventional conservative– applauding tax cuts, gutting of regulations, and outrageous military spending that a Republican Congress majority has managed, with Trump, to put together and states that we should be grateful because “there are adults in the room” with erratic, reckless Trump. But this conservative maturity does not extend to taking the necessary constitutional means to really fix the problem:
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.
Nice of them to spare us all a crisis, but how do we know that they are steering well enough to make sure the ship of state has not sunk by the time “it’s over”? We may end up with a constitutional crisis, but right now the nation has a crisis of leadership–Congressional Republicans have abandoned all responsibility for serving truth and justice.
I believe the NY Times was right to publish the anonymous op-ed, for it does, at least, bolster the case of reports of Bob Woodward’s book, and other book and media reports, whatever it may do to exacerbate the fecklessness and paranoia of Trump. When the writer is revealed, it may be a name without much star power, and thus a disappointment. But at some point someone in a position of authority will make a courageous stand, and that will be the beginning of a return to honoring truth and justice in broad daylight.