This is truly bizarre even by the standards of the Trump White House

The New York Times today published an op-ed by someone who supports many of the current administration’s policies but thinks that Trump himself is dangerous. What is incredible is that the op-ed is anonymous but written by a senior official working in the administration.

The dilemma — which [Trump] 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.

The root of the problem is the president’s amorality. Anyone who works with him knows he is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision making.

From the White House to executive branch departments and agencies, senior officials will privately admit their daily disbelief at the commander in chief’s comments and actions. Most are working to insulate their operations from his whims.

Meetings with him veer off topic and off the rails, he engages in repetitive rants, and his impulsiveness results in half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless decisions that have to be walked back.

“There is literally no telling whether he might change his mind from one minute to the next,” a top official complained to me recently, exasperated by an Oval Office meeting at which the president flip-flopped on a major policy decision he’d made only a week earlier.

It may be cold comfort in this chaotic era, but Americans should know that there are adults in the room. We fully recognize what is happening. And we are trying to do what’s right even when Donald Trump won’t.

The whole idea of someone working for Trump critiquing their boss in writing in the most visible media outlet is bizarre. Despite his railing against this newspaper, Trump does seem to know what it says and one wonders how this official could be sure that the authorship would not be found out, since this is going to trigger a massive sleuthing effort by everyone. The organized effort that the author describes is pretty close to a palace coup. They had considered invoking a constitutional provision to remove Trump as president because of his incapacity to do the job but decided against it and decided that Trump could be kept on as a figurehead. The response from Trump and his allies has been, of course, harsh.

And why was this written anyway? What purpose does it serve since it does not shed any new light on Trump since him being erratic, ignorant, and fond of authoritarian leaders is old news? Furthermore, what is gained by letting the boss know that his underlings are not only colluding to subvert his agenda but that they are proud of doing so?

Or is this an ingenious way of disarming those critics who are raising the alarm about the dangers of the Trump presidency, saying in effect, “Don’t worry, we’ve got this”?


  1. Jean says

    So it’s not just the president that is dysfunctional and contemptuous of the institution, it’s the entire executive branch. And they all think they’re doing a great job. That’s nice to know…

  2. Some Old Programmer says

    I find the description of “amorality” telling. Not that I disagree, but coming from a self-described proponent of amoral policies, I suspect that the author is setting the stage for President Pence. The R’s would undoubtably hail him as an antidote to amorality, while allowing them to continue their assault on everyone Not Them.

  3. says

    “Don’t worry, we’ve got this”

    I certainly have no love of Trump and his “cabal of incompetents”, but I find that sentiment particularly worrisome. These unelected folks have no problem usurping authority for their own ends. If they had any ethics about them, they would resign and go public with their accusations. Instead, they want it both ways. It’s the worst of careerism.

    Reminds me of the extreme gun fetishists who insist that they are protecting the country. Sorry, but a bunch of well-armed and misinformed malcontents does not settle my nerves. They’re not the protectors, they’re the people we need to be protected from.

  4. Mano Singham says

    hyphenman @#4,

    I have no doubt that Pence desperately wants to be president and some reports suggest that he thinks his god wants him to be, though of course all these religious politicians think that their god wants them to be president.

    But writing this op-ed to get Trump to resign or be removed would be a highly risky move. Trump’s base would be livid and Pence has no independent base.

  5. fentex says

    Kevin Drum makes a good point by observing that Op-Ed claims two things; first that Trump is dangerous and being contained, but also Two; he’s not Conservative enough and that is being resisted.

    Anyone might think the first justified (for the good of the republic), but the second point is arguably treasonous interference.

  6. Owlmirror says

    And why was this written anyway? What purpose does it serve since it does not shed any new light on Trump since him being erratic, ignorant, and fond of authoritarian leaders is old news?

    The only reason I can think of for the op-ed that makes any kind of sense is as a message to Republicans/swing voters for the midterm elections.

    “If you like Republican policies under Trump, but despise Trump himself, you don’t need to vote Democrat or abstain from voting in order to express disapproval for the president — Trump is being handled, by Republicans, at the very highest level. There will be a continuity of Republican policy crafted and implemented no matter what.”

    Furthermore, what is gained by letting the boss know that his underlings are not only colluding to subvert his agenda but that they are proud of doing so?

    It feels like a tactic of desperation — the collapse of approval to Trump combined with the current high probability of losing the House may make them feel like they have no choice if they want to rally turnout.

  7. anchor says

    @#3: That’s my nervous thought too.

    Shades of Alexander Haig declaring, “I am in control here.”

    Except this isn’t a clumsy of-the-cuff misstatement of reassurance. It’s a measured and explicit statement of reassurance. As if to say, “Don’t worry -- we’re in control” and whoever it is really means it. To top it off its presented as if the writer and cohorts ought to be congratulated for their patriotic service.

    The American people (especially the ones who voted for our current predicament) ought to be alarmed to find that something calling itself “The Resistance” is apparently in charge of that office.

    Whoever these persons are, they were not elected to that office. The writer refers to it with a pronoun -- “The Resistance” -- which exudes the odor of a secret organization. It reads like a silent coup. The office of POTUS never looked so sinister.

  8. says


    I’d give you 3:1 odds that you’re right.

    This feels very much like my undergraduate days as a PolSci student playing Kremlinologist—my one claim to fame was winning the next First Secretary of the Communist Party pool by picking Yuri Andropov—with a touch of Seven Days In May thrown in.

    My reasoning goes like this: there are three men in the White House powerful enough to act and not be ratted out by the the rest of the inner circle: Vice President Mike Pence, Chief of Staff John Kelly and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. They are the only men who could rein-in the president and my sense is that all this began shortly after President Trump took office.

    The language of “country first” tells me that either (or both ) Mattis or Kelly are involved. The language referring to Section 4 of the 25th Amendment tells me that Pence is involved.

    Picking a Kelly-Mattis leadership is too close to military coupe, possible but less likely. Any opposition needs a solid political ally and that’s got to be Pence.

    The revelation has been triggered by Bob Woodward’s book and the Republican Party’s leadership real fear that this is not just a blue wave coming in November but a historical blue tsunami. That, of course, begs the question: who are the force behind the White House cabal?


  9. Dunc says

    The root of the problem is the president’s amorality.

    Lol. Sure. The most important characteristic of any American president is obviously morality. [Snort]

  10. Dunc says

    Roy Edroso has a pretty good take on this over on alicublog:

    In fact nearly all of the criticism of Trump is temperamental — his “leadership style” is “impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective… his impulsiveness results in half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless decisions,” which decisions are left unnamed. That is, they’re the same sort of complaints you get from weaselly former NeverTrump doofuses like Jonah Goldberg — though Trump is giving them nearly everything they want, he’s, like, really gross and embarrassing.


    Rather than tell us, as Max Boot did, what their competing conservative vision is, the resistance fighter tells us he or she and the others are “choosing to put country first… rising above politics, reaching across the aisle and resolving to shed the labels in favor of a single one: Americans.” Did your hand instinctually check to see if your wallet was still on your person? Mine too.

    Lots of good stuff in the comments over there too (as always).

  11. Lassi Hippeläinen says

    “Meetings with him veer off topic and off the rails, he engages in repetitive rants, and his impulsiveness results in half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless decisions that have to be walked back.”
    That somehow leads my thoughts to another famous political leader, who in only 12 years changed his country from a industrial power to a smoking ruin. Quite literally.

  12. says

    This is a good cliffhanger to end Season I on. I’m tired of binge-watching it, though. I wish House Of Cards was still on, Spacey did “creepy amoral” better than this guy.

  13. says

    “Et tu, Cletus?” -- Donald Trump

    Another reason to suspect the involvement of Pence and others is the timing. If Annoying Orange is removed after November -- only a few weeks away -- Pence would be eligible to run for two full terms, and be Resident for ten years in all via rigged elections. I fully believe they’re capable of it.

  14. busterggi says

    Pence must want to get into office and fire Mueller before the investigation looks too deeply at him. I hope its too late and he takes the train down with the rest.

  15. says

    @Tabby No.14

    Mike Pence is to Donald Trump as Sprio Agnew was to Richard Nixon. Nixon was, and Trump is, safe as long as their vice presidents stood to become president because as bad as Nixon/Trump was/is, the alternatives was/is far worse.

    Part of me has wondered at what point might Trump resign and troll America by saying something like “You think I was bad, meet President Pence.


  16. lanir says

    I agree with #11 & #7. It’s just like the old Never Trump movement. It sounds like it should come with #NotAllRepublicans at the end because its the same sort of lightweight propagandist blundering that got Trump elected in the first place.

    Basically it’s exactly the sort of weak criticism that ends up promoting the ideas it appears to contradict. It confirms the popular Republican conspiracy theory of the “deep state”, all of its critiques were well known before Trump was elected, and it’s a call-out without the “out” part.

    I dont think this is Pence trying for the presidency though. He could have it if he had just one person from the campaign he trusted cooperate with Mueller to say Trump colluded but Pence did not (probably not that simple but something along those lines).

  17. sonofrojblake says

    So the Republicans who hate Trump are just as weak, disorganised, dull-witted and ineffectual as the Democrats who hate him. Who knew?

  18. sonofrojblake says

    Why is nobody hypothesizing that this is all a Russian “maskirovka”? Disinformation.

    Because if the Russians were doing it, it would achieve something. This has American fingerprints all over it.

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