There has, not surprisingly, been a huge reaction to the anonymous New York Times op-ed penned by someone the paper describes as a ‘senior official in the Trump administration’. If the author expected to be treated as some kind of hero, then s/he must be disappointed. There has been condemnation from many sides, the only supporters being those who like to see Trump embarrassed and do not care that the author and associates in this scheme to undercut policies they dislike seem to be doing so because they think he is not conservative enough or not as hardline on foreign policy.
Even severe critics of Trump are unnerved by the open boasting by unelected people about how they are carrying out a palace coup against someone who, whatever his many faults, was elected to office. The idea of an unelected cabal secretly deciding what policies should be enacted undermines even the degraded form of democracy that currently prevails in the US. In an open letter, Mehdi Hasan blasts the author for not seeming to care about the greatest outrages of the Trump presidency and being moved to act only when Trump wavered from doctrinaire conservative/libertarian policies.
Sorry, what was the point of this particular piece? And what is it that you want from the rest of us? A thank-you card? A round of applause? The nation’s undying gratitude?
There is no redemption; no exoneration for you or your colleagues inside this shit-show of an administration. You think an op-ed in the paper of record is going to cut it? Gimme a break. You cannot write an article admitting to the president’s “anti-democratic” impulses while also saying you want his administration “to succeed.” You cannot publish a 965-word piece excoriating Donald Trump’s “worst inclinations” while omitting any and all references to his racism, bigotry, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and white nationalism.
You did find space, however, to heap praise on yourself and your fellow officials. “Unsung heroes.” “Adults in the room.” “Quiet resistance.” “Steady state.”
On the other hand, Trump supporters are incensed at what they see as an open statement about the existence of a Fifth Column within the administration of people who are not slavishly loyal to the Dear Leader, whatever he does. It will also fuel the fears of Trump’s supporters that there exists a ‘deep state’ that is working to destroy Trump. Will QAnon ride to the rescue?
What this will do to the psyche of an already paranoid Trump who thinks that everybody is out to get him, is anybody’s guess.
All this has triggered a massive effort to figure out who the author is. This has resulted in a comical parade of people starting from vice-president Mike Pence down to cabinet officials and below issuing denials of authorship. Being a fan of the mystery genre, I myself am curious as to who it is. I think it is only a matter of time before the identity is revealed. For one thing, at least some members of the NYT editorial board and those above them in the hierarchy know who the author is, which puts the author at their mercy. [UPDATE: It appears that the author approached the NYT op-ed page editor through an intermediary, which means that yet another person outside the NYT knows who the author is.] Secondly, the NSA can probably use the text of the op-ed to track down the email that contained the document. Trump could probably order the NSA to do this. It may be that in order to evade electronic tracking, the author personally gave the newspaper a hard copy, though that would involve a personal meeting.
It may well turn out that the person is not some highly placed and well-known figure but some person not even in the White House who is known only to relatively few. After all, the number of people who have access to the information in the op-ed, which consists largely of gossip, can be quite large. What was newsworthy about it was that unlike whispering those same sentiments into the ears of friendly reporters, something that is done all the time, writing an article and getting it published in a major newspaper was a deliberate act of disloyalty meant to send a message, though to whom is not clear, though the likely audience are those people who are supporters of Trump but concerned that he might go too far even for them.
The revelation of the author might well turn out to be a damp squib. I am thinking about the disappointment felt by many when the identity of Deep Throat was revealed to be Mark Felt, a deputy director in the FBI whom few had heard of. There was a palpable sense of disappointment, like a mystery novel in which the murderer is revealed to be the gardener who had appeared for just a few paragraphs.
But what you can be sure of is that this story will dominate news coverage for some time.