It’s football season and if the anonymous author of The New York Times op-ed about Donald Trump that has Washington in an uproar was playing we would be saying of the first season’s game: “He or she did not move the ball forward.”
The commentary published Sept. 5 was written, the newspaper said, by “a senior official in the Trump administration” – by someone, in other words, inside or with access to the president’s inner circle. Someone who claims to be part of “a quiet resistance within the administration” that is dedicated to preventing Trump from wrecking the country.
The op-ed says that many senior officials in Trump’s administration “are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.”
Two points here.
Point one. The New York Times should be blushing from embarrassment after turning over prized space on its opinion pages to a person unwilling to be publicly identified (the individual’s identity is “known to us,” the Times said in an introductory note accompanying the column) and who coincidentally offered nothing we did not already know.
The thrust of the article is that the president of the United States is petty, reckless, dangerous and often acts deranged. And which part of that assessment is news?
The alleged White House resistance is supposedly protecting the nation from this maniac who lost the 2016 popular vote to Hillary Clinton by more than 2.8 million votes but won the election by virtue of prevailing in a relic of the U.S. Constitution known as the Electoral College. If you’re not familiar with the Electoral College and how it works, look it up. It’s the only way you can understand how Trump pulled off the ridiculously unlikely feat of getting himself elected.
Trump’s antics as described in the op-ed (“he engages in repetitive rants, and his impulsiveness results in half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless decisions that have to be walked back”) and also in a new book by famed Watergate reporter Bob Woodward would be hilarious if the presidency and its responsibilities were not so gravely critical to the country’s success and survival.
But none of this is new. Other writers and former Trump associates have told similar tales. Erratic? Knew that. Impulsive? Knew that. Paranoid? Have you checked out his Twitter account?
Woodward’s book mentions that aides secretly snatched sensitive documents off the president’s desk to keep him from using them to make a monumentally stupid decision. Big deal. He probably made a dozen equally stupid decisions the same day.
A day in the Trump White House sounds like a third-grade classroom where the teacher called in sick and the principal appointed a 9-year-old to run the class.
Point two. Instead of firing off an unsigned, self-congratulating commentary to The New York Times, this anonymous resistance operative should have quit his or her “senior” position in the administration and then told the world, proudly and publicly, what’s being done to thwart the childish and potentially dangerous behavior of a president who is stunningly unsuited to the job he was elected to do.
No one should preach to someone else about standing on principle. We chart our own course. The news of this benign faux insurgency would have been better and more convincingly delivered by a person willing to lose a job in order to stand up and be counted.
I know people who have lost jobs for standing by their beliefs. They are few and far between and I understand why. Most of us need to earn a paycheck to keep the lights on.
Times columnist David Leonhardt came back the day after the op-ed was published to say that many of the folks the newspaper heard from were critical of the anonymous posting. Some excerpts:
• “The author’s real goal, many writers argued, was to justify his or her own decision to continue serving Trump.”
• “Nobody who’s part of the real resistance should be celebrating this,” the Los Angeles Times’s Jessica Roy writes.”
• “The more honorable path, many said, was a public resignation, coupled with an honest description of the president.”
The group’s role within the administration was also compared to what we sometimes call a “coup” when it happens in other countries.
But that’s not what we do in America. The military does not seize control from a president the generals don’t like. We practice something called “democracy.” We have faith that the voters or even Congress will ultimately decide if the president needs to be replaced.
What many folks find most frightening is not so much Donald Trump as his supporters who continue to rally behind him and goad him toward increased bellicosity and childish impulse.
If the op-ed had offered new information or news that demonstrated the country is in danger then perhaps an anonymous op-ed forum would have been appropriate – but that’s not what happened.
We all know the quiddity of Trump. He’s a fool and, worse, a habitual liar.
Here’s the news I have for Mr. or Ms. Anonymous. I know news people. You will not be anonymous for long. People within The Times know your identity and one of those persons will be unable to keep the secret. Perhaps it will take a couple of belts of bourbon or Scotch or a shot of tequila but somewhere in a hushed conversation in a saloon or at a cocktail party someone will brag that they know your name and it will be out.
Richard Connor is president and publisher of the Fort Worth Business Press. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org