It Doesn’t Matter Who Wrote the Anonymous New York Times Op-Ed

It seems like everyone wants to know which “senior administration official” (whatever that is) wrote the anonymous op-ed in the New York Times that basically made the case that the president is so incompetent, stupid, erratic, and dangerous that his presidency needs to end “one way or another.” And that’s all fine as far is it goes, but the author didn’t claim to be acting solo. Right from the start, the official made it clear that he’s part of a broader resistance: “Many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.”

This claim that many senior officials are using their influence to rein in President Trump and limit the damage he can do is not uncorroborated. Bob Woodward’s forthcoming book details many examples, each more shocking than the last. There’s the example of senior economic advisor Gary Cohn stealing documents off the Oval Office desk to prevent Trump from destroying a trade deal with South Korea. There’s also the example of Defense Secretary James Mattis agreeing to “get right on” an order to assassinate Syrian President Bashar al-Assad only to completely blow the president off:

President Donald Trump reportedly told Defense Secretary James Mattis he wanted to assassinate Syrian President Bashar al-Assad after a chemical weapons attack against Syrian civilians last year, according to an excerpt from author Bob Woodward’s new book.

“Let’s f—ing kill him! Let’s go in. Let’s kill the f—ing lot of them,” Trump said to Mattis on the phone after the chemical weapons attack in Douma, Syria, according to details of the book, “Fear,” published by The Washington Post.

Mattis reportedly told Trump he’d get “right on it” in an apparent attempt to pacify the president. He simultaneously told a senior aide they would not be going down that road.

“We’re not going to do any of that. We’re going to be much more measured,” Mattis told the aide at the time, Woodward wrote.

We’ve also heard of other examples where Trump has ordered that people be fired and then backed down when faced with threats of resignation. In other cases, Trump seemed to simply not notice that his orders were not carried out.

On Capitol Hill, the substance of the op-ed was not surprising. Senator Bob Corker, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said, “This is what all of us have understood to be the situation from day one… I understand this is the case and that’s why I think all of us encourage the good people around the President to stay. I thank General Mattis whenever I see him.” He later added “I am not a fan of anonymous op-eds, but I don’t think those of us who have worked closely with people in the White House are surprised by the content,” and “I think the biggest issue [the White House is] going to have is figuring out who wouldn’t have written a letter like that.”

That was basically the same take Senator Ben Sasse expressed on the Hugh Hewitt radio program:

Senator Ben Sasse said on Thursday that the account of a White House “resistance” effort published in an anonymous New York Times op-ed was “troubling but not unsurprising.”

“It’s just so similar to what so many of us hear from senior people around the White House, you know, three times a week,” the Nebraska Republican said during an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewit.

Mr. Sasse explained that about two-thirds of the senior officials express the same views as the one expressed in the controversial op-ed, but said it was “unhelpful” to publish them anonymously.

Senator Jeff Flake defended the anonymous official against charges that they had committed treason and said that the New York Times should not identify them. He characterized the explosive charges in the piece as “par for the course” with this administration and said more people should speak out.

Most Republican officeholders aren’t so candid, but they hear the same things from within the administration constantly, and their official outrage at the anonymous author is purely for show. The reason they can’t be of more help to Trump in identifying the culprit is because it could have been almost anyone, since almost everyone they deal with has the same message: “The president is completely out of his mind.”

And this isn’t new. It’s been going on for a while:

White House officials reached out to a noted Yale University psychiatrist last fall out of concern over President Trump’s increasingly erratic behavior.

Dr. Bandy Lee, who edited the best-selling book “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President,” told the Daily News Thursday the staffers contacted her because the President was “scaring” them.

No one is forming a posse to hunt down the officials who reached out last fall to Dr. Bandy Lee. But aren’t they at least as disloyal to the president as the author of the New York Times piece?

It doesn’t matter who wrote it because it expressed an honest opinion shared by a very large group of people who have interactions with the president. The president needs to go “one way or another.” So, let’s get right on that.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.