There have been actual mysteries in this country. What happened to the missing 18½ minutes on the Nixon tapes? Was there an actual “October surprise” in the 1980 presidential election? Why did anyone ever take George W. Bush seriously?

This “mystery” is not one of them.

To quote the renowned American philosopher Nasir Jones, it ain’t hard to tell that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Defense Secretary James Mattis are the co-authors of the September 5 New York Times op-ed about the forces inside the White House that are keeping Donald Trump from completely destroying our democracy. In fact, towards the end of the piece, the authors all but give the game away:

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.

The bigger concern is not what Mr. Trump has done to the presidency but rather what we as a nation have allowed him to do to us. We have sunk low with him and allowed our discourse to be stripped of civility.

Senator John McCain put it best in his farewell letter. All Americans should heed his words and break free of the tribalism trap, with the high aim of uniting through our shared values and love of this great nation.

We may no longer have Senator McCain. But we will always have his example — a lodestar for restoring honor to public life and our national dialogue. Mr. Trump may fear such honorable men, but we should revere them.

There is a quiet resistance within the administration of people choosing to put country first (emphasis mine). But the real difference will be made by everyday citizens rising above politics, reaching across the aisle and resolving to shed the labels in favor of a single one: Americans.

Think back to last Saturday’s funeral for Sen. McCain. Who stood with Cindy McCain at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial? Whose expressions and body language made it quite clear that they had more respect for McCain than Trump?

Kelly and Mattis weren’t there by accident. They know the current Commander-in-Chief is unfit for command. They know that McCain, for all his flaws, was more of a man that Trump could ever hope to be.

They admit as much in the op-ed:

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.

That is why many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.

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.

Although he was elected as a Republican, the president shows little affinity for ideals long espoused by conservatives: free minds, free markets and free people. At best, he has invoked these ideals in scripted settings. At worst, he has attacked them outright.

We know that both men are egomaniacs. The op-ed is soaked in self-importance: when you read a sentence such as “There are bright spots that the near-ceaseless negative coverage of the administration fails to capture: effective deregulation, historic tax reform, a more robust military and more,” you can hear almost hear Kelly’s voice, the voice of the man who spewed scorn at Rep. Frederica Wilson and ranted about the bygone days when American society supposedly considered women sacred. (The same goes for the lines about “unsung heroes” who “have been cast as villains by the media.”) Kelly and Mattis look in the mirror and see themselves as saviors; such a pompous perspective is in every paragraph.

Mattis has denied being involved with this op-ed, which is sort of like the Koch Brothers denying that they’re billionaires. It’s obvious that Mattis and Kelly wrote this op-ed…just as it’s obvious that Trump has written off this country.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.