What to Make of the Anonymous Anti-Trump NY Times Op-Ed

The New York Times has published an anonymous anti-Trump op-ed, by a senior Trump Administration official, and boy is it a doozy.

It claims that Mr. Trump’s own aides are actively seeking to undermine his worst impulses in order to protect the Republic from a President that, in the author’s telling, is every bit as off his rocker as the most hysterical media stories would have us believe.

“The root of the problem is the president’s amorality,” the author writes. “Anyone who works with him knows he is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision making.” The aim of their effort, he says, is to “do what we can to steer the administration in the right direction until — one way or another — it’s over.”

While the President has had some successes, the author writes, Trump doesn’t deserve credit for them. “[T[hese successes have come despite — not because of — the president’s leadership style, which is impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective,” he says.

Those are harsh words from someone who is purported to be on Mr. Trump’s side.

The substance of the op-ed is nothing surprising. Trump’s combative and mercurial tenure in office, and the efforts of aides to contain his excesses have been well documented in press reports, and in several books, the most recent of which, Bob Woodard’s Fear: Trump in the White House, has created a major splash in recent days.

What’s more interesting is who wrote it and why. The efficacy of a secret cabal steering Mr. Trump towards the light is not aided by a member of said cabal publicizing their efforts in the New York Times. Mr. Trump is likely to now be even more distrustful of his advisors, more disdainful of Presidential norms and more prone to the sort of erratic behavior the author and his colleagues say they aim to prevent.

What the author expected writing about this in the New York Times to accomplish is anyone’s guess, as is who wrote it. Perhaps the writer plans to later reveal themselves and hopes that writing this will help them to shake off the misdeeds of a President with whom they have grown disenchanted — the classic Washington staffer trick of claiming credit for things their principal does that people like, while claiming to have opposed all those things that they don’t.

Publishing an anonymously sourced op-ed is extraordinary, and a big risk for The Times. It is justified only if the author is truly a highly-placed Administration official. If the author is revealed to be someone outside of the President’s inner-circle, The Times’ credibility will be in question. As for who is behind it, in Washington the guessing game is on. In the leaky gossiping morass of today’s Washington, secrets don’t last long.

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