Sounds like a productive, healthy work environment that definitely won’t destroy American credibility abroad and force Trump to start replacing everyone with hardcore loyalists like Lou Dobbs and Judge Jeanine.
“I find the reaction to the NYT op-ed fascinating — that people seem so shocked that there is a resistance from the inside,” one senior official said. “A lot of us [were] wishing we’d been the writer, I suspect … I hope he [Trump] knows — maybe he does? — that there are dozens and dozens of us.”…
For some time last year, Trump even carried with him a handwritten list of people suspected to be leakers undermining his agenda.
“He would basically be like, ‘We’ve gotta get rid of them. The snakes are everywhere but we’re getting rid of them,'” said a source close to Trump.
How bad is it? Bad enough that even a stalwart Republican-hater like gun-grabbing Chris Murphy thinks the op-ed will do more harm than good:
“If you’re concerned about the stability of the President and the stability of the nation, I’m not sure why you would prick him in the side, make him even more paranoid,” Sen. Chris Murphy says of the scathing New York Times op-ed by an unnamed Trump administration official pic.twitter.com/GwWMZ9Ksyp
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) September 6, 2018
Theories were being kicked around on social media last night among the politerati that maybe the op-ed is an elaborate false flag. It wasn’t written by an anti-Trumper, it was written by a pro-Trumper who wanted to create a pretext for the president to clean house of all the establishmentarians. It would make no sense for an anti-Trump author to alert the president and the world that there are de facto saboteurs in his midst if the goal of the “sabotage” is to protect the country from his worst impulses. Someone who cared about doing that would lie very low, be respectful of POTUS, and then very quietly blunt the force of his orders inside government. Making a public spectacle of that process makes more sense coming from someone who wanted to expose it.
The flaw in that theory, though, is that it assumes the Trump-hating NYT op-ed editors are dupes. They know who the author is; presumably they made some attempt to suss out whether he/she is actually a Trump ally who might have a hidden agenda. It’s unimaginable that they’d let their real estate be manipulated — easily manipulated, really — by Trump himself to manufacture a justification for firing people like James Mattis via an insincere op-ed. The author must be on the level. Besides, between Axios’s sources and stuff like this, there’s really no shortage of Trump staffers who might have written it:
“The problem for the president is it could be so many people,” said one administration official to WaPo. Right — but which one? Tucker Carlson told his audience last night that he has “a pretty good idea” who wrote the op-ed, but didn’t name names. Much of the public reaction has focused on marquee staffers like Pence or Nikki Haley, but only someone with apparent brain damage would believe that. As I said last night, no one with presidential ambitions would get within 50 miles of something like this and risk alienating Trump voters. As such, Pence and Haley are the two Trump deputies who are least likely to be responsible, whatever Pence’s penchant for using the word “lodestar” might be.
Probably it was written by a deputy undersecretary of something or other, someone whose name we wouldn’t recognize. Listen to the NYT’s podcast “The Daily” from this morning and you’ll hear op-ed editor James Dao, who knows the author’s identity, note at one point that “we had to work to try to confirm that this person was real and get us to a point where we were a hundred percent confident they were who they are.” The bit about being “real” suggests that the author’s not a household name, that Dao actually had to research whether he works in the Trump administration. But it’s ambiguous. It could mean that the author is a household name but because his approach to the Times was brokered by an intermediary the paper had to initially confirm that he was who he purported to be — i.e. that he was the “real” deal. If it’s not a total rando, I’d bet that it’s someone on the order of Kevin Hassett, one of Trump’s economic advisors. That’d be a biggish deal, but not bigbigbig like if it was Mattis or John Bolton. Because there’s so much drama in the daily twists and turns of The Trump Show, we’ve been conditioned to expect a huge payoff at a suspenseful moment like this. It can’t be some no-name at the DOJ! It has to be Melania or Ivanka!
Speaking of which, last night I had an image of Jeff Sessions at home, smoking a cigar, watching America lose its mind over an op-ed he had secretly written, thinking, “How’s that for ‘retarded.'”
Exit question: When someone accuses you on the Times op-ed page of being dangerously unfit for office and grossly indifferent to basic civic norms, the thing to do is … demand that a newspaper hand over its source to the government? What?