Meh. I don’t buy it, although I get the thinking. Which top Trump aide came from the Washington establishment and still has friends there whom she might want to impress by fragging him? Which top Trump aide was known to take small digs in public at her candidate in 2016 when he’d end up off-message, seemingly signaling to everyone that she wasn’t really on his team?
Which top Trump aide is slippery enough to have tried to go off the record recently with the Washington Post to badmouth her own husband?
Would someone like that knife the president in the back with an anonymous op-ed? It … doesn’t seem implausible, especially if you believe that the author must have known before agreeing to publish it in the Times that he or she would be found out sooner or later. Maybe this is Kellyanne’s way of making a grand exit from an administration that’s headed for more turbulence as Mueller’s probe advances. There’s no better way in theory for her to reingratiate herself to her D.C. chums than by blowing up Trump in the Times and waiting for him to find out and fire her.
Esquire’s Charles Pierce fleshes out the Conway theory of the op-ed, as formulated by his wife:
She points out that there is something unmistakably feminine in the tone, that it is written in the kind of English practiced in the realms of advertising and public relations, and that the ensuing guessing game has knocked both Bob Woodward’s book and Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination hearings off the top of the news, regardless of what it may be doing the the president*’s evaporating sanity. If, as I speculated on Wednesday, this is a vehicle on which you can ride away from the garbage fire that is this administration*, but you still want to hold onto your conservative Republican street cred, this is exactly the kind of thing you’d concoct.
Another thing, says Pierce: Go read the transcript of Conway’s interview about the op-ed with Laura Ingraham a few days ago and you’ll find her a bit more restrained than the Kellyanne we’re used to seeing in situations like this. Normally you’d expect to find her pounding the table, demanding that the “coward” show him or herself and resign in disgrace. (That’s what Sarah Sanders did.) She’s surprisingly chill, though, more casually dismissive of the op-ed’s importance than outraged that someone would betray Trump this way. Hmmmm.
Why don’t I think it’s her, all of that evidence notwithstanding? Because Conway’s spent too many hours on TV shilling for POTUS, sometimes in ridiculous, self-defeating ways, to make an exit-by-fragging salable even to establishment GOPers. If it turns out she wrote the op-ed, the reaction from official Washington won’t be, “Kellyanne’s back on the team!” It’ll be “Kellyanne’s even more of a snake than we thought. How many interviews did she do over the past 18 months as Trump’s Baghdad Bob, all the while nursing exactly the sort of suspicions about him that reporters were worried about?” Bad enough that she switched teams within the GOP, but to be a traitor to *both* sides? Repulsive.
Riddle me this. If she wanted to make a big show of rejecting Trump and rushing back into the warm embrace of official D.C., why perform some elaborate anonymous kabuki? If the point is for her to be found out eventually and applauded for authoring the NYT op-ed by all of her old establishment pals, it’d make more sense to resign and publish it under her own name. She gains nothing by being sneaky about this. To the contrary. Which is why it’s almost certainly not her that wrote it.
For what it’s worth, she’s also now denied it on the record:
Kellyanne Conway on Capitol Hill: “No, I did not write the op-ed. Everything I think I have the courage to say publicly.”
— Frank Thorp V (@frankthorp) September 7, 2018
Yes, yes, Kellyanne would never go off the record or on background to get her message out. Anyway, it’s revealing that MSNBC’s assemblage of seasoned political pros is lunging at a spectacular theory that the traitor is within the president’s innermost circle rather than some rando deputy at an agency somewhere. (Willie Geist is the exception.) On shows like “Morning Joe” politics is ultimately a species of drama, and Conway as the mystery author is an exponentially higher dramatic payoff than if it’s deputy undersecretary of widgets Lloyd Fartknocker or whoever. What they’re doing here, transparently, is wishcasting rather than soberly assessing probabilities. Gotta fill the hours somehow.