David Frum: This is a constitutional crisis

That’s actually the headline of David Frum’s piece at the Atlantic. Here’s his basic argument:

Impeachment is a constitutional mechanism. The Twenty-Fifth Amendment is a constitutional mechanism. Mass resignations followed by voluntary testimony to congressional committees are a constitutional mechanism. Overt defiance of presidential authority by the president’s own appointees—now that’s a constitutional crisis.

If the president’s closest advisers believe that he is morally and intellectually unfit for his high office, they have a duty to do their utmost to remove him from it, by the lawful means at hand…

What the author has just done is throw the government of the United States into even more dangerous turmoil. He or she has enflamed the paranoia of the president and empowered the president’s willfulness…

He’ll grow more defiant, more reckless, more anti-constitutional, and more dangerous.

Yes, I know it’s David Frum but I think he’s on to something with these two points. First, staffers covertly countermanding the president (as opposed to arguing with him to his face or via memos) is not how things are meant to operate. Someone, possibly several someones if the op-ed is accurate, is substituting their judgment for that of the person the people actually elected to lead.

Second, whether the president spins out recklessly or not, this is bound to make him less trusting of his own staff. How could it not? As the old saying goes, it’s not paranoia if they really are out to get you. In this case, it seems they really are.

While I think Frum is on to something with his analysis, the question of whether this is a crisis depends on whether or not the op-ed is accurate. Are there really many people in the administration taking this approach? Is that a fact, or is it just speculation based on rumor. After all, the biggest bombshell in the piece is attributed to whispers.

Ultimately, there’s no way to judge the seriousness of this without knowing who wrote it. Part of the impact of this op-ed is the ability to read into it that this is coming from some senior official working inside the White House, shoulder-to-shoulder with the president. But what if it turns out this is someone much lower level?

Here’s a roundtable featuring Chuck Todd and Hugh Hewitt. The consensus seems to be that the Times would not have granted anonymity to someone unless they were very high level. If that turns out not to be the case then, as even Chuck Todd says, this begins to look like the NY Times is tossing its own credibility overboard for an attack.

Finally, there’s a lot of speculation floating around about who did write the op-ed. RawStory has an early entry into this game featuring five names (Haley, Pence, Conway, Mattis, McGahn). My guess wouldn’t be any of those five, but until someone comes forward (or gets outed by the media), it is going to be hard for everyone, from the media to the president himself, to move forward. I suspect we’ll have a name by Friday if not sooner.

Here’s the Special Report coverage of the story:

David Strom 7:01 PM on September 24, 2022