When The New York Times ran its anonymous op-ed yesterday from a member of the “Resistance” inside the Trump administration, I wasn’t the only one in Washington chuckling at the absurdity. A fellow reporter joked that she was considering poking her head into cars at stoplights and asking the drivers if they were the author.
Even the phrase "anonymous editorial" is an obvious oxymoron and a newfound genre unless you’re including the people who scrawl their thoughts on bathroom stalls.
Of course, some people took it very seriously. In The Atlantic, resident scribbler David Frum gave the anonymous source a stern talking-to, urging them to “speak in your own name” and “resign in a way that will count.” Across social media were calls for this high-level official to reveal themselves, to invoke the 25th Amendment.
And nobody took the call-from-inside-the-house more seriously than the president who raged on Twitter: “TREASON?” In a follow-up report, the Times characterized the White House as a building in full panic mode. Trump initiated a “hunt for the author,” and it was hard not to imagine that meant simply arming senior advisor Stephen Miller with a spear and sending him into the West Wing hallways to terrorize passing interns.
There are plenty of bets in Washington on who the author may be. I have a few ideas but haven’t put any money down. But it really doesn’t matter—nearly every conversation I’ve had with a White House aide has pointed to the conclusion that everybody in the administration knows they’re serving beneath what the anonymous author called “the president’s immorality.” And that they must circumvent a man who makes “half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless decisions” and “engages in repetitive rants.”
Bob Woodward’s new book quotes just about every senior White House official as saying that the president is unfit for the office—some more colorfully than others. According to Woodward, Chief of Staff John Kelly lamented “we’re in crazytown” while his predecessor, Reince Priebus, called Trump’s bedroom “the devil’s workshop.”
Before long, this too will pass. The president’s attention span seems to shorten with each news cycle.
And when aides leave the White House some have admitted that working in the West Wing is a brutal endeavor—making many of the same points as the anonymous author currently stirring up trouble on Pennsylvania Avenue. You’ll remember that Omarosa titled her tell-all Unhinged.
Further muddying the water is the fact that President Trump has surrounded himself with creatures of Washington, which fits the mission espoused by the anonymous author. Kellyanne Conway, whose love of cameras makes her a prime suspect, has been in the swamp for years. Jeff Sessions is another obvious guess both because he’s a typical conservative Republican—formerly a two-term senator—and because Trump seems to be on the verge of firing him. It’s impossible to overstate the absence of Hope Hicks or the desertion of Omarosa. The president is running low on the loyalists from his New York days.
But now that President Trump knows there’s an active rebellion in his shadows, where do we go from here? Unfortunately, we can bet that this will only get worse before it gets better. Trump will be rage-tweeting for the next few days, spiraling further down the rabbit hole. He will seek solace in mainlining late-night Fox News where the hosts screech about the “deep state” and “the swamp.”
But, before long, this too will pass. The president’s attention span seems to shorten with each news cycle and in a week or so there will be a nasty insult to hurl at a foreign leader (probably one of America’s allies) or a congresswoman to attack or even a summit to attend. And that anonymous White House aide will still be scurrying around the hallways walked by Lincoln and Roosevelt and Kennedy, still trying to undermine the President of the United States.