The New York Times published a rather extraordinary op-ed this afternoon, written by “a senior official in the Trump administration.” Anonymous opinion pieces are extraordinarily rare, especially in major newspapers, but in a brief note to readers, the Times notes that its editors are aware of the author’s identity, and they decided to publish the piece anonymously in order to “deliver an important perspective.”
And what a perspective it is. The unnamed author explains in the piece that he/she is one of “many” in the Trump administration who are “working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.”
It’s not that the author is a progressive opponent of a conservative agenda. Rather, he/she appears to be a Republican who sincerely believes Trump is a dangerous, amoral, and unprincipled buffoon who is acting “in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic.”
From the White House to executive branch departments and agencies, senior officials will privately admit their daily disbelief at the commander in chief’s comments and actions. Most are working to insulate their operations from his whims.
Meetings with him veer off topic and off the rails, he engages in repetitive rants, and his impulsiveness results in half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless decisions that have to be walked back. […]
Given the instability many witnessed, there were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment, which would start a complex process for removing the president. But no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis. So we will do what we can to steer the administration in the right direction until – one way or another – it’s over.
The author describes a “two-track presidency” in which the unhinged president goes in one direction, while responsible adults around him quietly steer the administration in another.
It’s a bit of a challenge to understand the motivation behind the piece. The author seems determined, for example, to reassure the public that there’s a structure in place to contain Trump’s madness and prevent him from doing catastrophic harm.
But there’s nothing heartening about these circumstances. If the author is correct, the nation is being led by a man who is clearly unwell.
He/she acknowledges some behind-the-scenes chatter about a 25th Amendment solution, which was dismissed to avoid a “constitutional crisis.” But the fact of the matter is that if the head of a global superpower’s executive branch is unstable, and White House decisions are being made by an unelected and unaccountable team of aides who are circumventing and undermining a mad president, that is a constitutional crisis.
I realize a parlor game will soon take root, and the search for the op-ed’s author will be intense. But at least for now, the genuinely scary message seems more important than the messenger.