An anonymous opinion piece in the New York Times has upset United States President Donald Trump, who has now called on the newspaper to reveal the “coward” behind the explosive essay.
The Times says it has decided to take the rare step of publishing the anonymous piece because doing so is the only way to deliver an important perspective to its readers.
The anonymity was requested by the writer, whose job will be jeopardized by the disclosure.
What exactly did the writer—a ranking official working in the White House, who admits to being part of the resistance within the Trump administration—say?
Many senior officials in the White House “are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of [Trump’s] agenda and his worst inclinations.”
They do not intend to bring down the administration. “We want the administration to succeed,” the writer says. But they are doing everything they can to thwart Trump’s misguided impulses until he is out of office.
Mr. Trump’s amorality, the official says, is the root of the problem. “Anyone who works with him knows he is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision making.”
Trump’s leadership style is “impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective.” His impulses are often anti-trade and anti-democratic. On a daily basis, White House officials are in disbelief at his comments and actions. There is no telling when he would turn around and change his mind. As a result, his impulsiveness yields “half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless decisions that have to be walked back.”
What there is, in effect, is a two-track presidency: One which Trump talks about, and the other, what the rest of the administration does in spite—not because—of him.
Trump has, of course, attacked the writer and the newspaper, and his wife Melania has told the writer: “You are not protecting this country, you are sabotaging it with your cowardly actions.” Top White House officials have separately denied writing the essay, with Vice President Mike Pence saying he was above such amateur acts.
The Times is adamant about protecting the writer’s identity.
The essay indeed succeeds in conveying a unique perspective—from within—to the public. It has angered Mr. Trump, who will likely launch a loyalty check among his staff for the plain offense of speaking out against him, regardless of whether the words were valid or even constructive in the first place. The president does not appear to be somebody who appreciates any form of criticism, however well intentioned.
He will likely not take comfort in the fact that despite whispers of invoking the 25th Amendment, a complex process for removing him, the official says nobody wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis and that they would just instead do what they can to steer the administration in the right direction “until—one way or another—it’s over.”
Mr. Trump says the writer is a coward for wanting to be anonymous. The writer, though, has thought it best to fight presidential cowardice in his—or her—own terms. After all, this is a leader who brands the media as the enemy of the people.
In the end, a leader who cracks down on critics and silences them through all means available is a lot more cowardly than those who decide to expose the truth even as they withhold their names.