It’s been obvious from nearly the start of the administration of Donald Trump that competing forces in the White House have successfully pursued agendas at odds with the president. An anonymous senior White House official confirmed that a “resistance” within the administration actually exists in an op-ed for the New York Times published Wednesday. The Times identifies the author as a senior official known to the newspaper.
The op-ed is unprecedented for its blunt description of a president lacking discipline, knowledge, and impulse control to act in what the author describes as “a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic.” While previous administrations have had revelatory interviews, essays, and books from top-level insiders that revealed presidential weaknesses, there is no precedent for an opinion piece of this sort.
The writer states frankly that he considers Trump amoral, erratic, and anti-democratic, as well as “impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective,” “half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless.”
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The essay claims that its author and “many” others in the administration act to thwart the president. It calls out the policy against Russia, which many observers have noted runs on two tracks. The president defers to Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, and downplays any concerns about Russian actions. Meanwhile, the State Department and other government officials speak out strongly and have pushed through sanctions against key figures allied with Putin and expulsions of diplomats.
The president speaking to a group in the White House accused the Times of dishonesty, dismissing the editorial as “gutless.” The White House released part of his remarks as a video on Twitter. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders released a statement condemning the essay, noting, “The individual behind this piece has chosen to deceive, rather than support, the duly elected President of the United States.”
The author doesn’t ally himself or herself with the left-wing resistance movement, but identifies clearly as a traditional conservative. The writer says that actions taken by the administration—using that term, not “by the president”—have improved America’s safety and prosperity. The essay notes the tax cut, deregulation, and a “more robust” military as wins.
These listed accomplishments accord with more traditional conservative policies that predate the Tea Party era of the Republican Party. The GOP long stood for unfettered international trade, the fostering of democracy globally (albeit only if it matched one end of the political spectrum), and strong opposition to dictators and totalitarian regimes, such as Russia.
In contrast, the liberal-based resistance opposes almost the entirety of Trump’s domestic agenda.
The New York Times‘ op-ed closely parallels behavior within the White House reported in excerpts published in advance of the official release Bob Woodward’s book, Fear, based on extensive interviews with past and present Trump officials, most of them “on deep background” in which they remain unidentified. For instance, staff would remove pieces of paper from Trump’s desk that they didn’t want him to sign, Woodward wrote, and the president wouldn’t ask about them later.
Under the standards which the New York Times operates, it is inconceivable that the op-ed’s anonymous source isn’t as described. The risk to which the newspaper would expose itself were it otherwise is enormous from a legal perspective and to its reputation.
One might have to look back to the Ronald Reagan or even Woodrow Wilson administration to find stories that parallel the extent to which this essay writer declares President Trump incompetent for the office. But no such essay by their own officials appeared in a newspaper during either of those leaders’ time in office.