The New York Times has published an unsigned essay written by someone they describe as a “senior official in the Trump administration whose identity is known to us and whose job would be jeopardized by its disclosure.” The op-ed makes for very strange reading, since it combines a derisive view of Trump’s presidential skills with a partial defense of the presidency, co-opting the language of resistance to the cause of treating Trump officials with greater forbearance and civility.
According to the op-ed, “many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.” These “senior officials” are committed, as Trump allegedly is not, to traditional Republican Party ideals.
Although he was elected as a Republican, the president shows little affinity for ideals long espoused by conservatives: free minds, free markets and free people. At best, he has invoked these ideals in scripted settings. At worst, he has attacked them outright.
The intent, perhaps, is to shield the Republican Party (and those Republicans who have worked most closely with Trump) from reputational contamination. We’re to believe that the real heroes of the Trump era are those who worked most closely with him and tried to constrain his worst impulses.
The op-ed doesn’t shirk from criticizing Trump, even suggesting that his unfitness for office reaches the levels that call for removal under the 25th Amendment. But then it retreats from asking what the failure to apply a constitutional remedy means.
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.
What is being justified here as an act of heroism is in fact a dereliction of duty. After all, the proper constitutional course to take with an unfit president is the 25th amendment. The path chosen is far worse: an administrative coup that leaves Trump as the figurehead not only makes the United States government look foolish and untrustworthy, it also undermines democracy.
Finally, if there is a secret plot to govern competently despite Trump, surely there is nothing more self-defeating than announcing the plot in one of the world’s largest newspapers, where the president and everyone else can see it?