Let me see if I understand this. The writer of an opinion column wants me to take his/her words as gospel? However, the author refuses to attach his/her name to the editorial.
Pardon me if I struggle with that proposition. I need to ask the author a few questions. How can I be certain that you actually are a high level advisor in the White House? You paint yourself as a hero working to protect my interests and our nation’s safety? How can I be assured that you aren’t, in reality, looking out for your own self interest — whatever that might be? In fact, what reassurance do I have that you are guided by a moral creed? Perhaps you actually are endeavoring to follow a moral code, but in that case, I worry that you may have overestimated your own importance.
Sept. 6, The New York Times, on its editorial page, ran an anonymous op-ed under the headline “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration.”
Naturally, the op-ed sent the media scrambling, generated more hostilities between Republicans and Democrats, caused a flurry of speculation over the author’s identity, drove dozens of worried White House officials to issue denials and sent the President scurrying on a hunt for the culprit.
Right, what did the writer expect?
I am not totally opposed to anonymity. There are occasions when it is necessary. For example, on June 25, 2018, The Times ran an op-ed by an El Salvador asylum seeker. The Times determined that her life, plus that of her 6-year-old son and of her 16-year old sister would be in jeopardy in El Salvador. Her life was threatened by a gang, after she witnessed a murder. She also wrote about the deplorable conditions in the U.S. family detention center, where she and her family were being held.
The Times noted at the beginning of the column that, “The author wrote on the condition of anonymity because of the gang-related threats she and her family face in the United States and in El Salvador.”
Obviously, the author had valid reasons for not revealing her identity.
In June 2009, The Times published another anonymous op-ed from a student who was writing about life in Iran. His effort was to provide readers in the United States with a more accurate picture of Iran’s political scene. He feared for his life should his identity be revealed.
Again, a valid use of anonymity.
It hardly seems likely that the author of the op-ed about the current White House would be in fear for his/her life.
Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., in an interview on Meet the Press, Sept. 9, explained that, “I don’t understand the morality of the action. Frankly, if you’re worried that the President is too impulsive and paranoid, then how can this op-ed do anything but drive more paranoia?”
Indeed! I could see how a leader, even one who is not prone to paranoia, could feel substantial distrust after reading such an indictment in a national newspaper.
The editorial stated that a group of high level officials “are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his (the President’s) agenda and his worst inclinations.”
According to a Sept. 6 MSNBC, report, “The official goes on to describe ‘the president’s amorality’ and his ‘erratic behavior’ in office, warning that Trump’s ‘impulsiveness results in half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless decisions that have to be walked back.’”
I suspect that the anonymous author felt that he/she was doing our country a vital service by informing the public of the situation inside the White House. Further, the author probably thought that readers who might be unnerved by the President’s actions would find it reassuring that a group of officials was keeping him in check by making decisions behind his back.
Sen. Ben Sasse commenting on the negative results of such an action, explained that advisors should not take over the presidential decision-making role. There should be a process in place whereby the president is provided well-researched information and then he — the President — should make an informed and reasoned decision.
Sept. 6, while speaking at the University of Illinois Urbana–Champaign, former President Barack Obama summed up the problem with the anonymous op-ed details and the admission that a group is shepherding the President.
“That is not a check... That’s not how our democracy’s supposed to work. These people (advisors) aren’t elected. They aren’t accountable. They’re not doing us a service by actively promoting 90 percent of the crazy stuff that’s coming out of this White House and then saying, ‘Don’t worry, we’re preventing the other 10 percent.’ That’s not how things are supposed to work. This is not normal.”
Certainly, if the anonymous author or authors feel the President is so incompetent, that it is necessary to preempt his actions, then, doubtless, more review and more drastic measures are needed. Perhaps the President is a risk. However, a shadow government is not the answer. It poses its own threats to our democracy. Turning the reins of government over to bureaucrats sets the stage for rule without representation by we, the people.
Some have suggested that the anonymous author has committed an act of treason. He/she has not! No national security secrets were disclosed. Plus, the editorial falls under the First Amendment’s freedom of speech protection.
Actually, I would like to see the anonymous author sign the op-ed for The New York Times and also submit a letter of protest and resignation to the President.
It would be even better if the op-ed writer could persuade concerned colleagues to join him/her. A group would really make a more definitive statement, would exhibit an act of true courage, and possibly, generate real — and hopefully positive — change!
Running an uncredited op-ed — from inside the White House — only gives the left more reasons to distrust the current administration and gives the right more reason to suspect the media and the Democratic party of being engaged in a plot to undermine the President.
Naturally, at this late date, an admission by the anonymous author could cause the whole issue to become more melodramatic and might engender greater confusion. That is possible. Even so, my inclination is to err on the side of transparency. How else can a democratic-republic such as ours survive, much-less thrive?
Pat Nevada, whose opinions are her own, lives near Gettysburg.