DAVID MAROTTOLO ’22
No doubt many readers are familiar with the anonymous op-ed article published on Sept. 5th in the New York Times, describing the self-proclaimed “resistance” inside the Trump administration. For those who have not read it, I will summarize it briefly: the unknown author, a senior official in the White House, describes his or her (hereafter referred to as his/her, etc.) role as part of a group of staffers dedicated to foiling Trump’s plans, frustrating his “worst intentions,” and rolling back unwanted policy decisions. Some have praised the actions of this anonymous writer, while others have questioned the validity of his/her arguments and repudiated his/her decision to anonymously comment on the administration. I empathize with the intent of the article’s author, and appreciate that certain individuals are willing to corral the President. However, my empathy does not extend to the article itself. The op-ed was and continues to be ineffective, incendiary, and impudent; indeed, the author’s anonymity and argumentative tone serves to weaken the article’s arguments and inflame, rather than pacify, the chaos of the Trump administration.
Before diving in, it’s prudent to note that the New York Times carefully vets all op-ed articles, particularly anonymous ones, so the authenticity of the article’s source is not in question (for a detailed description of the NY Times’ vetting process, one can consult the original op-ed).
Perhaps my most grievous issue with this op-ed is its ineffectiveness. The article is deliberately vague, perhaps to protect the identity or identities of those involved. Whatever the reason, the author provides few concrete examples of where the Trump administration has successfully diverted the President’s attention. In several of those situations cited, such as the U.S.’s recent cyber-entanglement with Russia, matters were clearly handled poorly by both Trump and his administration, despite the author’s claims to the contrary.
This lack of substance is compounded by the author’s own superiority complex; it does not matter how immature the President may act, when one begins to refer to oneself as the “adult in the room,” one ought to consider just how much of that supposed superiority is mere arrogance. While I understand the author’s temptation to feel like the savior here, the reality is that he/she and any others involved have failed to significantly curb the President’s detrimental impulses in any meaningful way.
Ultimately, this article only serves to enrage and alienate the President further from his staff, rather than making any attempt to unify the White House. The President’s frantic efforts to root out these “conspirators” makes this self-evident.
The other significant drawback to the handling of this article lies in the author’s anonymity. There are really two options: either the author wishes to preserve his/her own political career (a rather selfish concern, given his/her supposedly grand calling as savior of the nation), or he/she feels obligated to remain undiscovered, in order to continue obstructing the President. In either case, the personal risk to him- or herself is minimal. Hiding one’s opinions because they are unwelcome is not clever subterfuge; it’s just cowardice.
Frankly, the question of remaining anonymous or not is a matter of principle. The article was, after all, an op-ed, and an opinion should be connected to a face and a name. One man can’t speak for all the other staffers indicated in the article; we don’t even know if it was an agreed-upon decision to write and publish this op-ed.
Ultimately, it all boils down to this: the author of this op-ed had a chance to comfort American citizens, bolster the U.S.’s trust in the Trump administration, and demonstrate that (for all its flaws) the White House was still capable of displaying some semblance of orderliness. Instead, the author used the article to feed into his/her own arrogance, incite debate (not over the article’s contents, but its creator), and inflame the chaos within the White House. In my eyes, this invalidates any good he/she may have intended when writing the NY Times op-ed.