If you’ve never seen The Usual Suspects, I won’t spoil the ending for you—but suffice it to say that the film is one of the finest examples of a storytelling device known as the unreliable narrator, in which lies get shuffled with the truth like a crooked dealer cold-decking an easy mark at the poker table, so that by the end you don’t even know what to believe anymore, much less who.
I’m reminded of this because it seems as if we’ve reached that same critical mass at the highest levels of power and influence in Washington, DC, encapsulated in a single op-ed column that the New York Times ran yesterday. The author is anonymous. We don’t know the first thing about him—other than he purports to be a “senior official in the Trump administration.” And he has supposedly confirmed the worst fears of both the #NeverTrump stalwarts and the leftist political machines that have been out to get Donald Trump, make it impossible for him to govern, and drive him once and for all from office.
The tone of the article seems, on the surface, at least partly credible. It certainly dovetails with Bob Woodward’s upcoming book Fear, in which he renders a vivid portrait of a White House desperately trying to rein in the president’s worst instincts. In the op-ed, the mysterious author recounts how he and other senior officials have been doing the same, going so far as it withhold papers from his desk to save him from signing orders and giving directives that would result in disaster. This, the author claims, is because they are not only trying to save Trump from himself, but the country from Trump.
He denies this is a Deep State. He says that it’s a “steady state.”
Which naturally raises the question: What’s the difference?
And herein lies the problem. Trump supporters are unlikely to believe the accusations of egregious temperament and terrible judgement, because they’ve seen how the media have leveled these kinds of accusations before only to walk them back grudgingly when they turned out to be unfounded or unproven. They also know how the media are quick to promote anything that makes Trump look bad, even when they’re spreading half-truths, and loath to give him credit for anything—including the roaring economy. Just a couple of weeks ago, they saw over a hundred newspapers across the country run coordinated op-eds attacking Trump. And just the other day, they probably noticed NBC’s Chuck Todd calling for the media to “fight back” against the president.
But you know what these same supports are likely to take away from this story? Confirmation that there really is a Deep State—or steady state, or whatever you want to call it—actively trying to undermine the Trump administration from within.
So which parts are true, and which parts are lies? It’s gotten to the point where nobody can tell the difference—and what you believe has more to do with tribal loyalties than anything resembling principle. But how did we get to such a dangerous point? It’s simple, really. Part of it is the DC Establishment, both Republican and Democrat, that resents the election—and the voters who put him there—of an outsider to the White House. From the Clinton campaign’s manufacture of Russian collusion as an excuse for their loss to the calls for impeachment if the Democrats take the house this fall, there is a strong desire across powerful factions to undo the will of the people and remove Trump from office. Also at fault are the media themselves, who have completely wrecked their credibility with their animus against Trump. Any reporting on actual wrongdoing in the administration is summarily dismissed by a large segment of the public, because that segment doesn’t trust them. This is why Trump boasts that he could commit murder and his supporters wouldn’t desert him.
So why would they believe that Trump is unhinged, just because the media say so?
My greatest fear is that if the article—and Woodward’s book—are even remotely accurate, it will be impossible to take the measures needed to correct the situation without tearing the country apart. Such are the wages of fake news..