Most of the talk about yesterday’s anonymous New York Times op-ed in which an author purported to be a senior official in the Trump Administration focuses on the author of the piece. The bigger issue is that the unnamed author confirms a large number of reports from inside the Trump Administration over the past two years.
The author of the piece said that “President Trump’s impulses are generally anti-trade and anti-democratic” and “erratic,” and claimed that a cabal of the president’s advisors is working to “insulate their operations from his whims.”
The sheer volume of similar reports lends credence to the claims in the anonymous piece. The op-ed comes on the heels of blurbs from Bob Woodward’s new book. Among the juicer quotes is one attributed to John Kelly in which the chief of staff reportedly called the president an “idiot.” Although Kelly denied the remark, it is very similar to an alleged comment by former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who was reported to have called the president a “moron” last year.
It would take many pages to make an exhaustive list of all the disturbing pictures painted of Donald Trump. Suffice it to say that the president’s public actions also lend credence to the anonymous sources. One of the president’s most recent overreactions was to suggest on Twitter that the author the op-ed was guilty of treason.
Whoever the author is, the claim that insiders are slowing the president’s more disastrous impulses rings true. As James Freeman of the Wall Street Journal asks, in light of the positive Trump economy, “Could it be that Donald Trump is not as crazy and ignorant as Mr. Woodward and his media brethren would have us believe?” The answer in the op-ed has long been my suspicion.
President Trump has been moderately successful despite his actions and not because of them. The best thing about the Trump Administration was that it did install a number of small government conservatives who enacted deregulation and tax reform in Mr. Trump’s name while attempting to limit his destructive impulses. In some cases, such as his “reset” with Russia and his pivot toward gun control, they were successful. In the case of tariffs and his war on the media, they were not.
Contrary to what President Trump and his supporters say, this secret resistance is not undermining his presidency. It is attempting to save it.
And my guess for the author of the piece? If it isn’t a low-level aide, I’d lay odds on Mike Pompeo. Pompeo has been with the Administration from the beginning, first as CIA director and then as Secretary of State. The foreign policy side is where Trump has been more erratic and unable to be checked by Congress. Pompeo would have had to deal with that first-hand.
The piece may well be a hoax, but the White House resistance is almost certainly real.
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