Who is the anonymous “senior administration official” who wrote last week’s op-ed in the New York Times?
You know, the one who boasted of taking part in a shadow government that sees its noble mission as stymieing the deranged American president?
It’s amusing to guess. But, man, that’s the wrong parlor game. The right one, for American voters, is deciding which actions to take before the midterm election to ensure we get a Congress that will stop both the president and the self-styled shadow government that imagines it’s subduing him.
There’s nothing comforting about a soft coup d’etat in the White House — made up of unnamed vigilantes who are accountable to no one — serving as a thin, self-appointed line between the life and death of the republic. In a democracy, a coup is no response to a despot. It’s a recipe for more despotism.
Like many stunts in journalism — and the Times’ op-ed is a beaut — this one does its job only if it spurs action. It’s crucial to see the whole whodunnit as a “Murder on the Orient Express” situation.
We all did it. Are doing it. The majority of us trapped inside the Trump regime — that’s the United States — share the anonymous senior administration official’s concerns about the president’s sanity, temperament and commitment to the Constitution. Those of us who disapprove of President Trump — 53.7 percent of us — couldn’t have put it better ourselves.
Like the clique of self-styled resistance fighters on the inside, we on the outside also want to thwart him. But, as members of a democracy, we’ll do it at the polls. And we’ll do it knowing what we have known since Trump took office: Government officials have long held Trump in a contempt that rivals that of the majority of voters.
After all, high-level Washington officials — notably Walter Shaub, then the director of the Office of Government Ethics, and James B. Comey, then the FBI director — have been voicing grave concerns about the president’s moral fitness almost since he took office.
Over the eons — meaning months — of Trump’s presidency, the list of non-anonymous insiders who have reportedly questioned the president’s sanity, integrity and intelligence has grown ever longer.
There’s White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis, former Trump legal advisor John Dowd, former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, former economic advisor Gary Cohn, Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah, former national security advisor H.R. McMaster, former EPA chief Scott Pruitt and former communications aide Omarosa Manigault Newman.
The first tell-all — Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” — detailed staffers’ aggressive disdain for the president. How many dissenters are in Trump’s inner circle? According to Wolff, “100 percent of the people around him” think he’s an idiot.
Even Trump knows the score. When the anonymous op-ed appeared Wednesday, Trump did not bother to claim that his inner circle is as loyal as they come. Who would believe that? Trump knows he’s surrounded.
As the Russian dissident and chess master Garry Kasparov has said of Vladimir Putin’s Russia, when despots stifle protesters, journalists, voters and detractors, the despots are expressing blind terror.
Out of fear, Trump is still trying to pretend the attendees of his rallies — small crowds of violent vigilantes and uncanny looking recruits — represent America.
Out of fear, he’s determined to frame the moral majority — peaceful protesters at the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation hearings, for example — as outlaws.
Legacy both-sides-ism on cable news also means Americans are constantly confronted with scripted defenses of the president by compromised parties, including flip-flopper Sen. Lindsey Graham and burlesque performer Sean Hannity.
But all that’s an illusion. Excerpts from Bob Woodward’s forthcoming book, “Fear: Trump in the White House,” make it clear that the uncompromised figures near him consider Trump a profound risk. Cohn, while serving as economic advisor, pilfered a document from Trump’s desk to keep him from signing it and endangering the economy. And Dowd, according to Woodward, believed Trump was so dishonest that he’d end up in an “orange jumpsuit” if he testified before special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
It’s as though Woodward’s sources jumped off the pages of his book and into the New York Times to prove Woodward was telling the truth.
In Woodward’s book, Kelly is quoted as saying of Trump, “He’s gone off the rails. We’re in crazytown.” The op-ed author says of Trump, “Meetings with him veer off topic and off the rails.”
Further, Woodward shows a scene of Mattis blocking Trump’s move to deny South Korea military protection. The op-ed author claims that it’s her or his clique that is securing our alliances against the president’s efforts to destroy them.
This is not to say that Kelly or Mattis is our Anonymous. Who cares? What’s important is that Trump is off the rails.
Most of the people disapprove. The protesters are fired up. The voters will rise. And all the president’s men? This time, they despise him too.
Virginia Hefferan is a columnist for the Los Angeles Times.