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Anonymous op-ed notable, but not heroic

Heroic, or gutless?

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 07/09/2018 (1607 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Heroic, or gutless?

Opinion is polarized — as is everything in American politics these days — over how to describe the author of the incendiary anonymous op-ed published Wednesday by the New York Times.

The article, titled “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration,” is attributed to a “senior official” and describes a White House in which high-ranking staff members routinely work to limit the impulsive and potentially dangerous behaviour of U.S. President Donald Trump.

“The dilemma,” the op-ed explains, “which he does not fully grasp — is that many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.”

The unnamed writer refers to Mr. Trump as amoral, erratic, unstable, prone to off-the-rails rants and having an affinity for autocrats and dictators. He or she adds that “many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.”

Critics of the op-ed noted the writer and members of the so-called "resistance" have stood idly by while President Donald Trump does whatever he wants. (Evan Vucci / The Associated Press Files)

Despite this condemnation, the op-ed tilts toward self-congratulation when it calls the subversive staffers the “adults in the room (who) fully recognize what is happening. And we are trying to do what’s right even when Donald Trump won’t.”

The Times’ opinion-page editors defended the uncommon decision to publish an unattributed op-ed: “We believe publishing this essay anonymously is the only way to deliver an important perspective to our readers.” Identifying the writer would jeopardize that person’s job, they explained.

The implication of the essay is that these officials are doing heroic work by remaining silently in place, that by acting as “guardrails” preventing the administration from careening into the figurative ditch, they are serving a higher purpose.

That is a problematic assertion.

The compounded-daily misdeeds of this president have continued, in large part, because virtually no one with the power to do so — not administration staff, not elected Republicans whose duty is to put country before party — has stepped forward to challenge the antics of Mr. Trump.

Critics of the op-ed were quick to point out that these self-described “adults” have stood idly by while the president unleashed a policy that snatched immigrant children from their parents, and insisted there were “very fine people” among neo-Nazi rioters in Charlottesville. They have remained mostly silent as Mr. Trump lies daily, and continually downplays Russian interference in U.S. politics while at the same time referring to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of same as “a rigged witch hunt.”

The author would necessarily be one of those bystanders. Given that the oath these appointees take is to protect the U.S. Constitution and not the president, it might fairly be argued that their actions are patriotic. But to attach “heroic” to someone who isn’t willing to attach a name to an op-ed is a stretch.

The president is reported to have reacted “volcanically” to the op-ed, taking to Twitter to declare the writer “GUTLESS” and to despotically demand the Times “for National Security purposes, turn him/her over to government at once!” Conservative commentator David Frum offered a blunt assessment in the Atlantic that the op-ed will only serve to inflame the president’s paranoia, rendering him “more defiant, more reckless, more anti-constitutional, and more dangerous.”

Mr. Frum also offered an observation the unnamed official would do well to consider:

“Previous generations of Americans have sacrificed fortunes, health and lives to serve the country. You are asked only to tell the truth aloud and with your name attached.”

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