Why the Anonymous Trump Official’s Op-Ed in the New York Times Matters

In 1947, “Mr. X” wrote an extremely influential article, for Foreign Affairs, advocating a policy of containment toward the Soviet Union’s expansionist tendencies. Its author turned out to be the diplomat George Kennan, who was then the second-ranking official at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. And, in 1996, Random House published “Primary Colors,” a thinly disguised roman à clef about Bill Clinton, by “Anonymous.” Less consequential than Kennan’s contribution, the novel nonetheless created a great deal of speculation about who its author was; it turned out to be the political journalist Joe Klein.

.. By nightfall on Wednesday, there were reports that White House officials were engaged in a frantic search for the culprit.

..  “scrutiny focused on a half-dozen names.”

.. the piece merely adds to what we already know about Trump’s character and the struggle of people around him to control his destructive tendencies.

.. it was reported that the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, and the national-security adviser at the time—James Mattis, Rex Tillerson, and H. R. McMaster—had privately agreed to avoid being out of Washington at the same time.

.. There have been numerous reports about how Don McGahn, the outgoing White House counsel, tried to talk Trump out of firing James Comey and Jeff Sessions.

.. The real importance of the Op-Ed is that it corroborates these reports, provides a window into the mind-set of people who continue to work for Trump, and also reveals some intriguing details. “Given the instability many witnessed, there were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment, which would start a complex process for removing the president,”

.. Really? “Early whispers within the cabinet” of invoking the Constitution to oust the President? If this is true, it is information of enormous consequence, and leads to a series of further questions. Who was involved in these discussions, and how far did the whispers go?

.. The suggestion that at least some members of the Cabinet have talked about invoking these powers is new and shocking. But what does it mean to say that the whisperers didn’t want to precipitate a crisis? After all, the rest of the article makes clear that the crisis already exists and is deadly serious.

.. The head of state of the most powerful country in the world is someone whose own subordinates and appointees regard as unmoored, untrustworthy, and potentially dangerous.

.. “The root of the problem is the president’s amorality,” the Op-Ed says. “Anyone who works with him knows he is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision making. . . . Meetings with him veer off topic and off the rails, he engages in repetitive rants, and his impulsiveness results in half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless decisions that have to be walked back.”

.. “I have no respect for someone who would say these things—of whose truth I have no doubt—in an anonymous oped, rather than in a public resignation letter copied to the House Judiciary Committee.”

.. He or she has enflamed the paranoia of the president and empowered the president’s willfulness.”

.. These are legitimate concerns, but the larger one is that we have a menacing dingbat in the White House, and nobody with the requisite authority seems willing to do anything about it, other than to try to manage the situation on an ad-hoc, day-to-day basis. Perhaps this could be seen as a “Trump containment” strategy, but it falls well short of the systematic containment strategy that Kennan advocated, and, in any case, the Trumpkins, unlike the early Cold War strategists, are not necessarily dealing with a rational actor. Something more is surely needed.

 

Cohn Resignation Is An Opportunity

The Drive-bys see Chaos, brain drain.  It signals that there is no one left who can contain Trump’s wacko impuses.

It’s not a problem, its an opportunity.  Gary Cohn was in favor of the Paris Convention.  This is an opportunity to get a Republican Economic Adviser.

Trump is running on animus autopilot

Step Two: Trump’s original policy is successfully challenged on legal grounds.

It’s possible that no president has fared worse in court than Trump. His apologists blame “the resistance,” but often the real culprit is Trump himself. He proudly tweets his own unlawful intentions and sabotages his lawyers’ best arguments. Many of his orders, moreover, cannot withstand even cursory factual or logical review.

.. Step Three: The Trump administration engages in animus laundering.

When Trump loses in court, he doesn’t walk away. Instead, he grudgingly allows his lawyers and advisers to undertake a series of bogus, ends-driven “reviews.” As demonstrated by the travel ban and transgender ban cases, the goal here is to put just enough lipstick on the pig to pretend it isn’t a pig anymore. Often that is achieved by drafting a new order that uses slightly more polite and legalistic language to express the raw bigotry underlying Trump’s original decision. Justice Department attorneys can then insist in court that the (minimally revised) policy has been certified as legitimate by an assorted handful of Cabinet secretaries.

.. It has become fashionable to insist that advisers such as Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Chief of Staff John F. Kelly can pacify Trump’s most destructive instincts. With respect to the president’s animus-laden orders, however, they have displayed little interest in that role. Kelly publicly championed Trump’s travel ban. And it is rumored that Mattis, despite opposing the transgender ban, deemed this fight unworthy of his political capital. As a result, Trump’s agencies have largely run on animus autopilot.