Who Wrote the Anonymous Op-Ed?

(Photo: Daniel Schwen)

Who’s the anonymous Op-Ed writer? Like FBI Agent Jack Baer looking for Keyser Söze in The Usual Suspects (1995), the first question is, does the anonymous writer exist? If only President Trump had Jack Bauer to figure it all out in 24 hours, instead of Jack Baer looking in all the wrong places with all the usual suspects.

Does the Op-Ed writer exist? Yes, more than likely the writer exists. The New York Times is not going to publish a fake Opinion Editorial. But there are other possibilities as well. First, is the author a singular writer, or an amalgamation of authors? People in the Executive Branch aren’t exactly standing up next to Kirk Douglas shouting, “I am Spartacus!” “No, I am Spartacus!” (By the way, Senator Orrin Hatch’s tweet yesterday was perhaps the funniest tweet by any politician in the social media era, just sayin’.) No, instead, we’re meant to believe that there an Illuminati-like club inside the Trump Administration whose members banally walk the halls of the White House with facades of loyalty while hiding their true intentions like armies of Londoners wearing Guy Fawkes masks in V is for Vendetta (2005).

So, did one person write the Op-Ed, or was one person chosen to write for the group, or did the group of White House officials who are concerned write the Op-Ed together? After all, if there are “many of the senior officials in his [Trump’s] own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations,” then my question is, do these senior officials met together? Do these senior officials coordinate with each other? Because, if there is a ‘Resistance’ in the White House working together, then why would a singular member write an Op-Ed to the New York Times?

Which brings me to the next question, why was the Op-Ed written? What was the point of the Op-Ed? It seems to me that the author could idyllically-speaking be genuinely seeking to force a conversation about the 25th Amendment. Ulteriorly-speaking, however, the author or authors may be simply trying to inoculate themselves from a future fallout. Because, the writer’s career in this Administration is over, and probably any career in public office. When the identity is ultimately revealed, the best financial hope for the writer is a book deal, compensation for TV appearances, and the long-term goal of resurrecting one’s reputation in 20 years like Watergate’s John Dean. In international relations, there is something called Rational Actor Theory, in which we assume that people make decisions rationally in their own best interests and/or the best interests of their country. Presumably, then, the author wrote the Op-Ed for a rational reason, whether we agree with the decision to write or not.

So, why now? First of all, why September 5, 2018? Is it a coincidence that the Op-Ed was published the day after parts of Bob Woodward’s new book Fear was released? The only person that I can think of who is that calculating in the release of information is Bob Mueller. And, for the record, I don’t think Mueller is the writer. I do think it’s a fascinating coincidence. Because the Woodward book was released by CNN, whereas the Op-Ed was published by the New York Times. It is also worth pointing out that, if the Times published on September 5th, the Op-Ed was written several days earlier, before the Woodward scoop by CNN.

To discuss the why now? returns us to the question of why? again as well. I’ve already discussed the personal interests of the author(s), but are their other considerations? Strategically-speaking, who benefits from the publication of the Opinion-Editorial? At face value, the biggest winners from the publication of the Op-Ed are the New York Times, as well as the partisan media from both sides of the political spectrum, Democratic candidates for Congress in 2018, and Trump himself. Yes, Trump benefits from the Op-Ed. The Op-Ed reinforces partisanship of both those who loathe, as well as those who love, President Donald J. Trump.

As far as I can tell, the losers in this situation are the White House senior officials, whether the staffers are the author of the Op-Ed or not. Because, if the author(s) are real, there must be a rational impetus to write the Op-Ed now, because it’s the “senior officials in his [Trump’s] own administration [who] are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations” who now have a harder job.

While Dick Armitage et al. may have outed Valarie Plame to deflect criticism of the Bush Administration, in this situation the covert operatives have outed himself, herself, or themselves. Because of the publication of the Op-Ed, senior officials may now be required to take polygraphs, sign affidavits, live under a cloud of suspicion, work in a more chaotic work environment, all the while helping to run the government of the United States and clandestinely “working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his [Trump’s] agenda and his worst inclinations.” Why would someone(s) risk exposure?

And, after all, what does the word senior mean anyway? There is always the possibility that the author of the Op-Ed has an overly self-indulgent sense of his/her own importance. But, if it was not a recognizable senior official, why would the New York Times not only go to lengths to hide the identity, I’m more interested in how the New York Times would even know the person in the first place? Imagine how many letters-to-the-editor and opinion editorials each and every day; How and why did this Op-Ed get noticed? Because the author is recognizable and/or a verifiably senior official. And that official’s (or officials’) own job(s) just got harder. Inevitably, the senior official(s) who wrote the supposedly anonymous Op-Ed will be identified. The senior official will be fired. Perhaps the author cares not about being fired; the writer is so angry or so concerned, that rational thought has exited the building and the senior official (Kevin Hassett or Kirstjen Nielsen) will ride into martyrdom like the Charge of the Light Brigade.  But, rationally-speaking and according to Rational Actor Theory, the senior official would only take that risk if the official was already leaving (Don McGahn and Jeff Sessions), an official with enormous stature who has already retired once (Dan Coats), or one of the only two senior officials in the White House who cannot be fired: President Donald J. Trump and Vice President Michael Richard Pence.

Yes, Trump benefits from the publication of the Times’ Op-Ed, but I’m not sure Trump has the strategic calculation skills to plant an anonymous Op-Ed like a Straw Soldier (the Times certainly would not publish an anonymous Op-Ed that the editorial staff knew to be President Trump). And then there is Mike Pence, who increasingly reminds me of the fictitious Vice President Ted Matthews in the (1996) film My Fellow Americans. The only senior official in the administration who cannot be fired and who also has a penchant for using the word lodestar. Which raises the question, why would an anonymous writer use a word that could so easily be tied back to the senior official? The anonymous author is also a little too happy to use the word resistance for me to believe Sessions is the Op-Ed writer, though he certainly has become a significant roadblock to Trump’s impulsiveness.

I suspect that a lawyer who has no interest in running for political office or being in the public spotlight, who already met with Bob Mueller’s team for 30 hours, and who has already announced his departure from the White House might be well considered one of the usual suspects. After all, it is already well-known that McGahn blurred the truth to prevent Trump from firing Mueller in December 2017. But why would McGahn write an anonymous opinion editorial to the New York Times now, at this juncture in time? Quit now and write it with a byline or wait until the announced departure in December 2018 to write an opinion editorial.

I can, however, envision a scenario in which the Director of National Intelligence is cognizant enough to intentionally use lodestar as a red herring, and use the word resistance too without too much discomfort. There is little question that the former U.S. Senator, who served with John McCain, would always choose country over party and, frankly, maybe be inspired to write an anonymous Op-Ed to the New York Times as he watched two memorial services and watch non-stop praise for McCain’s patriotic independence. I suspect Dan Coats would be aware of “many of the senior officials in his [Trump’s] own administration [who] are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations” whether those officials are cooperating with each other or operating as patriotic lone wolves. Dan Coats, former Representative of IN-4 and former U.S. Senator from Indiana, also knows both Vice President Dan Quayle of Indiana and Vice President Mike Pence of Indiana quite well. He knows Mike Pence, the only senior official who cannot be fired and is the beneficiary of any impeachment proceedings or invocation of the 25th Amendment.

Hope: Looking Back at June 2018

The Supreme Court:

  • Masterpiece Cake v CCRC
  • National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra
  • Trump v. Hawaii

Trump, Canada, and North Korea:

  • The 44th G7 summit was held on 8–9 June 2018, in Quebec, Canada… Trump feuds with the other 6 members, and suggests Russia should be let back into the G8/G7.
  • In fact, the summit was dubbed the “G6+1” by the Government of France and political commentators. This resulted from the United States withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and from the Paris Agreement, American tariffs, and trade-related disputes between Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau…

Trump-Kim Summit:

  • Trump and Kim signed a joint declaration at a summit in Singapore on June 12 and pledged to work toward peace and to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. “We’re ready to write a new chapter between our nations,” and called his meeting with Kim “honest, direct and productive.”
  • Then, on June 21st, satellite images show the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center upgrading its nuclear facilities. That’s less than two weeks after Trump boasted of a diplomatic breakthrough with Pyongyang over its nuclear weapons program after decades of hostility.

Immigration News:

  • June 15: For the first time, the Department of Homeland Security says how many children have been separated during the zero-tolerance initiative: Nearly 2,000 children from April 19 to May 31.
  • June 18: Nielsen says the administration “will not apologize” for separating families. “We have to do our job. We will not apologize for doing our job,” she says. “This administration has a simple message — If you cross the border illegally, we will prosecute you.”
  • June 19: Iowa’s GOP governor calls the separation of immigrant families “horrific” and says the government shouldn’t treat children as “pawns.”
  • Also, Methodists sign a formal denominational complaint against AG Jeff Sessions for his role in causing the separation of families.
  • Later, Maryland’s GOP governor recalls his national guard troops from the border.
  • June 20: Facing a national outcry, and after blaming Democrats in Congress (who control neither the Senate nor the Houses), Obama/Bush/and Clinton, as well as saying it was a policy he could not reverse, Trump signs an executive order designed to keep migrant families together at the U.S.-Mexico border, abandoning his earlier claim that the crisis was caused by an iron-clad law
  • And, of course, on June 21st, The First Lady wears a jacket making it clear she really doesn’t care; about what we’re not too sure.

Russia? How about some Russia news:

  • Later, Trump announces summit with Putin and reminds us all that Russia says it did not interfere in the 2016 Election…
  • Perhaps the highlight of the Russia probe this month was when Jim Jordan (OH-4) called Rod Rosenstein a Democrat. He’s not. And it shouldn’t matter regardless.

But The Biggest News:

Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy announces his retirement.

  • Citing his so-called swing vote, moderates and liberals have suggested same-sex marriage, abortion, and other issues are endangered.
  • However, Kennedy voted with the conservative majority in Bush v Gore, and the travel ban, so he’s hardly the Saint of Liberalism.
  • In fact, the court has only taken away rights once that it had recognized. The right to be free of cruel and unusual punishments.

~~~

On this day, June 30, 1934, the Night of the Long Knives, Adolf Hitler’s violent purge of his political rivals, occurred in Germany.

Operation Hummingbird eliminated Gregor Strasser and his leftist wing of the Nazi Party, as well as prominent German conservatives including former Chancellor Kurt von Schleicher and Gustav Ritter von Kahr as well as Hitler’s own supporters when he eliminated the Brownshirts (SA) and its leader, Ernst Röhm.

~~~

On this day, too, nine years later, on June 30, 1943, the Częstochowa Uprising was ended with additional 500 Jews burned alive or buried beneath the rubble. Another 3,900 Jews were captured and put to work in the labor camps of Apparatebau, Warthewerk, and Eisenhütte. A random selection of 400 people were shot and, in December that year, 1200 prisoners were transported to Germany. The men were sent to Buchenwald, the women to Dachau… all perished.

~~~

Truly dark days on this day in history, and the history of June… But there is hope, amid struggle as well…

~~~

On this day, June 30, 2001, as the deadline of the international body overseeing decommissioning paramilitary (terrorist) weapons  approached, David Trimble threatened to resign as First Minister if the deadline was not met. The next day, July 1, 2001, David Trimble resigned as Northern Ireland First Minister.

~~~

In a shout-out to my Rhode Islander listeners:

On this day, June 30, 1983, Vinny Pazienza (December 16, 1962) defeated Keith McCoy in Atlantic City, New Jersey. It was The Paz’ second career win; the bout was called in the 3rd Round by KO. His career total is 50-10, with 30 KO. Pazienza held world titles at lightweight and light middleweight; Bleed for This (2016) is based on his comeback from a spinal injury.

But good things happen too:

And, on this day, June 30, 2007, Peter Rometti sang the National Anthem at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts, during Disability Awareness Day. Rometti had autism and halfway through, he started to struggle… stammering, laughing nervously, and losing some of the words. 38,000 Red Sox fans responded and carried Rometti through the remainder of the Star-Spangled Banner.

~~~

The United States has weathered the disenfranchisement of women, the attacks on Native Americans, the enslavement of West Africans, the internment of Japanese Americans, and discrimination against immigrants and gay human beings before.

For every John Chivington, Roger Taney, George Wallace; we have many more Sojoioner Truths, Frederick Douglasses, Elizabeth Katy Stantons, Susan B Anthonys, Fred Korematsu and Yuri Kochiyama.

We have lost Harvey Milk and Matthew Shepard; we have lost Trevonn Martin, Freddie Gray, Stephan Clark and just this month Antwon Rose too.

~~~

“Yes, injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

And, yes, We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter… because [we’ve] been to the mountaintop [already]…

We’ve seen John Adams defend the crew of the Amistad… who can tell me the name of the plaintiff in that case?

We’ve seen Teddy Roosevelt denounce the San Francisco segregation of Chinese children,

Who can tell me the name of that Mayor of SanFran?

Who can tell me the name of the judge who found Susan B Anthony guilty of voting?

Tell me, please, what was the name of the bus driver who ordered 2nd Lt Jackie Robinson to move his seat on the bus, or the driver who told Rosa Parks to move?

We can bury the Andrew Jacksons in the annals of white privilege and arrogance; while raising up Thurgood Marshall, Ruby Bridges, and Leroy Collins.

This country has weathered the Alien & Sedition Acts, we will survive Russian interference and recalcitrance of our own politicians to find the truth; the Chinese Exclusion Act and the Japanese-Internment, we will survive the current administration’s border policy and travel bans.

That’s not to say it doesn’t hurt. That’s not to say that there won’t be lasting pain and consequences for these immoral decisions.

I dare say more people know the name Barack Obama, than George Wallace.

~~~

“And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live – a long life; longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will.” Its not about our personal comfort, its about what side of history do we want to be on, do we want to look back with regret that we didn’t stand up to bigotry and vile verbal rhetoric?

[I’m not perfect, not at all, but I know God is with me.] “And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. [I may never see the Lion lay down with the Lamb, but]…  I’ve seen the Promised Land [in glimpses here and there, in the faces of our children]. I may not get there with you. [you might not get there either]. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, [we] will get to the Promised Land!”

~~~

We’re better than the Alien and Sedition Acts, we’re better than the Know-Nothings; we’re better than Jim Crowe and McCarthyism… Every time we have been challenged from our believe in this New Jerusalem, every time we have been knocked down like the Second Temple itself, we have stood up taller, and held our hands out to more people, bringing those huddled masses yearning to be free. Amen, we will rise, we will rise. This is our country and we will make it better, with more hope, and more love, for more people and stare down the voices of fear and xenophobia… 12 score and two years ago, our Founding Fathers set forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all white male landowners were are created equal… but we didn’t stop there, we rose higher, we stood taller and recognized that landowner or not, free or slave, male or female, we are all created equal.

~~~

Now we are engaged in a great civil [debate], testing whether this nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated to protecting the freedom and liberty of people we might not like, who might look differently than us, that might pray differently than us, we are being tested to see how can long endure. We meet daily on a great battle-field of that war: social media, partisan news, blind following of our ideological politicians.

We have to dedicate a portion of that battlefield, as an oasis of peace, a final resting place for those who gave their lives that that nation might live in harmony. Amen, tt is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. [But it is a lot harder to do than to say.]

But, in a larger sense, we cannot stop. Think of those who have gone before, who struggled here, before us. The world will little note, nor long remember what I say here on podcasts or social media, but the world can never forget what we have done together already as a nation. It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which our forebearers fought for already and have thus far so nobly advanced.

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored aliens among us, those too who love differently and pray differently. We must take increased devotion to that cause for which others gave the last full measure of their devotion—that we here highly resolve that the women, Native Americans, West Africans, Catholics immigrants, Japanese-Americans, African-Americans and Gay Americans shall not have struggled and died in vain

—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.