So-called investigative reporters rely a lot, so far as I can tell, on anonymous sources. What then happens is that they file a story under their own name and earn the fame or bear the consequences depending on whether the story turns out to be true or false. There is now a more novel approach which cuts out the middleman. The anonymous source is given prime space in a mainstream newspaper to speak for himself, or is it herself, or is it, perhaps, someone in gender transition. Think of the traitorous Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning as an apt role model.
That some nameless person would be given space to write an op-ed in The New York Times is surely beyond extraordinary and unethical. A senior official in the Trump administration (so claims the newspaper) was given the opportunity on September 6 to spread dirt on Donald Trump behind a veil of anonymity. And vague, non-specific, dirt at that. Put yourself in Trump’s position. Put yourself in the position of anyone besmirched in general terms by Mr or Ms or Mx Anonymous. How do you effectively defend yourself?
Let me give you some quotes from the op-ed.
“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.” Note the ‘we’. No examples were provided of these misguided impulses; not one. Just suppose it is true for the sake of the argument. Have you ever had a misguided impulse? I have had too many to count. Luckily, I haven’t acted on absolutely all of them. But that is why it is a good idea for presidents, any leaders, to surround themselves with competent people. Does anyone think, for example, that Mike Pence, Generals Kelly and Mattis, Mike Pompeo and Steve Mnuchin are not competent.
“The root of the problem is the president’s amorality.” And the evidence given for this: “Anyone who works with him knows that he is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision making.” It is scurrilous beyond words to accuse anyone of acting amorally, and to boot anonymously, without instancing specific cases. For example, Trump has emphasized the need to bring back mining and manufacturing jobs and to see wages rising. And he is succeeding. He continually points with pride to record low unemployment among African-Americans and Hispanics. That all seems pretty moral to me.
I seriously doubt whether Ronald Reagan or Margaret Thatcher had well-honed first principles to guide their policies. They both, so far as I could tell, had homespun philosophies which served them well. My observation is that Trump is a pragmatist with laudable objectives – all of which he campaigned on. And the results so far are good and many and on the board. (The list is much too long to record. Refer to Conservapedia.[i])
“Don’t get me wrong,” the writer says. “There are bright spots that the near-ceaseless negative coverage of the administration [you can say that again] fails to capture: effective deregulation, historic tax reform, a more robust military and more.” No wonder major economic reforms and better securing the nation are not covered when they are merely bright spots. Doesn’t this just illustrate how silly is this op-ed that the NYTs thought so much of?
But there is more. These bright spots “have come despite — not because of – the president’s leadership style, which is impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective”. Go figure. Trump campaigned on tax cuts, deregulation and strengthening the military. All three have been done. Yet they have been done despite him. Trump derangement syndrome can turn black into white on a dime.
The op-ed continues in the same personally disparaging vein with references to unnamed senior officials privately admitting their disbelief and trying to frustrate Trump’s worst inclinations; to an exasperated top official; to astute observers commenting negatively; to some of his aides keeping his bad decisions contained; and to whispers in cabinet about invoking the 25th Amendment – which allows the vice-president and the cabinet to remove a president from office pending a decision by congress. Anonymity built on anonymity. Ne’er a name in sight.
This thoroughly contemptible hit piece ends by referring to John McCain’s public farewell letter. A passing thought. God give us the grace to die without writing a platitudinous and, thinly disguised, vindictive farewell letter. “We weaken it [our greatness] when we hide behind walls, rather than tear them down,” McCain wrote pointedly. Unsurprisingly, one Trump hater (the anonymous writer) eulogizes another (McCain). “Mr Trump may fear such honorable men, but we should revere them.” Mawkish hooey!
A final thought. Does the op-ed writer actually exist? Maybe the NYTs made ‘him’ up. Fake news as it were. But let us assume that the writer exists and is who ‘he’ is made out to be. It seems to me to present an ideal opportunity for those intrepid reporters Woodward and Bernstein to relive their fading glory and score yet another scoop by uncovering the identity of the anonymous source.