Criticizing the New York Times opinion page is a favorite pastime of the internet, as its climate change denialists and outright falsehood peddlers have taken up refuge in the only part of the newspaper that would print their incorrect assertions, but today, we entered a whole new realm of insanity. This isn’t as clear-cut a violation as printing provable falsehoods from braindead pundits making six figures a year, but there are plenty of journalists out there who are uncomfortable with this extraordinary act. Per the Times:
The Times today is taking the rare step of publishing an anonymous Op-Ed essay. We have done so at the request of the author, a senior official in the Trump administration whose identity is known to us and whose job would be jeopardized by its disclosure. We believe publishing this essay anonymously is the only way to deliver an important perspective to our readers. We invite you to submit a question about the essay or our vetting process here.
Before we get into the self-flagellating prose in the op-ed, I want to highlight why this is such an astounding decision. If a reporter had brought these exact same claims to the New York Times, but only supported by one source who refused to go on the record, they wouldn’t print it without more corroborating evidence. The essence of journalism is verifiable claims, and the Times has printed something that we simply must trust is true. Plus, the NYT has now created a tremendous amount of friction between its news department and its op-ed page, as this NYT investigative reporter highlighted.
Or is the entire newspaper bound by the promise of anonymity? I don't think so, but this is fascinating. Not sure if there's precedent.— jodikantor (@jodikantor) September 5, 2018
Journalism is supposed to be unbiased towards anything but the truth, and this op-ed is clearly biased in favor of the perspective of the person who wrote it, and there is no counterweight to their claims. The writer literally calls themselves and their cohorts “unsung heroes.” It's maddening that the Times would give space to someone making astounding assertions like this without forcing them to go on the record or at least contribute independent reporting to verify some of the remarkable statements in the op-ed, like this one:
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. But no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis. So we will do what we can to steer the administration in the right direction until — one way or another — it's over.
The closing paragraph is dripping with so much condescension and smug self-satisfaction that you'd expect it to come out of the mouth of a politician. I mean, they literally named their faction the “steady state.”
There is a quiet resistance within the administration of people choosing to put country first. But the real difference will be made by everyday citizens rising above politics, reaching across the aisle and resolving to shed the labels in favor of a single one: Americans.
If you worked for someone you deemed to be unstable, and believed their instability was such a danger to the country that you felt that potentially removing them from office was a justifiable act, how does publishing an op-ed that's certain to enrage them accomplish the goal of the “steady state”?
Answer: it doesn't. This is an exercise in self-branding, and it's almost certainly related to this BuzzFeed report from back in March:
A former White House official said he's spoken with more aides inside the White House who are trying to leave the administration, but not necessarily getting the kinds of high-paying offers in the corporate world as former aides usually do.
“Things are still pretty bleak inside the White House,” the source said. “I've talked to several people in the last week trying to find a way out, but they can't get out because no one is really hiring people with Trump White House experience. Not a fun time to say the least.”
Per this op-ed writer's own logic, Trump himself is such a danger to the country that removing him from office was a topic from day one, but they have worked tirelessly to advance policies that help Trump's image and make that goal less likely. This is bonkers, and it's clearly about rehabilitating the image of people that D.C. has deemed to be unemployable.
I Am Willing to Sacrifice Anything to Protect Our Democracy, Up to But Not Including Losing an Election or Giving Up Literally Any Policy That I Support: A Hero's Story— James Poniewozik (@poniewozik) September 5, 2018
The lesson as always from the Trump era is that the only difference between Donald Trump and the Republican Party is style and temperament. A report comes out every other week detailing how Chief of Staff, John Kelly, thinks that Trump is a manchild who shouldn't be trusted to handle a pair of scissors without decapitating himself, but he still gleefully instituted Trump's family separation policy, reflecting Trump's lack of conscience when he said the children he separated would be “put into foster care or whatever” (“or whatever” also means literal concentration camps).
The Republican Party is Donald Trump and Donald Trump is the Republican Party. Don't let any GOP official—anonymous or otherwise—convince you that what we are witnessing isn't the logical conclusion of years of outright contempt for the very concept of democracy.
UPDATE: Just as this article published, the administration released their response to the NYT op-ed, including an outright lie. The Times did not “issue an apology” for its coverage of the 2016 election.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.