‘’Amoral and Idiotic’’: Republican Heroism or Strategic Ploy?

by Jedidja van Boven

In the words of a former White House official: it’s open season on the president.

A sudden op-ed letter, written by an anonymous senior administration official working for the Trump administration, was published by the New York Times last Wednesday in a frantic government-press clash that is “unprecedented’’, as stated by Times reporter Jodi Kantor.

The author of the damning piece (available to read here) outlines the turmoil within the White House, painting a picture of a team of heroic, John McCain-esque Republicans who attempt to rein in president Trump’s erratic behavior. ‘Anonymous’ deplores Trump’s “amorality’’ and his criticism of bureaucracy, describing numerous incidents where Trump suddenly changed his mind about important policy changes. He even reports on White House staff considering impeaching Trump using the 25thAmendment.

The letter’s timing could have not been much worse for Trump: just one day prior, Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Bob Woodward (renowned for his work on the Watergate scandal during the Nixon presidency) had released excerpts from his upcoming book Fear, set to release on September 11. The highly anticipated work, which includes statements from staff officials who doubt Trump’s capability to be in office, was slammed by the president as consisting of “lies’’ and “phony sources’’.

With all the ruckus surrounding the op-ed piece, the New York Times is experiencing an ethical dilemma for journalists- are the other Times employees supposed to determine the identity of the author or should the op-ed and editorial sections keep this information for themselves? The newspaper’s writers for the news section work independently from the editorial staff, and they are feeling pressure from the public and Trump himself to reveal the author’s name.

Trump was livid, calling both the piece and its author “gutless’’ and demanding that the person in question be turned over to authorities immediately. His growing paranoia that the staff closest to him is systematically revolting against him was evident through a cryptic tweet only containing the word “TREASON?’’. However, according to former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti, the author has no legal liability: treason is limited to formal war situations, and though revealing classified information is a crime, ‘Anonymous’ did nothing of the sort.

Interestingly, some critics have theorized that the letter might be a Republican ploy, released conveniently in the buildup to the midterm elections this November. Fabiola Santiago, a writer for the Miami Herald, argues that the message might be a strategic move from the Republican party to distance itself from Trump’s confusing frenzy, in hopes of securing votes for moderate candidates in so-called purple states (also known as ‘swing states’ where neither Democrats nor Republicans have a strong majority). Santiago adds that ‘Anonymous’ didn’t exactly reveal anything new about Trump: his impulsive reactions, narcissism, and rash decision-making were known to the public already. The message, then, is that there are brave Republicans trying to stop the titan known as Donald Trump, and voters should support these brave soldiers in Washington D.C.

Authors like Santiago are also afraid that the Times publication will discourage people from voting, instead relying on the author’s allegations that there are “adults in the room’’ who are withholding Trump from doing anything too harmful. She is not the only one to press for voting in November- President Obama also called for people to do so in a surprisingly direct speech aimed at Trump and his recent behavior.

A Republican attempt to influence voting patterns for the midterm elections would be understandable. It is common for the so-called “out-party’’ to accumulate a certain amount of wins during these elections, which are essential for gaining political dominance in Congress. In this case, however, many expect a more dramatic, landslide-type victory for the Democrats. Political science professor Barry Burden states that “Democrats are sure to make gains in November, but it remains to be seen whether it resembles the normal amount (…) or whether it will snowball into a thunderous victory like what Republicans delivered in 2010 (…) 2018 could be a historic wave in the Democrats’ favor’’.

This thought is supported by the election process so far, as 2018 has become a record-breaking year for women in the Democratic party already. There are more women than ever who filed to run and minorities are also well-represented in the candidate population. Examples include Ayanna Presley (first black Congresswoman from Massachusetts) and Stacey Abrams (first African-American to be nominated for state governor). In addition, transgender, Muslim, Native American, LGBTQ, and Latina women are present in the political field, many of whom are expected to occupy a major position for the first time in American history.

In short, with a scathing exposition in the New York Times, an upcoming book in a similar tone, and challenging prospects in the November elections, Trump has a lot on his plate. His staff will have to await his response to Woodward’s claims in Fear, as well as the impact of the election results.

 

Jedidja van Boven, Class of 2020, is a Politics, Law, and Anthropology Major, from Oosterwolde, Netherlands

 

Sources:

Featured Image: http://rooseveltinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/shutterstock_353116961-1000×600.jpg

 

CALDERONE, M., SCHWARTZ, J., RESTUCCIA, A., JOHNSON, E., CADELAGO, C., & KARNI, A. et al. (2018). With anonymous op-ed, it’s Times vs. Times. Retrieved from https://www.politico.com/story/2018/09/05/trump-anonymous-new-york-times-oped-809111

Gaudiano, N. (2018). Midterms: Here are women candidates making history this election cycle. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/elections/2018/09/06/midterms-here-women-candidates-making-history-election-cycle/1149535002/

RESTUCCIA, A., JOHNSON, E., CADELAGO, C., KARNI, A., OPRYSKO, C., & OPRYSKO, C. et al. (2018). ‘It’s open season on the president’: Op-ed unleashes West Wing meltdown.Retrieved from https://www.politico.com/story/2018/09/05/trump-official-comes-out-against-the-president-in-anonymous-times-op-ed-808714

Shafer, J. (2018). Can Trump Prosecute the NYT’s Secret Op-Ed Writer?. Retrieved from https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/09/06/new-york-times-anonymous-op-ed-trump-prosecute-liability-219734

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