Francis Moriarty: The 'steady state' strikes back
WILLIAMSTOWN — Americans should worry about the extraordinary decision by the New York Times to run an unsigned opinion piece describing a shadowy group of White House staffers as working in damage control and so scared by an erratic Donald Trump that there were "whispers" of declaring him unfit for office.
Down what rabbit hole — or, maybe, mole hole — have we tumbled? What is this "essay," as the Times calls it, if not an artful, carefully timed and disingenuous call for a palace coup?
The piece is titled: "I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration." The writer purports to be among a circle of senior staffers who support Trump's policies, but not Trump himself, viewing him as so dangerously unqualified by intellect and temperament that they struggle to frustrate his governance.
This is no ordinary op-ed piece. It's an indictment. Like Shakespeare's Marc Antony delivering his funeral oration for Julius Caesar, this writer has come to bury Trump, not to praise him.
The nameless writer defends this usurpation: "That is why many 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."
You don't need to be a Trump defender to raise your eyebrows at a statement that presents an inner circle's entitlement to power as a defense of democracy.
This is heady stuff. Even during the Watergate era, the anonymous source Deep Throat gave leads to Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, but then left them to follow the money and the facts. Deep Throat did not publish an anonymous broadside devoid of facts, anecdotes or quotes.
The Times calls publishing this op-ed a "rare step." That's definitive understatement. Everything about this is unprecedented. The author, like the soothsayer who warned Caesar about the Ides of March, is signaling the gathering of forces to usher Trump out the door — vertically or horizontally is unspecified.
In some places, this op-ed would be considered seditious, subversive and even treasonous. Prosecution would be swift, with little or no free press or fair comment defense, and no protection of sources (if "source" is a proper designation for those who write their own story).
America is not — yet — one of those societies. But Trump is calling for an investigation on national security grounds and asking if such opinionating should be criminalized. If that were to happen, it would not just damage America, it would be a body blow for freedom and democracy everywhere.
In a world of conspiracies fabricated by crazies, state actors and Trump himself, it's been suggested that the op-ed was spawned not just in the White House, but even by it.
The Times defends the anonymity, saying the broadside's author is a senior official whose job would be jeopardized if revealed. Given the stakes, who gives a damn about his job?
The signers of the Declaration of Independence called for insurrection, knowing the punishment if captured. They signed anyway. Why should this alleged staffer show less principle? Little wonder the author has been dubbed "Sheep Throat."
But why write this now? Is the "deep state" so enraged by Trump's dismantlement of the policy establishment that it wants to take him down?
The op-ed contributor sought to preemptively rebut such speculation, writing: "This isn't the work of the so-called deep state. It's the work of the steady state."
There has been a staccato of events closely attending the op-ed piece. Take the funeral of Sen. John McCain, attended by the coterie of civilian and military leaders that have led the U.S. into every war over the last six decades, starting with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Trump, specifically disinvited, was conspicuous by his exclusion.
The op-ed writer also had these funeral rites in mind: "Sen. John McCain put it best in his farewell letter. All Americans should heed his words and break free of the tribalism trap, with the high aim of uniting through our shared values and love of this great nation."
You can almost see the dagger plunging.
Then we have Bob Woodward's book, "Fear," a dissection of the Trump presidency that includes anecdotes, names and dates, along with unattributed quotes. It depicts an administration where top officials work to resist Trump's basest instincts and undermine his wishes.
Add to that yet more damaging audio tape from Omarosa Manigault, the former Trump advisor and "Apprentice" hire recently fired from her White House job. Trump is heard talking about the deaths of U.S. soldiers in Niger to an audience that, she says, included very junior staffers. She says it shows "how unhinged and inappropriate" Trump is..
Who benefits from the op-ed's publication? The early line in Las Vegas points to Vice-President Mike Pence. Omarosa has suggested Pence's staff. For now, it's anybody's guess.
Sen. Rand Paul is urging Trump to force all administration officials to take lie-detector tests. The witch-hunt is underway. Can loyalty oaths be far behind?
It is right to be concerned about Trump's polarizing governance, with its stench of corruption. But we also need to worry about the Constitution and the importance of elections.
Things do not augur well. Speaking of auguries, when Caesar heard the soothsayer call out his warning, he asked a question that could have added meaning today.
"Who is it in the press that calls on me?"
Francis Moriarty writes about government and foreign policy for The Eagle.
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