It’s been a rough few days for Mr. Trump. Earlier this week, it was announced that respected journalist and author Bob Woodward is about to release a damning book that details the sheer incompetence and stupidity of the President. This isn’t the first book examining the chaos within Trump’s administration, but it is the first written by a credible, respected author. Then, yesterday, an anonymous letter was published by the New York Times. This article was allegedly written by a senior Trump official who self-identifies as part of the “Resistance.” It is important to note, though, that the author of the article seems to use the term “Resistance” to mean something other than the left-wing, anti-Trump movement within the United States. All of this comes as Trump is tanking in the polls and the Democrats seem increasingly likely to retake the House. So, how should one interpret this article?
My immediate reaction upon reading it was one of glee. After all, I have been writing for years about Trump’s ineptitude and sophomoric understanding of the world, and it feels good to be vindicated. Indeed, if the NYT article is to be believed, Trump has lost the respect and trust of many of his most senior staff. These aren’t the civil servants and bureaucrats of the “deep state,” they are literally people he appointed! However, the article also has me concerned.
First, some have speculated that this could be some kind of false flag operation organized by the Bannon loyalists still within the White House. This seems unlikely given the thorough purging that has occurred under Kelly. And while I’ve been underwhelmed by the judgment displayed by the New York Times’ editorial board, I still doubt that they would allow themselves to be so easily played. The narrative is still plausible, though, because the article seems entirely self-defeating. If a group within the White House is discreetly attempting to steer Trump’s decisions, why on earth would they publicly announce this to the world? This would seem to only make their stated mission more difficult. Indeed, Trump has reportedly become increasingly paranoid and closed off since this article and news of Woodward’s book were released. The only real explanation I can think of is that the individual behind this article is about to leave and is seeking to rehabilitate his or her reputation. If this is the case, however, it would seem to undercut the author’s contention that he or she is attempting to keep the ship steady until Trump is removed from the helm.
An alternative explanation is that this is part of some deeper palace intrigue. Trump himself used chaos and confusion to great effect throughout the 2016 election, so it’s not implausible to think that someone has simply begun using his own tactics against him. Sometimes it makes strategic sense to spread instability in order to paralyze people and institutions and spread fear. This is certainly a disturbing thought, but some group could simply be trying to push Trump’s buttons until he slips up. Given how erratic the man is, though, I’m very skeptical that this will be a winning strategy. If anything, it will only make Trump crazier and more dangerous.
For what it’s worth, I’m convinced that a coordinated string of resignations would be a far more effective approach for forcing GOP officials to take the threat posed by Trump seriously. The “adults in the room” are little more than enablers at this point, and a two-track state is neither healthy nor sustainable in a democratic system. I think a lot of these self-professed “grown-ups” are naive morons who think that they can control Trump. They quite obviously can’t, and they are endangering the country by supporting someone they know is abjectly unqualified all so that they can cling to power and influence. If people like Mattis and Kelly truly think the things they allegedly do about Trump, they should go public and resign. Then, Congress and the American people could get the full picture and hear candid assessments from top officials. As Bryan McGrath points out, “This would create an untenable position for the Republicans on the Hill–one in which the very men they venerate would be the ones telling them that the President should be removed.” I don’t know if this action would result in Trump’s removal from office, but it would certainly clarify the issues and end this absurd two-track presidency.
If you are interested in this article and want to read some smart takes from political scientists and national security analysts, here are a few that I highly recommend: