One day after leaked tidbits from Bob Woodward's forthcoming book about the Trump administration painted the White House as a toxic work environment full of people who hate Donald Trump and ignore or else actively undermine his orders, an anonymous New York Times op-ed from a "senior official" in the administration emphasized just how fucked things have gotten at the most important address in the world.
"Many of the senior officials in [Trump's] own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations," the author writes in the piece, titled "I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration." The Times rarely publishes anonymous op-eds, and it's a remarkable document that shows how much disdain Trump's own subordinates have for him. It also shows the kind of mental contortions Republican officials have to go through in order to show up for work every day.
The author is clearly a conservative who backs Trump's most important policy initiatives, including the tax cuts, the stripping of regulations, and the ramping up of military spending. The problem they have with Trump isn't so much political as it is personal. Apparently Trump is just as unhinged behind closed doors as he is in public, with the writer calling the president an "amoral" man who has "anti-democratic" impulses and a leadership style that is "impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective":
From the White House to executive branch departments and agencies, senior officials will privately admit their daily disbelief at the commander in chief’s comments and actions. Most are working to insulate their operations from his whims.
Meetings with him veer off topic and off the rails, he engages in repetitive rants, and his impulsiveness results in half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless decisions that have to be walked back.
All that tracks with previous reporting about Trump's White House, including Woodward's book, which describes cabinet officials literally stealing papers off of Trump's desk so he can't sign particularly extreme orders (the president apparently doesn't notice). But actually, the problem isn't any of this, the author writes: "The bigger concern is not what Mr. Trump has done to the presidency but rather what we as a nation have allowed him to do to us. We have sunk low with him and allowed our discourse to be stripped of civility." The solution to this, the author concludes, is "everyday citizens rising above politics, reaching across the aisle and resolving to shed the labels in favor of a single one: Americans." One imagines a field of American flags waving at dusk while John McCain looks down from heaven in approval.
No doubt the official's account of the administration is at least largely accurate—the White House didn't even claim it was fake news, just called on the author to resign. But this patriotic slurry is pretty gross. Trump couldn't have been elected had his conspiracy theories and nonsense not been promoted by the conservative establishment and right-wing media both before and during his long, ugly campaign. His amorality and anti-democratic impulses clearly appealed to the GOP electorate, and any accounting of his presidency (especially one coming from inside the administration) should at least try to grapple with that fact.
As for the notion that Americans need to "rise above politics": horseshit. The Times author is doing no such thing—he may be part of an alliance of officials checking Trump's impulses in areas like foreign policy, but they would not be working for a man they regard as a would-be tyrant if Trump didn't also support a bigger military and tax giveaways for the rich. Many in the GOP probably share the views of the op-ed, but rising above politics—by, at a minimum, demanding to see Trump's tax returns—is precisely what they are refusing to do.
If the op-ed represents the values of the Republican Party, no wonder it was so easy for a pathological liar most famous for pretending to be a billionaire on TV to take it over. The "nation" did not cause Trump's rise—feckless GOP elites did by stoking racial resentment and telling their base for years that the mainstream media was lying to them. That this official is taking his account to that same mainstream media instead of the right-wing press proves how much disdain top Republicans have for the outlets that support them.
In other words, ignore this mole's splashy headline. The author sounds right at home in the Trump administration.
Follow Harry Cheadle on Twitter.