Today, I am taking the rare step of publishing a satirical Op-Ed essay. I have done so at the request of “the author,” a senior official in the Trump administration whose identity is known only to myself and whose future income streams would be jeopardized if this were not published. We believe publishing this essay anonymously is the only way to provide readers with the opportunity for rampant speculation.
President Donald Trump is facing a test to his presidency unlike any faced by a modern American leader, and that was before an anonymous Op-Ed from a senior administration official was published last week by the New York Times.
The dilemma — which I know he does not fully grasp because I am so much smarter than him — is that many senior officials are working to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.
I would know. I am one of them. Yes, me! You will never guess who I am, either, until and unless my memoir comes out and I own up to this Op-Ed.
To be clear, I am not part of the popular “resistance” of the left. Neither am I part of the “Never Trump” resistance of the right that rejected him in 2016. I am not part of the educated middle-class “resistance” of those offended by the president’s comments about Charlottesville. Or those decent Americans offended by the family separation policies. Or those foreign policy enthusiasts offended by the president’s performance in Helsinki. Or the economically literate appalled by the president’s trade wars. No, mine is the quiet resistance of someone serving America first, making the hard decisions, and publishing anonymous Op-Eds to assuage the guilt of aiding and abetting this awful, awful man.
Many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office. I was all set to be the first to write an anonymous Op-Ed from inside the White House, but someone beat me to the punch. But I am not bitter, for we are now coming forth en masse. This will drive Trump even more nuts, and that will definitely help to preserve our democratic institutions.
Indeed, I am writing this because nothing is more democratic than ignoring what our elected commander in chief wants and then telling you coastal elite readers that we are doing it. But not resigning. Or saying anything with attribution. That is a key part of this quiet resistance.
The root of the problem is the president’s amorality. Anyone who works with him knows he is not moored to any discernible first principles. Fortunately, there are those of us with firm principles, which we will make clear in anonymous essays like this one. I should have been the first one, but that other anonymous person beat me to it. Darn my slow writing skills!
Don’t get me wrong. There are bright spots that the near-ceaseless negative coverage of the administration fails to capture: tax reform, a fully staffed judiciary branch, and all those times Jared and Ivanka said that they were ready to move on. They really are clods, you know.
But these successes have come because of what the quiet resistance did, not because of the president’s leadership style, which is impetuous, adversarial, petty and far more transparent.
Meetings with him veer off topic and off the rails, he engages in repetitive, redundant rants, and his impulsiveness results in half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless ramblings that seem to have no end, just a droning of words going on and on until you have forgotten the original purpose of the conversation. He is certainly not my lodestar. That’s right, I can use the word “lodestar” to throw people off the scent, too.
“There is literally no telling whether he might change his mind from one minute to the next; wait, why are you standing so close to me? Are you recording this? Are you Omarosa-ing me?!” a top official complained to me recently, exasperated by an Oval Office meeting in which the president double-crossed him on a major policy decision.
It may be cold comfort in this chaotic era, but Americans should know that there are adults in the room. We fully recognize what is happening, we read the polls, and so we are writing everything down and covering our bases for our memoirs in a few years. We are trying to soften the ground for a hard landing even when Donald Trump won’t. Surely, this will help salvage our reputations.
The result is a two-track presidency. On one track, the quiet resistance offers anonymous quotes to mainstream media reporters, trying to get the word out about what is going on inside the West Wing. On another track, we are offering anonymous quotes to book-writers and Op-Ed pages.
This isn’t the work of the so-called deep state. It’s the work of the anonymous-but-very-noble state.
Given the instability many witnessed, there were early whispers within the Cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment. But no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis. Publishing this, on the heels of the Woodward book and the other anonymous Op-Ed that should have come out after mine, and the myriad anonymous quotes in the press, is much better. No way this enrages a president who acts like a toddler a lot to lash out. So we will leak what we can to steer the administration in the right direction until it’s over and our cable-news contributor fee is locked down.
The bigger concern is not what Trump has done to the presidency but rather what sinecure I will find once his administration ends. Will I be invited to summer parties on Martha’s Vineyard? Is that a problem for all Trump-affiliated individuals, or is this a more Dershowitz-specific problem?
There is a quiet-but-not-really-quiet-if-you-know-what-I-mean resistance within the administration of people choosing to buy some goodwill if a Democratic-controlled House starts issuing subpoenas. But the real difference will be made by everyday citizens rising above politics, and remembering that I was secretly one of the good guys when my identity is revealed. We are the ones who talk a lot about reaching across the aisle and shedding labels when people are mad at the administration. Doing so would help me out. And if there is any lesson for you to draw from this, it is that what is good for me is good for America.
Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He wrote this for the Washington Post.