The witch hunt has begun in Crazytown. Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman reports that Trump is on the warpath to uncover officials who spoke with Bob Woodward to disparage him. But perhaps Trump should start by narrowing his focus. Today, the New York Times has published an extraordinary anonymous op-ed aimed squarely at exposing the danger Trump represents for America. It is written by a senior official in the Trump administration who echoes the impassioned criticisms of the Never Trumpers and who may even have undergone something of a conversion experience.
There can be no doubting that the language is stark. The writer indicates that he is part of a wider resistance inside the administration that seeks to contain, if not subvert, Trump. The diagnosis of the senior official, which surely represents that of many of his or her coevals, is bound to enrage Trump: ‘The dilemma — which he does not fully grasp — is that many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.’ The writer continues, ‘we believe our first duty is to this country, and the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic. 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.’
Consistent with the Never Trump line, the President is depicted as steeped in amorality, a phony conservative and a foreign policy naif. To add insult to injury, the essayist cites Trump’s greatest foe as an apostle of the true American spirit in his peroration. ‘Senator John McCain put it best in his farewell letter,’ we are told. ‘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. We may no longer have Senator McCain. But we will always have his example — a lodestar for restoring honour to public life and our national dialogue. Mr. Trump may fear such honorable men, but we should revere them.’
Eliot A. Cohen, a stalwart of the Never Trump movement, could hardly have put it better. That a senior official in Trump’s administration would feel moved to put pen to paper, or more likely, finger to keyboard, to voice these dire sentiments is further evidence that Trump is tanking. Almost no day goes by in which the president is not besieged on one front or another. Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump are said to have met with Trump shortly after McCain’s funeral to tell him that it’s all over unless he can demonstrate some impulse control and deal with the Washington establishment. This is probably wishful thinking. Trump is more likely to double down.
But it’s increasingly unlikely that he can successfully resist the resistance in his own midst. Poor Trump. He must often feel as though he is operating in a hall of mirrors. His moves to uncover leakers, after all, are themselves leaked within minutes to the press. Now his own officials are taking to the op-ed pages of major newspapers to denounce him as a fake.