The writer claims he or she and others are sticking with President Donald Trump out of a sense of patriotic duty, “to preserve our democratic institutions” in the face of Trump’s acting “in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic.” The writer says that “although he was elected as a Republican, the president shows little affinity for ideals long espoused by conservatives: free minds, free markets and free people.”
But the motives of the writer are suspect because the piece is anonymous. Contrary to the implication of the Times’ headline, the writer stated that he or she and others inside the Trump administration who are trying to thwart the president’s “misguided impulses” nonetheless “want the administration to succeed and think that many of its policies have already made America safer and more prosperous.”
So is the writer someone trying to preserve what’s left of the GOP ― seeing Trump’s coming demise ― by attempting to separate it and its values from Trump and his values? Or is it someone with a much shorter-term political strategy? As the midterm elections approach and Republicans face possible major losses, is the writer trying to reassure educated white suburban Republicans and independents who voted for Trump but who are now fleeing the party that there’s nothing to worry about because the writer and others have mitigated Trump’s destructiveness while using him to further the GOP agenda?
It could be these or any other political or personal motives, but the fact that the Times granted anonymity leaves us only to speculate. That’s a major dereliction of the paper’s journalistic mission. There is no valid reason to allow this individual to write anonymously while promoting the supposedly great things Trump has done, noting “bright spots” such as “effective deregulation, historic tax reform, a more robust military and more” while failing to answer for the administration’s racist, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ and anti-poor policies, among other things.
This is similar to giving anonymity to sources in news stories who have no legitimate reason to be anonymous except to provide access to the reporter. Readers can’t judge the motives of the source and what interests the story might serve for that person or others.
The op-ed writer in this case is allowed to anonymously position drastic actions as something the individuals and others have entertained but decided against, instead sticking with Trump, trying to control him and now asking the public to trust them.
That is ludicrous and self-serving. The official tells us that using the 25th Amendment to remove Trump was considered among Cabinet officials early on but that they decided against it so as not to precipitate a constitutional crisis.
But the amendment was put in place in 1965 precisely to avoid a crisis regarding succession and allows a process in which the vice president and the Cabinet, along with Congress, deem the president unfit to serve and have the vice president succeed him. The country is in the midst of a terrible political crisis right now, with a president implicated in a federal crime ― paying off women to stay silent about stories that would likely have harmed his ability to win the election ― that makes his presidency illegitimate.
“It appears the writer is less afraid of a constitutional crisis and more afraid of a revolt within the GOP, the base of which still supports Trump by a huge majority.”
If the 25th Amendment would ever be used, now is the time. But it appears the writer is less afraid of a constitutional crisis and more afraid of a revolt within the GOP, the base of which still supports Trump by a huge majority. The response would be massive, and Trump would stoke the anger relentlessly. The GOP would split and ultimately tumble further, likely losing power for years to come.
And yet this writer was allowed by the Times to anonymously promote the strictly partisan idea that it’s best to allow Trump to continue to advance the GOP agenda while trusting unnamed individuals to control Trump’s “amorality.” That is not a patriotic act but one of gross self-interest for the individual and his or her party. No one should condone allowing a reckless, unstable man to continue to be president just to save a party and its policies. Even Trump is right to call the official “gutless” and to lambaste the Times for allowing the person to remain anonymous.
But now that it’s done, at least a national, serious conversation can begin about the 25th Amendment. Trump’s inner circle, we now know, raised this option, and one of them has now thrust that into the public consciousness as a real solution.
Resisting Trump necessarily means working to remove him from office. It’s past time for those who care to take that up.
Michelangelo Signorile is an editor-at-large for HuffPost. Follow him on Twitter at @msignorile.