Fabiola Santiago

Is anonymous New York Times op-ed an act of courage — or a Republican ploy?

President Donald Trump replies to a journalist during a meeting with sheriffs at the White House in Washington, DC, on September 5, 2018. Trump was responding to an anonymous senior official who wrote an op-ed article entitled “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration” in The New York Times on Sept. 5.
President Donald Trump replies to a journalist during a meeting with sheriffs at the White House in Washington, DC, on September 5, 2018. Trump was responding to an anonymous senior official who wrote an op-ed article entitled “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration” in The New York Times on Sept. 5. AFP/Getty Images

After my first reading of “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration” — the extraordinary anonymous opinion piece in the New York Times by a senior administration official — I couldn’t help but make a pop culture connection.

Somebody spent his or her long Labor Day Weekend binge-watching “The Handmaid’s Tale” until the last gripping episode of Season 2, I thought.

Apologies for the semi-spoiler, but something similar happens in Margaret Atwood’s fictional story about a United States that allows right-wing religious zealots to take the reins of the government, enslave women, and brutally quash the most minuscule form of dissent.

Just when you think there aren’t any sane, brave, good people left in a nation that has lost its moral compass and sense of human dignity, the heroes come out of the woodwork to save the day.

And that’s what the writer of this op-ed purports is happening in President Donald Trump’s administration. He/she wants us to walk away with the idea that an army of ethical John McCain Republicans are selflessly serving “to thwart parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.”

I’m skeptical of the ultimate goal of this disclosure.

The more I re-read and take the piece apart, the more I suspect this seemingly courageous coming out — a coup of sorts to some, “Treason!” to Trump — is a clever Republican strategy to distance the party and its moderate candidates in purple states from a president in crisis just in time for the midterm elections.

They’ve seen the election results in states like Florida, where Republicans are trying to hang on to congressional and state Legislature seats, plus the governor’s mansion. Dominant before Trump, they’ve been on a losing streak to Democrats the last two years.

Don’t get me wrong.

I don’t doubt Anonymous’ authenticity. (I’ve so nicknamed this self-described Trump appointee for the practical writer reasons of not repeating the he or she. Most pundits only throw around names of prominent men in the administration, Mattis, Pence, Pompeo, as possible authors but they don’t know us women).

While speaking in New Delhi on Sept. 6, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo denied writing an opinion piece published in the New York Times. An anonymous senior administration official claimed to be part of a “resistance” working inside the White House.

The criticism of Trump is on-point and damning, as it should be, as it has no other way to be for an unindicted co-conspirator in a federal crime who surrounded himself with associates who are now felons.

“The root of the problem is the president’s amorality,” Anonymous writes. “Anyone who works with him knows he is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision making. 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. At best,he has invoked these ideals in scripted settings. At worst, he has attacked them outright.”

Anonymous goes on to denounce Trump’s “mass-marketing of the notion that the press is the ‘enemy of the people,’” and says his “impulses are generally anti-trade and anti-democratic.”

That’s great to finally hear from an insider, but Anonymous isn’t revealing something we don’t already know about Trump. On the other hand, couched between every criticism of Trump is the premise that Republicans like Anonymous have “made America safer and more prosperous” despite him.

I don’t know about you, but I’m hearing code for disastrous immigration policy and a tax plan that gave a permanent tax-cut to the very wealthy and a temporary one to the rest of us.

So, I get it, they’re finally on the page of dignity on the issue of Trump.

But I’m not that impressed because the one thing you can say on behalf of Trump is that even though he paid to silence a stripper with whom he had an affair, and then lied about it, he has seldom hidden his rottenness. Neither during the campaign nor the beginning of the presidency when White House watchers were foolishly waiting for the “presidential pivot,” he’s made no effort to disguise his personality or his fifth-grade level of communication and knowledge. Trump, in classic narcissist mode, views his ignorance as charm, so he has no qualms about showing it off. He responds to most issues with an unhinged rant. None of that is new.

So what did Anonymous really try to reveal? What was the message in this post-McCain world?

Republican patriots are hard at work trying to save us from Trump!

Then why are there still 500 children, ripped at the border from their parents, still separated from their families against court order?

Why is the Trump administration challenging the legal Flores settlement that protects immigrant children from inhumane treatment and prepping for the long-term detention of families?

Why is a Supreme Court nominee who could make it legally possible for the president to get away with crimes not getting a real vetting by Republicans in the Senate confirmation hearings?

Anonymous offers too little, too late on the ruffian Trump we know well — and plenty of election-time propaganda.

Don’t put your faith in the fight of Anonymous’ New York Times op-ed. Just vote.

Follow Santiago on Twitter, @fabiolasantiago

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