Some Republican insiders are apparently more worried than ever about the ramifications of the anonymous op-ed in the New York Times, believing it will make Trump even crazier than he has been. But this is completely the wrong way to look at the dramatic act of defiance, and here’s why.
The piece, written by a senior official in the Trump administration, claimed that there is a “quiet resistance” in the White House working to save the country from Trump, who is described as being mentally unstable and completely unequipped to handle his duties as president. From Politico:
“What this person did is badly hurt the effort to rein in Trump … and it will make him crazy,” said a Republican close to the White House. “Now, if you say to the president, ‘I see where you’re heading, but I’m not sure about that’ — he’s going to think, ‘Ah, you wrote that.’”
Even some of Trump’s most public critics said they didn’t understand the value of the op-ed, other than to state publicly what’s been discussed privately among Washington Republicans since Trump was elected nearly two years ago.
“I’m not a fan of people doing things in an anonymous way. If you’ve got something to say, look the camera in the eye and say it. Talk to people directly. When I read it, to me there was nothing new,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), a frequent Trump critic. “Any of us who have dealt with the White House understand the situation that’s there.”
In the short term, this assessment might be accurate and Trump will behave more erratically creating a far more dangerous predicament for the country. Andrew Sullivan, a highly astute observer of Donald Trump’s mental state, believes that it will be a disaster.
“Far from helping his cause, Anonymous has undermined it,” he writes. “Worse, he has triggered this president — which was completely predictable — into exactly the kind of unhinged behavior Anonymous is so worried about. Maybe the op-ed was designed to buttress Woodward’s portrayal of a dangerous two-track administration. Maybe it was a way of salving his own conscience in the wake of McCain’s death. Maybe it was a misbegotten attempt to calm those of us horrified by what Trump is doing to the office and liberal democracy. But as a political act, it was indeed gutless as well as pointless.”
Sullivan is correct that the act was gutless, but he is drastically underestimating its long term efficacy. Why? Because the more erratically the president behaves, the more of a chance there is that a public confrontation will ensue.
The truth is, things have to get a lot worse before they can get better. The GOP and those in the Trump administration have shown they will accept an almost inhuman amount of dysfunction and madness from their leader. They have aided and abetted this president in bringing the nation to the brink of collapse, and have shown almost no inclination to publicly rebuke or put a stop to his worst instincts by voting against him on anything. With the release of Bob Woodward’s book and the shocking op-ed in the Times however, the cracks are emerging, and it seems we are on the brink of a full scale mutiny.
For there to be an actual mutiny — as in staff members publicly confronting the president and demanding he resign, Trump is going to have do something really crazy. This is high stakes poker, but history has shown with Trump, this is the only way.
The president has shown a truly extraordinary ability to survive the most extreme of crises. From the “grab ’em by the pussy” comments in the 2016 election, to the Russia gate scandal and Trump’s attempt to blatantly obstruct justice, there appears to be little he cannot get away with. But now Trump faces an unprecedented crisis within his own administration — an untenable situation that will bring his administration down unless he can contain it. And the reality is, Trump has no chance in hell of quashing the mutiny within his government.
The president is simply not intellectually or emotionally capable of putting down a resistance so pervasive within his inner circle that they felt comfortable alerting the public to its existence. The author of the op-ed was not speaking for themselves, but a large number of people in the White House who think Trump is stupid, ignorant, and deeply dangerous. This has to be frightening for the president, who will now doubt everyone around him and trust no one.
It is clear that Trump is disintegrating mentally from the stress of being president and performing in a job he has no business doing. He does not the power dynamics of the presidency, does not understand what a government is supposed to do, and cannot lead the people around him. Republicans and the few sane people in his administration are well aware of this and are urgently trying to figure out how to save themselves. They are laying the groundwork for his demise and their exit strategy. The op-ed was in all probability, calculated to hasten the pace of Trump’s descent into madness. The resistance within his government is also betting that the crazier he gets, the more dramatic the action needed to stop him will become.
There are many theories as to how to beat Trump and get him out of office before he destroys American democracy. They range from placating him and reaching out in a bipartisan fashion to using the 25th Amendment and forcing impeachment as soon as humanly possible. Those who understand how the president operates however, know that only the more brutal options are even remotely viable. Trump is an authoritarian bully who will fight to the very end and will use everything at his disposal to stay in power. He and his movement have to be annihilated and smashed into nothingness. It is a cancerous cult that seeks only power and destruction, and the only way to beat it is to fight it tooth and nail until it collapses under the weight of its own inherent dysfunction and maliciousness. There is no middle ground, and there never has been.
Republicans are aware that they cannot outwardly challenge the president for fear of incinerating their own careers because he is more popular with conservative voters than they are. They fear a backlash from the Fox News watching masses who see ‘Deep State’ conspiracies everywhere rather than the horrifying reality of this presidency. But the people surrounding Trump have clearly had enough of his limitless toxicity and cannot stomach any more of it. It is true that they are forcing a confrontation in a deeply cowardly way, but they are forcing it nevertheless. The president has been on the verge of exploding for months now, and his administration is finally handing him the matches.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.