Raise your hand if you needed to read the confessions of an anonymous senior administration official to realize President Donald Trump's management style is "impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective." Anybody? We weren't shocked, either.
Trump's 19 months in office have aged many Americans at least twice that length of time. The president has a base of supporters who embrace or ignore the chaos and pugnacity. For others, including those of us who seek to judge Trump's policy work separately from his erratic personality, these are trying times. With him in charge, the circus never shuts down.
Twice this week, installments of America's strangest reality show – otherwise known as the Trump presidency – provided glimpses of White House staffers in panic mode. First there were news reports about Bob Woodward's new behind-the-scenes book, "Fear," in which we learned that adviser Gary Cohn lifted a letter off Trump's desk so that the president wouldn't act on his worrisome threat to scuttle a trade deal with South Korea. Then came The New York Times' decision to publish the anonymous op-ed describing crafty efforts by Trump officials to keep the country from running off the rails. "There are adults in the room ... trying to do what's right even when Donald Trump won't," the op-ed asserts.
Woodward's book, not yet on sale, uses unnamed sources to describe life in the White House. Readers will be able to draw their own conclusions based on the reporting of a respected journalist. The op-ed is a different matter. The unidentified official gave the piece to the Times and then sneaked back to work, hoping not to be uncovered later by a livid president.
Our problem with the op-ed is the lack of accountability. The "senior official in the Trump administration" raises a serious question about whether Trump is fit to be president, then slips past any follow-up responsibility. Instead of leading public debate over possible invocation of the 25th Amendment to remove the president from office, the writer tells Americans to trust administration officials: They've got this, whoever they are. They'll thwart his "misguided impulses until he is out of office."
But how much credibility should Americans give to someone who takes his or her shots from a secret hideaway?
The alleged presence of secret saviors shouldn't surprise anyone. Every White House adviser should consider it part of the job description to smother bad ideas and save the president from misguided impulses. No news there. The same goes in the private sector. But bashing the boss anonymously is disloyal and, rather than fixing anything, makes everyone in the organization paranoid. This op-ed has "CYA memo" written all over it – someone wants a paperwork trail to show the world in case things later go south: See? I told ya I tried to save the country.
The op-ed accomplishes nothing positive and tells us nothing we don't already know. The piece says the president is morally rudderless, holds no coherent worldview and careens from objective to objective. We know that; we read his tweets. The piece says the president, while alarming, also has notched achievements such as tax reform and deregulation. We know that as well; we supported those efforts.
Sooner or later it's likely the op-ed writer will be outed, with unpredictable results. What's certain is that as long as Trump is president, chaos will be part of the picture.
– Chicago Tribune