So much is wrong with the anonymous op-ed that ran in the September 6 New York Times that it’s hard to know where to begin. The people whom Donald Trump hired to manage his administration — the author of the op-ed presumably among them — were not elected. If they disagree with the President, their only honorable option is to criticize publicly and face the consequences, or resign. I found it chilling to read that such people instead are “working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda.” So who’s in charge? What are their names? When do we get to ask them questions?
The author makes much of the President’s “amorality” and the “unsung heroes” love of country. But it doesn’t take much heroism to whisper anonymously behind the boss’s back. If things are as bad as “anonymous” says they are, we should be seeing an exodus from the West Wing and hearing explicit, detailed, and thoroughly owned descriptions of what goes on there. That we’re not, and getting this thin gruel instead, is a sign that love of country is eclipsed by love of job.
That a paper as justifiably respected as the Times agreed to participate in this is disgraceful. When approached by “anonymous,” editorial page editor James Bennet should have politely explained that the price of admission to America’s most influential page is a willingness to stand behind one’s words. I’ve written about journalism’s corrosive habit of off-the-record and anonymous sourcing here.
“We have sunk low with him,” writes anonymous, “and allowed our discourse to be stripped of civility.” Maybe. But at least most of those engaging in uncivil discourse have the courage to stand and do so publicly. “Cries of “fake news!” and scurrilous, unsupported rumor-mongering on social media have eroded the public’s faith in a free press. The Times has deepened that hole.