On Thursday morning, the New York Times covered the New York Times. In an episode of Michael Barbaro’s excellent podcast “The Daily,” op-ed editor James Dao took questions about the anonymous op-ed read around the world, by a senior administration official who had the courage to call himself or herself a part of the anti-Trump movement: “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration.”
Scratch that: It takes no courage whatsoever to refrain from attaching your name to a controversial opinion piece.
Yet that lesson doesn’t appear to have taken root at the Times. In speaking about the unnamed writer, Dao told Barbaro that he wasn’t sure about the person’s motivations:
I don’t think they are expecting immediate change, but there’s a sense that things have gone off track long enough that there was a need to speak out now. And quite honestly, I’m not sure that this person thinks that this is a game-changing event, that their one voice — that perhaps others will speak out next. Perhaps they won’t. I don’t know what they think will happen. I came away from this piece feeling that this was someone who earnestly felt these things and earnestly felt that they had a need to come out.
Bolding added for a reason: Writing an op-ed without attaching a name isn’t “speaking out.” It’s more like murmuring.
Speaking broadly about the op-ed, Barbaro credited its “moral urgency.” “I felt that way about it, absolutely,” responded Dao.
Well, the real “moral urgency” resides in figuring out the identity of this “senior” administration official — and then determining just what role, if any, this official had in bringing President Trump to power. In the text of the op-ed, the writer seems to disclose being a Trump appointee: “That is why many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.” So did this person contribute to the Trump campaign? Did he or she work on the campaign? Defend Trump on cable television? Did this official disregard the abundant warning signs long before the election that Trump was a narcissistic fool, mendacious crazy man and barely literate nincompoop? Or did this official just plug his or her nose long enough to get a huge tax cut and get Neil M. Gorsuch on the Supreme Court?
We could put such questions before this moral arbiter, if only we had a name.