As The Post’s Carlos Lozada writes in his review of the book, however, there may be cause to doubt the denial that Snodgrass offered to Camerota: The anonymous author pledges to “strenuously deny” authorship of the book, if pressed.
What a display of accountability, responsibility and integrity, huh?
The appearance on CNN stemmed from publicity that has come the way of Snodgrass thanks to a delightful “parlor game” essay by David Kusnet in the New Republic: “Could This Be the Guy Who Wrote Anonymous’s ‘Warning’?” Kusnet’s guess was Snodgrass, who recently wrote a book about his work for Mattis in the Trump administration. The core analysis:
Reading Snodgrass’s Pentagon memoir, “Holding the Line,” makes the clues to Anonymous’s identity apparent. As in “A Warning,” the sentences and paragraphs are pithy and punchy. Every chapter in both books begins with an inspiring but not cliché quotation from a historic figure. Many passages in the books are remarkably similar: the ordeal of conducting a Pentagon briefing for Trump; national security staffers exchanging appalled asides about Trump’s conduct of foreign policy via Twitter; and the arguments for why American alliances strengthen national security and why immigration policy shouldn’t be based on building a border wall. In particular, both books stress that, when briefed about international alliances, Trump derails discussions by griping about how allies are stiffing the U.S., from allegedly miserly NATO contributions to ostensibly one-sided trade policies.
A cagey tweet from Snodgrass ensued:
Next step in this charade: A Monday afternoon interview on Fox News with host Trace Gallagher. Like a newsman, Gallagher asked Snodgrass whether he was the author of “A Warning” as well as “Holding the Line.” Snodgrass responded like an author of at least one book, which is to say that he effected delight at the publicity. “I do appreciate that the New Republic said that the writing was excellent across both books. That’s a great sales pitch, but I’ll tell you what: If I were going to make a sales pitch like that, I would do it right. I would come in the studio with you there in New York City,” Snodgrass told Gallagher.
Asked about his “swirling” tweet, Snodgrass tiptoed again: “It’s the latest in a long series in D.C. parlor games. It’s not unique to this point in time. This has been going on for decades and decades. Of course, I like many of your viewers read the anonymous op-ed from last year. Like I said, it’s interesting. I went ahead and retweeted out the story just because it caught my eye and someone put it on my radar.”
A common ploy of politicians these days is to look at a controversy and declare, This is why Americans distrust their government. Or: This is why Americans distrust the media. These are usually self-serving pronouncements, pointless cliches. All that notwithstanding, the Erik Wemple Blog points to this dust-up as an example of why people should distrust Washington. Here, we have a person with a nice book contract who promises to deny authorship — which is to say, lie — if asked. As for the book itself, well, it pulls punches to preserve this cowardly setup. "Certain details have been withheld or ‘modified without changing the facts’ to safeguard the anonymity of those involved,” writes Lozada in his review.
What’s more, the author appears to have bailed on the optimistic tone of his op-ed: "While the op-ed seemed to say, ‘Not to worry, the grown-ups are on the scene,’ “A Warning” can be crudely summarized as follows: ‘Be very afraid — the grown-ups have headed for the exits,’ ” writes Kusnet.
The potential outing of Anonymous would facilitate a retrospective examination of the decision by the New York Times opinions section to publish the op-ed in the first place. It identified the author as a “senior official in the Trump administration." Would Snodgrass, who worked as chief speechwriter and communications director for Mattis, have qualified for such a descriptor? That’s always a judgment call, because journalists have a fluid understanding of who can be identified as such. There’s always pressure to inflate a source’s standing, the better to claim that your reporting is bulletproof. We see few scoops attributed to “junior administration officials who wished to remain anonymous for fear of losing out on a promotion.”
Read more from Erik Wemple: