I’m going to put my name to this and not say it anonymously:
The whole flap over the New York Times op-ed by an unnamed author trashing President Trump is now making everyone look bad.
Now that Miles Taylor, who later published a book, has outed himself, he hardly fits the description of “senior administration official” that caused a furor as Washington wondered whether the person describing Trump as “petty and ineffective” was a Cabinet or sub-Cabinet official, or even someone in the White House.
Instead, it was the chief of staff to the secretary of Homeland Security--one of an army of Beltway bureaucrats and hardly part of the Trump inner circle. Even the Times says Taylor’s confession on Medium raises “questions about whether his position in the Trump administration was senior enough to justify the decisions by The Times’s Opinion desk and the book’s publisher to keep his identity secret.”
Had Taylor resigned and put his name on the piece, it would barely have caused a ripple. It was the Times that pumped up the Anonymous mystery by conveying the impression this was some big-shot insider who deserved journalistic protection.
Taylor, who left DHS last year, went public over the summer in TV hits by slamming his ex-boss--but not about his alter ego. In fact, he flatly lied to CNN’s Anderson Cooper when asked if he was Anonymous, saying he only wore masks for pandemics and Halloween.
ANONYMOUS OFFICIAL BEHIND INFAMOUS NYT OP-ED TO RELEASE BOOK ON TRUMP WHITE HOUSE
Now--you can’t make this up--he’s just been hired as a CNN contributor.
Chris Cuomo, to his credit, confronted Taylor Wednesday night. “You lied to us, Miles. You were asked in August if you were anonymous here with Anderson Cooper, and you said no. Now, why should CNN keep you on the payroll after lying like that?”
Taylor somehow tried to give himself a pass by saying he’d written in his book (and donated most of the proceeds) that he’d “strenuously deny” being the author. He said his original motivation was to avoid Trump’s predilection “to find personal attacks and distractions to pull people away from criticisms of his record.”
The president did just call Taylor a “sleazebag” who “should be prosecuted” (though there’s no evidence he broke any law). But Taylor’s rationale is really that he wanted to use the clout of the Times to whack Trump without being whacked back.
All this got me thinking about the legions of former Trump officials joining the Resistance and the Republican strategists joining forces through the Lincoln Project and other groups. And about how the husband of an actually senior White House official (George Conway) became famous for his scathing attacks on her boss. And how on the other side, the president and his allies have been blistering toward Joe Biden, the Democrats, the media and the administration’s opponents.
I’m not doubting anyone’s society, and politics has always been a rough game. But the president’s harshest critics often wrap their assaults in an aura of righteousness.
In a Times column using his actual name, David Brooks denounces Trump, praises Biden as “the personification of decency”--and raises questions about his own conduct and that of the hate-Trump crowd.
“Over the past four years we’ve poured out an hourly flow of anti-Trump diatribes and in almost every case they rise to the top of the charts — most liked, most retweeted, most read.”
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The problem, Brooks says, is that “permanent indignation is not a healthy emotional state. We’ve become a little addicted to our own umbrage, addicted to that easy feeling of moral superiority, addicted to the easy affirmation bath we get when we repeat what we all believe. Trump-bashing has become a business model.”
“Addicted to our own umbrage” has a certain resonance. The fashionable thing in media circles is to blame the politics of hate on Donald Trump. But if Biden is sworn in next January, will much of the country simply aim its vitriol in different directions?
Will those on the left who have been demanding that the media and Congress hold the president accountable just roll over for Biden and defend everything he does?
Will those on the right who say this president has been victimized by fake news relentlessly attack Biden and the Democrats, castigating the press as lapdogs?
Will people continue to scream at each other on Twitter, sometimes using the Miles Taylor technique of doing it anonymously?
That sounds like a prescription for nonstop ugliness. And remember, it’s not like the pandemic will have magically vanished.