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“Profiles in Thinking About Courage”


The much-ballyhooed anonymous op-ed the Times published about Trump was largely a self-regarding (and excusing) nothingburger — as Adam Sewrer wrote at the time, public relations, not resistance. According to Carlos Lozada, the book version is the same thing, padded out to interminable length in dreadful prose:

However accurate and sobering such characterizations may be, they all belong in a folder labeled Stuff We Already Know. Unfortunately, much of “A Warning” reads like a longer version of the op-ed, purposely vague and avoiding big revelations in order to preserve the author’s anonymity. The writer admits as much. “Many recollections will have to remain in my memory until the right time, lest the debate devolve into one about my identity.” Anonymous decries the “contemptible Washington parlor game” of guessing that identity and insists that the name is secret so the focus can be on the substance of the message, not on the messenger. “Some will call this ‘cowardice,’ ” Anonymous writes. “My feelings are not hurt by the accusation. Nor am I unprepared to attach my name to criticism of President Trump. I may do so, in due course.”


In the absence of facts, readers are barraged by similes. Trump is “like a twelve-year old in an air-traffic control tower, pushing the buttons of government indiscriminately,” Anonymous writes. Alternatively, “the Trump White House is like an Etch A Sketch. Every morning the president wakes up, shakes it, and draws something.” Trump’s words sound like “those of a two-bit bartender at a rundown barrelhouse.” His deceptions are “like a game of Twister gone wrong; the truth was so tied up in knots, no one knew what the hell we were talking about anymore.” And most vivid, working for Trump is “like showing up at the nursing home at daybreak to find your elderly uncle running pantsless across the courtyard and cursing loudly about the cafeteria food, as worried attendants try to catch him.”


More often in “A Warning,” actions are not taken; they are almost taken. In a particularly dire circumstance, several top officials consider resigning together, a “midnight self-massacre” that would draw attention to Trump’s mismanagement. “The move was deemed too risky because it would shake public confidence,” Anonymous explains. At any moment, the author writes, there are at least a handful of top aides “on the brink” of quitting. (The brink is a popular hangout for Trump officials.) Anonymous also wonders if Trump’s response to the Charlottesville protests in 2017, when the president drew a moral equivalence between white nationalists and those opposing them, would have been the time for such a gesture. “Maybe that was a lost moment, when a rush to the exits would have meant something.”

It’s like “Profiles in Thinking About Courage.”

This is all starting to remind me of when some former McCain speechwriter tried to flog his godawful Obama roman-a-clef by remaining anonymous, which didn’t help it being nearly-instantly remaindered. One reason this person has presumably remained anonymous is that they’re not actually telling you anything about Trump any half-informed person doesn’t already know — as Lozado observes. his anonymity necessarily means withholding more stuff rather than revealing it — and for some reason is incredibly self-congratulatory although he was in a position to do something and didn’t. Truly a hero for our times!

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