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Monday, September 10, 2018

A TERRIFIC TAKE ON THE ANONYMOUS OP ED

This morning I came across this essay, by Patricia Roberts Miller of UC Berkeley, on the identity of the author of the NY TIMES anonymous Op Ed.  I recommend it.

9 comments:

David Palmeter said...

I find myself agreeing with this view one minute and disagreeing with it the next. The argument against it is that the resignation of “anonymous” would accomplish nothing. A few headlines, Trump would denounce the person, saying he or she was useless and ineffective, his base would agree, and the Congressional Republicans would say tut tut and do nothing.

My tentative conclusion is that it depends on what kind of work Anonymous is doing. The closer it is to defense policy, the greater justification for Anonymous to stay. That’s where Trump, with access to nuclear weapons, is most dangerous. I’d hate to see Mattis go and be replaced by a Trump functionary. We can survive just about anything short of that maniac’s deciding to bomb somebody.

Jerry Fresia said...

"The momentary political gains don’t matter. The process does."

Nicely stated.

David Palmeter said...

This is the conclusion from Taegan Goddard's Political Wire blog:

"But if the author did nothing more than verify what we already knew, he or she provided a valuable service. From “Publius” authoring The Federalist Papers to “Deep Throat” pointing the way during the Watergate investigation, anonymous writers have often helped change the course of American history."

MS said...

(M.S., Part One – yes, another multi-part comment)

Sorry, I strongly disagree with Prof. Roberts-Miller. For me, she lost credibility when she wrote the following: “[H]e [Trump] wants (and, to a large degree, has) a media that will repeat in a fawning way anything he wants said, that will defend him through any sophistries and casuistries and outright falsehoods necessary ... .” This statement is demonstrably false. Yes, there are some newspapers (the Paducah Times), and some tv networks (Fox News) that support him and are fawning in their response to him. But, on the other side, are major newspapers (NYT, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times) and tv networks (PBS, and frequently the commercial stations, CBS, NBC. and ABC) mock and criticize him. They are not defending him. Do they report what he says? Of course they do – they are reporting the news, that is their job. The fact that they report what he says does not mean that they are “repeat[ing] it in a fawning way.” So, then, how are the media “to a large degree ... repeat[ing] in a fawning way anything he wants”? This statement is just false. So, if she is willing to engage in exaggeration in this observation, why should I trust her judgment regarding anything else?

Turning to the substance of her editorial, she pejoratively refers to Anonymous as “Franz” because of this statement: “We want the administration to succeed and think that many of its policies have already made America safer and more prosperous. But we believe our first duty is to this country, and the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic.” Because Franz supports a large part of Trump’s agenda, she regards him as an enabler of a fascist, like the generals who supported Hitler “because they believed that ‘many of [his] policies have already made [Germany] safer and more prosperous.” This is where the Prof.’s analogy breaks down. The generals who supported Hitler knew what his objectives were for European conquest and the enormous harm those objectives would cost in terms of the loss of human life and destruction of property. They continued to support him because they, too, supported those objectives. Only when Germany’s military fortunes turned south, primarily in the disastrous invasion of Russia, did they have second thoughts and turn on him.

Franz indicates that s/he supports a large part of Trump’s agenda and believes “that many of [his] policies have already made America safer and more prosperous.” I read this as stating that Franz supports the increased tariffs, the purported tax cut, etc. Now I, and many economists, believe that those policies are misguided. Therefore, Franz is misguided. Nonetheless, Franz recognizes that Trump is acting is a way that “is detrimental to the health of the republic.” I don’t care if Franz supports economic policies that I disagree with as long as s/he, at the same time, recognizes the more serious threat that Trump presents to the republic and is taking steps to minimize/counter-act that harm. I am reminded of Lyndon Johnson’s remark about Trujillo to the effect, “He may be a dictator, but he’s our dictator, I’d rather have him inside pissing out than outside pissing in.” Well, I’d rather have Franz inside pissing in, than outside ineffectually pissing in.

MS said...

(M.S., Part Two)

The Prof. proceeds to refer to Franz as a “coward” and states that the reason s/he does not do the “honorable” thing and resign and call for Trump’s impeachment is that s/he actually wants the support of Trump’s rabid base in order to keep the GOP in power. That is one possible explanation. An alternative explanation is that Franz realizes that Trump’s supporters are a bunch of stark raving deplorables, that resigning and calling for Trump’s impeachment would fall on deaf ears and result in him/her falling on his/her sword without any significant damage to Trump. Now, I don’t know which of these explanations is the truth, but I would be reluctant to psychoanalyze, and cast aspersions on, someone whose identity I don’t even know.

I don’t know why Franz went public. I would have preferred that Franz had kept his/her mouth shut and continued to impede the worst of Trump’s agenda from within. The Prof. concludes that Franz is “presenting himself [her assumption of gender, not mine] as a hero and savior.” Again, she is psychoanalyzing someone whose identity she does not even know. An alternative explanation is that Franz wanted to assure a largely distraught segment of the population that there are elements within the administration that are acting to keep us safe. Although I would have preferred that s/he continue to act in secret, I am thankful for the revelation so I can, somewhat, reduce my intake of Xanax.

MS said...

Errata

Upon reflection, I believe LBJ used the word "bastard," not "dictator."

Andrew C. said...

I thought Mehdi Hassan articulated quite nicely the appropriate response to that tepid NYT op-ed. https://theintercept.com/2018/09/06/dear-anonymous-trump-official-there-is-no-redemption-in-your-cowardly-op-ed/

MS said...

Andrew C.,

Upon your urging, I read Mehdi Hasan’s editorital “Dear Anonymous Trump Official ... .” I am beginning to feel like Horatius at the bridge. The opinion is more left-wing sanctimonious b.s. (I used to count myself among the left-wing partisans, but maybe advanced age is increasing my cynicism.)

Hasan castigates the Anonymous op ed writer for not having prevented Trump’s policies regarding hurricane relief for Puerto Rico, the separation of refugee children from their parents, his stupid remarks about Charlottesville, etc. etc. First, Hasan has no idea what efforts Anonymous and his like-minded supporters took to modify or restrain these policy decisions. Second, they may have succeeded in preventing them from being worse. Third, there may have been other unreported policy proposals that Anonymous et al. prevented from even seeing the light of day.

He criticizes Anonymous for “excoriating Donald Trump’s ‘worst inclinations’ while omitting any and all references to his racism, bigotry, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and white nationalism.” But Anonymous did not have to specify the “worst inclinations” he was referring to – he took it for granted that the readers would understand that these particulars were encompassed within the reference “worst inclinations.”

He proceeds to castigate Anonymous for not having the cochones to invoke the 25th Amendment out of concern of “precipitat[ing] a constitutional crisis.” Why not, he writes, invoke the Amendment “and let Mike Pence take over?” Has he even read the 25th Amendment. The Amendment (Section 4) requires, as a sine qua non, that the Vice President be one of the individuals who initiates the process, joined by “a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide ... .” Perhaps Anonymous has raised the issue with Pence and Pence has indicated a refusal to join the rebellion. Pressing the issue without Pence’s support, and/or, the support of a majority of ... the principal officers of the executive would precipitate a constitutional crisis.

Hasan, in his supreme wisdom, criticizes Anonymous, and those like him, for even having joined the administration knowing ahead of time that Trump was a sleazy pig. So, who would Hasan rather had joined the administration, diehard adherents, like Scott Pruit, who would not even question, and act to impede, Trump’s “worst inclinations”? And who does he think Trump would have asked to join his administration – individuals who had no sympathy with his avowed policies whatsoever? Hasan proceeds to accuse Anonymous of being amoral because he agreed to work in an administration whose leader Anonymous acknowledges was amoral. Please. Saint Hasan has never had to compromise his principles by working for those who wield power in order to achieve what he regards as a higher, more important objective?

I wish I had the opportunity to ask Hasan whom he voted for in the last election. Indeed, did he vote at all, or was he a Bernie Sanders supporter who sat on his hands and sulked because Hillary Clinton had stolen the nomination from the candidate he preferred. Thank you Mr. Hasan, for your esteemed opinion and superior moral courage.

Howard said...

Dear MS

Actions can be good for three reasons or their combinations: that it is someone's right, because of the consequences or in and of itself.
Joining the Trump administration or even being Trump, though having deleterious consequences and being reprehensible are still within anybody's rights- that is Trump has the right to exist and may even have the right to be President though we'd be better off if his parents practiced birth control more stringently.
Some traditions say you have to fight evil no matter what, no matter where you are or who you are and by any means necessary.
That might be at issue between you and Andrew M.
Again Trump is a horrible human being and president, and the most charitable way of talking about the man is that he's an emotionally disturbed individual who by historical accident became the President.
But here we are