NYT dutifully publishes an insubordinate official

MacKenzie Stewart, News Editor

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In September, The New York Times published an opinion article titled “I Am Part of the Resistance inside the Trump Administration,” which was written by a senior official in the Trump administration. This official wrote about how he and a few other top executives were purposefully trying “to do what [they] can to preserve our democratic institutions.”

This opinion article was published anonymously, a rare occurrence in the world of professional journalism, especially at the level of one of the largest newspapers in the country.

There has been controversy over whether the senior official is right in doing what he, or she, claims to be doing, and there is also debate over whether the Times should have run an anonymous opinion article from a public official.

“The dilemma — which he does not fully grasp — is that many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations,” the author stated.

The anonymous author further elaborates on what some of Trump’s staff is doing to work against him.

“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,” the author wrote.

I support the actions of the Times in publishing the source anonymously, but I also believe that the senior Trump official is wrong in his actions, not only in going against the president, but also in his way of addressing the problem.

It is a rare moment when The New York Times will run information from an anonymous source, which makes this anonymous opinion piece even more contentious. But, the fact that this article was published anonymously gives even more credit to the source and to the paper.

“I think it’s good for democracy. As [The Washington Post’s] slogan goes, ‘democracy dies in darkness,” Ilya Vynnyk, sophomore, said.

Essentially, the freedom of the press and the ability to publish controversial stories and opinions uphold democracy, while censoring key information hurts our fundamental ideals.

In this case, the Times does know the person behind the story, and, as a major newspaper, they would have taken careful measures to verify their source.

“[We are certain of the author’s identity] through direct communication with the author, some background checking and the testimony of the trusted intermediary,” the Op-Ed editor James Dao said in a Q&A section regarding the article on the publication’s website.

As a result of the rarity of anonymous opinion articles, the staff would have thought over whether the benefits of publishing the story was worth keeping the anonymity of the source. The decision to keep the author a secret is commendable, and it is a fulfillment of a commitment to free press and the duty of a newspaper to inform the people.

Keeping anonymity also ensured the author would speak his mind.

“[The New York Times should have kept the author anonymous] because it endangers his job, and if he stays anonymous, he will say more,” Dillian Blake, junior, said.

On the other hand, while the Times was right to publish the article, the senior official should not have taken the actions in subverting the president and going to the media with his opinion.

The 25th Amendment of the Constitution lays forth the procedures for who should take the presidency if the president is unable to fulfill his duties. While the president can be removed by impeachment or by voluntarily resigning to enact this process, the amendment also states that “the Vice President and a majority of…the executive departments…may by law provide…their written declaration that the president is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”

The senior official, whoever he or she is, stated that Trump’s own appointed administration has not only talked about going against Trump’s wishes but also discussed invoking the 25th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

“Given the instability many witnessed, there were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment, which would start a complex process for removing the president. But no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis,” the anonymous author said.

I am not sure if the anonymous author ever talked to the president about the talks regarding the invoking of this amendment, but, if he didn’t, I don’t believe that disclosing that information to the press is the best way to bring attention to the apparent issue with Trump. Instead of going public with this information, the author should have first brought his concerns directly to the president before the press.

However, some believe that it was right for the official to go to the Times with his story.

“It’s the best way to appear to the people, and I mean Trump does that all the time with Twitter,” Blake said.

While the author might have wanted to reassure the nation that there are people going against the president, the op-ed, for me, raises the question of government stability. In the highest government position in the country, I don’t believe there should be such blatant insubordination, and I also think that this author should have voiced his obvious concerns to the president instead of the media.

 

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NYT dutifully publishes an insubordinate official