US President Donald Trump’s administration is chaotic, but he is entitled to loyalty from his staff. (AP: Susan Walsh)
Donald Trump’s anger thundered through the White House and blasted through the twittersphere.
Donald Trump twitter: “Does the so-called “Senior Administration Official” really exist, or is it just the Failing New York Times with another phony source? If the GUTLESS anonymous person does indeed exist, the Times must, for National Security purposes, turn him/her over to government at once!”
“If the GUTLESS anonymous person does indeed exist, the Times must, for National Security purposes, turn him/her over to government at once!,” Mr Trump wrote.
He was reacting to an anonymous editorial published in the New York Times where a supposed Trump Administration insider detailed a concerted and deliberate campaign to thwart what were deemed as the president’s destructive instincts and ideas, “working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations”.
The insider justified what they described as the interventions of a number of “adults in the room,” describing the President as “impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective”.
“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,” they wrote.
If you don’t like Mr Trump and see him as a danger to society, the actions of a cell of resistance from within is heroic.
The US President says it’s treacherous. He’s right, and it raises several questions.
Does the end justify the means? Are the actions of these few — if indeed it is a few — a necessary foil to an out-of-control president? Or is the democratic will of US voters being subverted in a dangerous and arbitrary manner?
Like it or not, Mr Trump was elected as president less than two years ago.
His administration is no doubt amongst the most chaotic and disjointed in memory, with a revolving door of officials and appointees.
Friends and allies have become enemies. Policy often appears ill-considered and counterproductive. But his supporters, and there remain many millions of them, can rightly say they put him in the White House.
They like what he’s doing on immigration, trade and diplomacy. His supporters say Mr Trump has a right and expectation his staff will support, not subvert, him.
The New York Times op-ed came just after more startling revelations made by journalist Bob Woodward in a new book to be published next week.
He details examples of what he says were theft of documents from the US President’s Oval Office desk by his own people, fearful he would make terrible decisions that would adversely affect national security.
Again, actions like that may have saved the nation from a diplomatic or security blunder.
But is it for the unelected to literally steal from the elected, if indeed it happened?
Certainly there is precedent for a president being circumvented by his own people.
Donald Trump tweets: “The deep state and the left and their vehicle the fake news media are going crazy…”
In the dying days of the doomed Nixon presidency, defence secretary James Schlesinger ordered his generals to refer any executive order to launch a nuclear attack to him first.
It was feared an angry and drunk Nixon could do the unthinkable, and if so, he had to be stopped.
President Trump has not ordered the obliteration of a nation. He has not tortured or murdered his political opponents. He may yet be caught up in the Mueller Russia investigation.
He is certainly deeply mired in various sex scandals that may have far-reaching legal consequences. His judgement, his mental capacities, his divisive and confrontational style are all open to question.
But his authority is not. Nearly 63 million Americans voted for him in 2016, fewer than Hilary Clinton, but still he won.
However odious many find this most unusual of leaders, every president is entitled to loyalty from within.
Those that don’t like what they see should leave.
Then they are free to say what they like.
But the sense that there are forces working against him from within will only fuel Mr Trump’s narrative of a “deep state” out to get him, and reinforce the president’s mantra of “fake news” that delegitimises truth.
It will add to the distrust, even hatred, that has dissolved the trust of the nation’s institutions amongst Mr Trump’s supporters.
America is already deeply divided. the common bonds frayed and tattered.
If the US President is to fail or succeed, it’s for the voters, the courts or Congress to decide. Not concerned White House officials, however well-intentioned.