In September of 2018, an anonymous Trump administration official penned a New York Times op-ed detailing a quiet opposition within the White House to Trump's policies. "I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration" offered, at the time, both palace intrigue and hope that the worst parts of the Trump agenda were being thwarted behind the scenes.
Trump himself, of course, was furious (some reports even said "volcanic") as he attempted to find the perpetrator:
The Times has made every effort to protect the identity of the author, and thus far, it's worked. Despite a widespread feeling that the official would soon be unmasked, he or she is still anonymous more than a year later. Moreover, the individual in question has parlayed the Times op-ed into a full book.
In "A Warning," the author has seemingly abandoned his or her premise that officials within the White House can curtail any of Trump's most egregious urges. Instead, with an impeachment inquiry ongoing and an election less than a year away, the author is making a plea to the American voters: remove Trump via the ballot box, or suffer the consequences.
But should you actually read the book? Here's what the early reviews say:
The Author Purposely Refrains From Offering Details In An Effort To Preserve His Or Her Anonymity…
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."
A Warning reads like something written by someone with knowledge of what sometimes transpired within the Oval Office but without box seats. While the book records Trump's profanity and chaos, it does not convey a meaningful firsthand story. As the work of a supposed insider, A Warning illuminates too little.
…And Instead Resorts To Analogies And Metaphors In An Attempt To Convey Trump's Behavior
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."
Subtle Work Inside The White House To Derail Trump Hasn't Worked
Attempts by the "adults in the room" to impose some discipline on a frenzied (or nonexistent) decision-making process in the White House were "just a wet Band-Aid that wouldn't hold together a gaping wound," Anonymous writes. The members of the "Steady State" (the term "Deep State" clearly stings) have done everything they can, to no avail. Anonymous is passing the baton to "voters and their elected representatives" — only now the baton is a flaming stick of dynamite.
This slim volume is the author's mea culpa, projected well past personal apology to the sounding of a national alarm. The president, we are told, has destroyed the guardrails thoughtful people tried to erect around him. Further, he has banished nearly all those thoughtful people. We are left to assume this does not include the author, yet. (We are told that Trump appointees keep a prepared resignation letter on their desk or laptop.)
Most Of What The Anonymous Author Tells Us Isn't New Information
Anonymous has seen disturbing things. Anonymous has heard disturbing things. You, the reader, will already recognize most of what Anonymous has seen and heard as revealed in this book if you have been paying any attention to the news. Did you know that the president isn't much of a reader? That he's inordinately fond of autocrats? That "he stumbles, slurs, gets confused, is easily irritated, and has trouble synthesizing information"?
The Book Might Have A More Devastating Effect If The Author's Identity Was Public
But what is the right time, if not now? When will that course ever be more due? The House of Representatives is embarked on an impeachment inquiry against the president. Civil servants are stepping forward to testify — in public, with names and faces — about what they saw, heard and did. The writer's decision is not necessarily cowardly, but worse, it is self-defeating. Anonymity is often granted to acquire additional information, but in this book, it excuses giving less. "A Warning" tells us plenty about what Anonymous thinks, not enough about what Anonymous knows. And without learning more about the writer, it's tough to know what to make of either.
"I realize that writing this while the president is still in office is an extraordinary step," Anonymous says. In light of three years' worth of resignations, tell-all books, reports about emoluments and sworn testimony about quid pro quos, this is a decidedly minimalist definition of "extraordinary." How can a book that has been denuded of anything too specific do anything more than pale against a formal whistle-blower complaint?
At this point, it's hard to imagine a White House narrative with real shock value — unless it could sell a vision of this White House as a happy workshop of harmonious cooperation.
It's like "Profiles in Thinking About Courage."
Toward the end of the book, an earlier quote from Mr. Trump kept coming back to me, unbidden: "These are just words. A bunch of words. It doesn't mean anything."