The last editorial I wrote for Occasional Planet was on the dangers of a potential post-Trump “unity government”. Consisting of centrists and ostensibly anti-Trump conservatives, it would retain Trump’s agenda while arguing for it in a way more palatable to the general public. The events of the last couple weeks have convinced me more than ever that a unity government of centrists and conservatives is a distinct possibility. After all, the two factions seem to be on quite friendly terms.
First, there was the establishment fawning over now-deceased warmonger John McCain. A particularly odious article in The New Yorker claimed that his funeral was “The Biggest Resistance Meeting Yet”, including Paul Ryan and George W. Bush in the “resistance” to Donald Trump.
Then, of course, came the anonymous New York Times op-ed from a high ranking official in the Trump administration claiming to be a double agent of sorts, preventing the more idiotic ideas of the administration while forwarding its generally conservative course. Wild speculation in the media surrounding the identity of the “heroic” official has been the parlor game of the week. Fortunately, I am here to put an end to such speculation. I have obtained the biography of the person in question, a Citizen of great note. A brief sketch of his life follows:
The Citizen was born in postwar America to a wealthy, white family in the suburbs of a coastal metropolis. They belonged to the first generation of post-sixties reactionaries, who learned to combat the social-democratic reforms of the mid-century via racist dog whistles and intimations of communist dictatorship. Unsurprisingly, in 1980 the Citizen, then a college student, cast his first vote for Ronald Reagan, impressed with his commitment to national security and his rhetoric of American renewal.
He was rarely disappointed with the Reagan presidency; during Iran-Contra the Citizen felt the President showed somewhat unbecoming behavior, but fundamentally believed the administration did the right thing. He considered Oliver North a personal hero to this day. At a conference he had the honor of shaking his hand.
After college the Citizen found work with a conservative think tank with the motto “free minds, free markets, and free people.” The think tank was mainly concerned with preserving and expanding American interests abroad. For their annual speaker series in 1985 they invited Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet; in 1986 it was Angolan pro-American terrorist Jonas Savimbi.
During the Bush I years the Citizen was a White House staffer, focusing on issues such as “effective deregulation, historic tax reform, a more robust military and more.” George Bush, Sr. proved to be a bit of a disappointment for the Citizen: the tax hikes (despite the promise of “read my lips, no new taxes”) and Bush’s decision not to depose Saddam Hussein during the first Gulf War were particular sticking points.
After the Democrats took the White House in 1992, the Citizen took a hiatus from politics and joined a venture capital firm that invested heavily in post-Soviet Russia. During the chaos in the wake of the Soviet collapse, the firm made a killing buying up privatized Russian state assets. The Citizen became friendly with the administration of Boris Yeltsin and subsequently that of Vladimir Putin.
In 2001 the Citizen returned to public life after 9/11; he was once again called upon to serve the country in the White House. During the Bush II presidency, the Citizen advocated expanded surveillance on domestic suspects, was a strong proponent of the Iraq War, and urged the president to consider a preemptive strike against Iran.
The Citizen was deeply suspicious of Barack Obama, considered him dangerous due to his association with foreign ideas. The Citizen felt Obama did not have the kind of upbringing and posture befitting an American president. Miraculously, however, despite the Citizen’s repeated criticisms of Obama in the right-wing press, Obama offered the Citizen a place on the National Security Council. The Citizen graciously accepted. He subsequently advised Obama to bomb Libya and invade Syria.
By 2016 the Citizen was a respected intellectual in the center as well as on the right. After exiting the Obama administration, the Citizen was invited on numerous talk shows as a guest, a noted “political expert”. He had his feathers ruffled by the candidacy of Donald Trump, but as a lifelong Republican, he held his nose and voted for him. He was a Cruz voter personally, but we all have to make compromises. After November of 2016 it quickly became clear that the victorious new Trump administration did not expect to win the election, and almost by default the Citizen was hired back as a White House insider.
It is unclear when the Citizen started to feel uncomfortable with the president. He did not seem bothered by ICE’s domestic crackdown, or the Trump administrations cozying up to Islamists in Saudi Arabia and Syria, or the revoking of passports of US nationals based largely on skin color. But one too many conversations with America’s most stable genius, and the Citizen decides enough is enough. He calls the New York Times and begins to type up a strongly-worded anonymous op-ed.
The above biography is obviously fictional, but the quote used above (apart from the Bush I snippet) are excerpts from the Citizen’s New York Times op-ed. I use them to indicate the kind of person who might have written the piece. I see no reason why such a person should be welcomed into the fold of respectable society.
The Citizen presumably knows that it is becoming taboo in elite Washington circles to be a diehard Trump supporter. It is my conjecture that the motive behind his article was not to castigate the president in good faith but to line up his next career move if the administration crashes. This kind of piece is catnip for centrists and moderate liberals who delight in seeing conservatives speaking out against Trump, however rare the spectacle.
Rehabilitation of war criminals and reactionary hacks isn’t without precedent. Take the Citizen’s hero, Oliver North, who in a just world would be mopping the floors of The Hague alongside the Citizen. Disgraced in the 80s for supporting right-wing terrorism and selling weapons to Iran, in the past few years he has run the talk-show circuit, recorded advertisements for Call of Duty (and, in one series entry, played a Cold War-era version of himself), and has now ascended to head the NRA.
The Citizen’s future is yet unwritten, but I have a prediction: When the Trump fiasco ends one way or another, or if the Trump administration becomes irreversibly unpopular, the Citizen will make himself public. First, he’ll appear on MSNBC, then Meet the Press, promoting a new book called “Honor: Four Decades of Service to The Republic”, or something to that effect. Liberals will eat it up.
Of course, by “defending the republic” the Citizen never meant the restoration of voting rights, the end of money in politics and gerrymandering, the shoring up of our civil rights. He meant something vastly more important to him: politeness. If the Citizen has his way, we will never have quality healthcare in this country, or an end to oligarchic governance, or a foreign policy that transcends brutish imperialism. But maybe the people of America will have a president who can speak in complete sentences. Nevermind the content of the sentences themselves.