Speculation rife over who wrote op-ed

Although a note said the author's identity was "known" to the Times opinion staff, those privy stayed tight-lipped, apparently bound to protect the official's anonymity.
Although a note said the author's identity was "known" to the Times opinion staff, those privy stayed tight-lipped, apparently bound to protect the official's anonymity.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

WASHINGTON • It was a metaphoric Molotov, a middle finger, a knife in the back. Naturally, it emerged from the "Deep Throat" ether just after 4pm, smack in the middle of the work week.

Even in the midst of an administration and news cycle that powers a ceaseless hamster wheel of drama, the New York Times op-ed from an anonymous "senior official" in the Donald Trump White House was jaw-dropping.

But the explosion the piece created was not really about the what; it was mostly about the who. It was the starting whistle setting off another remarkable round of Washington's unofficial sport: gossip.

Internet conspiracy theorists cracked their knuckles and settled in for a long night's labour. Pundits sat by their phones and in front of TV screens, waiting for their chances to weigh in. Ravenous masses took to Twitter to tear into the piece's bread crumbs.

The game was afoot.

The avalanche of guesses engulfed just about everyone in the top tiers of the White House - press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, adviser Kellyanne Conway, chief of staff John Kelly. Some were sure it would be a big name; others were positive it would be a powerful nobody. Perhaps it was written by Senator John McCain before his death in a final act of defiance?

Many predicted President Trump and his allies had plotted and penned the op-ed themselves to feed the fires of internal controversy and distract from Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's hearings. The bets literally rolled in.

Some zeroed in on Vice-President Mike Pence as the mystery author, primarily because of the use of the word "lodestar" in the piece. Gung-ho sleuths traced the word through numerous Pence speeches, dating back to 2001.

Mr Pence said he did not write the piece. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he was not the author either.

The Pentagon also said Defence Secretary James Mattis did not write the piece. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats has denied doing so too.

Paranoia blossomed behind closed doors in the White House, as aides and staff engaged in a fevered, real-life game of "Guess Who?"

Although a note at the top of the piece said the author's identity was "known" to the Times opinion staff, those privy stayed tight-lipped, apparently bound to protect the official's anonymity, despite outcry from the paper's own reporters.

But in an interview with CNN, a Times op-ed page editor, Mr Jim Dao, revealed that the source had reached out to the paper through a go-between, offering to unveil the "resistance" within the administration to the world.

He did not say how the Times communicated with the author, or elaborate on exactly how "senior" the person is, CNN reported.

WASHINGTON POST

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 07, 2018, with the headline 'Speculation rife over who wrote op-ed'. Print Edition | Subscribe