With President Donald Trump reportedly "volcanic" over the authorship of an anonymous op-ed by a "high-ranking" White House official in the New York Times, the game being played far and wide after the publication of the explosive and deeply troubling column is, of course: which of the many jerks hired, elected, (or born) into the president's inner-circle wrote it?
It's the "million-dollar question," according to NPR's MarketWatch:
The Times, at least, isn't telling. In an interview with CNN's Brian Stelter, Times op-ed editor Jim Dao said the official reached out through an intermediary several days ago. He said the Times did speak to the author directly.
"We were simply trying to abide by the standard that the Times in general would use when referring to someone who's not named," Dao told CNN. Only a "very small number of people within the Times who know this person’s identity," Dao said, and the Times used "special precautions" to protect their identity.
As Taylor Telford reports for the Washington Post on Thursday morning, "the explosion the piece created wasn't really about the what; it was mostly about the who."
Over at New York Magazine, Margaret Hartmann has a long rundown of the currently competing theories.
The effort to reveal the author became, Telford continues,
about the spectacle, the joy of the adrenaline-fueled race. It was the starting whistle setting off another remarkable round of Washington’s unofficial sport: speculative gossip.
Internet conspiracy theorists cracked their knuckles and settled in for a long night’s work. Pundits sat by their phones and in front of TV cameras, waiting for their chances to weigh in. Ravenous masses took to Twitter and Reddit to tear into the piece’s bread crumbs.
The game was afoot.
The widespread speculation followed a demand by the president that the newspaper immediately reveal the identity of the author—who he called both "gutless" and a "coward."
Strikingly, according to the Huffington Post's David Moye, a lot of amateur investigators scouring the op-ed for clues have determined a theory—based on the usage of one word in particular—that Trump's own vice president, Mike Pence, is the author. Moye reports:
The unidentified author singles out the late Arizona Sen. John McCain as "a lodestar for restoring honor to public life and our national dialogue."
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The word ― which Merriam-Webster defines as either “a star that leads or guides” or a person who “serves as an inspiration, model, or guide” ― isn't that commonly used. But Pence apparently says it a lot, according to this mash-up posted on Twitter:
Not convinced? In a statement, Pence's office flatly denied that the vice president wrote the op-ed.
Or who cares? As progressive critics have pointed out, the author of the op-ed is no hero and should not been seen as brave or taking a bold stance.
In a piece headlined, "Just Shut Up and Quit," Esquire's political columnist Charles P. Pierce excoriating the author of the op-ed, and those it claimed to represent, writing, "Nobody elected the Anonymous Heroes executing a de facto coup against" the president.
"Don't stand on one leg waiting for your statue on the mall, Ace," Peirce continued, as he quoted derisively from the op-ed. "It's not 'cold comfort.' It's utter bullshit. Nobody elected you, whoever the hell you are. Nobody elected these other anonymous heroes, either. This isn't the way the presidency is supposed to work."
And Pierce was hardly alone.
In her takedown of the still unidentified author, the Los Angeles Times' Jessica Roy wrote, "If you're reading this senior White House official, know this: You are not resisting Donald Trump. You are enabling him for your own benefit. That doesn't make you an unsung hero. It makes you a coward."
Strangely, those were Trump's words exactly.
But while the president demands to know who "the snakes" are and the public waits for the identity to leak—which irony and history pretty much guarantee it eventually will—Hartmann writing at New York Magazine urged in her column for the American people to enjoy the guessing game while it lasts.
"An anonymous administration official claiming he's part of a resistance movement working to thwart our unhinged president," she writes, "is about as fun a story as we're going to get in these troubled times."