Less than a week before US Election Day, a founding member of the Lincoln Project George Conway shared a two-year-old New York Times op-ed on Twitter written by Anonymous. In the years since, this nameless whistleblower, claiming to be a senior official in the Trump administration, has been praised for calling out the Trump administration. Conway — an avid never-Trumper — did the same, lauding Anonymous as a “true patriot.” Conway then portentously added: “We’ll all be hearing a lot more from this person very, very soon.”
What we didn’t know was just how soon we would be hearing from this person. Despite Twitter users jokingly guessing that the secret informant was none other than his wife and former presidential advisor, Kellyanne Conway, a few hours after George Conway’s tweet, a second tweet was published — this time, it came from Miles Taylor. Taylor, a former White House Chief of Staff at the Department of Homeland Security stated that he no longer wished to be anonymous, claiming authorship of the scathing op-ed just days before the 2020 general election.
While Taylor admitted he was wrong to believe that Trump could be mitigated by a small group of undercover do-gooders, he was also criticised for waiting until this moment to step forward. In his 2018 missive, Taylor vowed to “preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses,” claiming he had his reasons for leaving his name off the original op-ed. But now it’s clear that there’s really no excuse for Taylor’s decision to wait this long.
“Much has been made of the fact that these writings were published anonymously. The decision wasn’t easy, I wrestled with it, and I understand why some people consider it questionable to levy such serious charges against a sitting President under the cover of anonymity,” wrote Taylor in the three-page statement. “But my reasoning was straightforward, and I stand by it. Issuing my critiques without attribution forced the President to answer them directly on their merits or not at all, rather than creating distractions through petty insults and name-calling. I wanted the attention to be on the arguments themselves.”
Perhaps this would work for someone who would hear out critiques and attempt to address them honestly with facts and reason, but this is Trump — a president who refuses to answer for his actions, regardless of whether he knows the name of the person he is addressing or not. Remaining anonymous never really forced Trump to answer a question, but rather just kept Taylor’s name out of the press, allowing him to remain an agreeable colleague to Republicans who didn’t secretly question Trump, but instead approved of him both publicly and privately. Taylor resigned from his post in the Department of Homeland Security in June 2019, and even though he has publicly criticised Trump in the last few months, it took two years to take ownership of the op-ed.
Beyond discovering the person behind the unnamed byline, some journalists have said that it is ridiculous to commend someone for profiting off of being a performative whistleblower. Taylor benefitted from the unruffled feathers of an administration that – attempts to obstruct be damned – has imposed damaging and harmful policies and legislation.
Journalists are regularly calling out the Trump administration with evidenced claims, attaching their names, and calling attention to its injustices knowing that an onslaught of hate mail and harassment awaits them on the other side of the publish button. Axios’ Jonathan Swan sat across from Trump in an on-air interview and pushed for real answers with unwavering follow up questions. He wasn’t content to let Trump continue to spout false claims without proof. During multiple press briefings, Weijia Jiang and Paula Reid, both reporters for CBS News, dissected Trump’s non-answers to questions about how the administration has failed to adequately handle the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump responded adversarially, with sexist remarks telling Jiang to “keep your voice down” and describing Reid as “disgraceful.” Still, they and many other journalists refuse to back down because fact-checking Trump and not letting important stories about social justice and discriminatory policies get buried by lies about coronavirus numbers and how the economy is stronger than ever.
But the high-ranking people calling out the Trump administration are not just journalists. When you consider that Robert F. Kennedy’s 26-year-old grandson, Max, was a Kushner whistleblower all on his own, or the numerous administration officials who came forward against Trump’s handing of the COVID-19 pandemic in Totally Under Control, Taylor’s efforts are more than just lacklustre — they’re feckless.
While Taylor’s lengthy statement gives us some idea as to why he chose to remain anonymous, and to later come forward, it comes across like he came forward when it suited him and not when the information was most needed. “The bigger concern is not what Mr Trump has done to the presidency but rather what we as a nation have allowed him to do to us,” the op-ed reads. “We have sunk low with him and allowed our discourse to be stripped of civility.” But these are just empty words when considering how little Taylor — whose Wikipedia page personal life bio reads “lifelong member of the Republican party — really did.
“It may be cold comfort in this chaotic era,” Taylor writes. “But Americans should know that there are adults in the room. We fully recognise what is happening. And we are trying to do what’s right even when Donald Trump won’t.” The sentiment may be true, but Taylor’s opportunistic approach to coming out just reminds us: it never really mattered who Anonymous was, did it?
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