The race is on to identify the New York Times’ anonymous op-ed author

It’s coming from inside the building.
It’s coming from inside the building.
Image: Reuters/Yuri Gripas
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Donald Trump is so mentally unstable that members of his cabinet considered invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from office, an anonymous senior administration official writes in The New York Times.

Instead, though, they are trying to temper Trump’s erratic behavior and actions, quietly saving America from the president, he or she writes.

Meetings with him veer off topic and off the rails, he engages in repetitive rants, and his impulsiveness results in half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless decisions that have to be walked back… The erratic behavior would be more concerning if it weren’t for unsung heroes in and around the White House. Some of his aides have been cast as villains by the media. But in private, they have gone to great lengths to keep bad decisions contained to the West Wing, though they are clearly not always successful.

Within minutes of it being published online, text alerts were buzzing on phones across Washington DC, as insiders, outsiders, reporters, and everyone else tried to answer one question: Who was the anonymous author?

Word sleuths quickly uncovered the fact that the essay featured a word only used regularly by one other top member of the administration. The word is “lodestar” (as in John McCain was “a lodestar for restoring honor to public life and our national dialogue”) and the official is vice president Mike Pence.

Pence’s history of using the word is being dissected with relish:

Pence, who has been careful never to utter a negative word about the president, whether in public or in front of Republicans in Congress, seems unlikely, however. And the incredibly leaky Trump administration also has a tic that could rule him out: some leakers like to borrow other people’s favorite expressions in order to “cover their tracks,” as one told Axios this May. “I usually pay attention to other staffers’ idioms and use that in my background quotes. That throws the scent off me,” he or she said.

Whoever wrote it, the op-ed had the effect of throwing more doubts over the loyalty of Trump’s hand-picked officials, especially in the wake of Bob Woodward’s just-released exposé on the White House, which relies heavily on administration sources.

The White House called the op-ed “pathetic, reckless, and selfish” in a statement, adding that the cowardly author should quit. “Nearly 62 million people voted for President Donald J. Trump in 2016,” it read. “None of them voted for a gutless, anonymous source to the failing New York Times.”

Trump, for his part, railed against the paper in the Oval Office during a meeting with sheriffs from around the country that was supposed to be about national security. “Someday, when I’m not president, which hopefully will be in about six and a half years, the New York Times, CNN and all of these phony media outlets will be out of business, folks. They’ll be out of business, because there’ll be nothing to write and there’ll be nothing of interest.”

For New York Times staffers, the op-ed has created more work, as one of the paper’s investigative reporters pointed out: