Miles Taylor is somebody, at least to the media. Two years ago the New York Times presented him as “a senior official in the Trump administration.” In a Times op-ed he announced the existence of the Trump equivalent of the French Resistance: “many of the senior officials in his [Trump’s] own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.”
Now the Washington Post has published a major profile of Taylor, its reporter accompanying him on his furtive travels as the heroic anti-Trump determined, the Post said, “to help lead the post-Trump GOP back to its true identity.” Alas, evidence that Republicans want to be so led is in short supply.
The Times’ presentation turned out to have been politically convenient fakery. When Taylor tore off his anonymous veil and stepped forward in October — he had a book out and wanted to save the Republican Party, of course! — Washington collectively asked, “Who”? Denizens of D.C. had engaged in a guessing game as to the identity of the Great Resister that improbably included the defense secretary and even vice president. It turns out that this “senior official” was completely unknown to the public and president, almost certainly unknown to most genuine “senior officials,” and likely barely known outside his own office at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
He had a serious job, to be sure, serving as deputy chief of staff to the secretary (he later was elevated to chief of staff). But doing briefings for his department as a “senior official,” which he cited to defend the Times’ characterization, didn’t make him someone most people would imagine was capable of facing down the president.
Obviously, Taylor’s sense of self-worth was charmingly inflated from the start.
The Great Resister later said that he and other DHS employees opposed the president’s request to include more countries in his travel ban — if true, I’m glad he did so, since I believe it was bad policy disastrously implemented. But speaking up and acting as a moderating influence on the issue was simply doing his job, not staging an act of resistance. This was something less than the image he presented of manning the final redoubt against the Trumpian hordes as the president staged his Machtergreifung.
Moreover, sticking around collecting a paycheck while claiming to dislike the president’s policies seems less than honorable. “Proximity to Trump’s policies would haunt Taylor,” proclaimed the bizarre, slightly preposterous Post profile. Taylor said he disliked the president’s immigration policies — which were an important part of his department’s responsibility — and that “he delegated most immigration policy work to underlings.” Now there’s a heroic stand! One suspects Taylor told himself that he could enjoy the best of both worlds: earn a good salary in a prestige job while valiantly battling to protect all that is good and right.
Yet his time as a modern King Leonidas I is long past. Reporter Manuel Roig-Franzia tagged his Post story “somewhere on the East Coast,” and began:
It was the sudden light on the tacos that felt so creepy. The flash interrupted an otherwise languid September evening at the outdoor restaurant table in Tucson stopping Miles Taylor mid-sentence. He looked into the sky, and there, right above him, hovered a drone, directing a beam of unnerving brightness. It might have been an errant plaything. But in Taylor’s new world, he saw menace everywhere. Later, in the car, he kept looking in his rearview mirror. “I’m so spooked,” Taylor, a former Trump Homeland Security Department official, recalls during an in-person interview that he agreed to participate in only after many assurances that the location be kept secret.
You see, he received death threats after coming out of the anti-Trump closet in October and endorsing Joe Biden. As a result, reported Roig-Franzia: “In the weeks since Taylor’s self-induced unmasking, he has shuffled between at least 10 undisclosed locations, he says, bunking in private homes and hotels.”
He continues to appear on CNN, however. And was at that moment speaking with a newspaper reporter. Which would seem to be a bit odd for someone who claims to be on the run from potentially scores, maybe hundreds, of determined killers. He told Roig-Franzia, “There’s no better time to be anonymous.” But he seems to have missed the obvious point that rushing after TV cameras and newspaper reporters and photographers interferes with maintaining anonymity.
Instead he disguised himself: “When he ventures out of his hiding places, Taylor favors baseball caps pulled low and sunglasses. A mask serves the dual purpose of shielding him from infection by the coronavirus and concealing an identity that has become ever harder to camouflage as he’s upped his public presence.”
Life on the run also has been tough on his budget. Noted Roig-Franzia: “Worried that he’ll be attacked, Taylor now employs private security. One recent afternoon, a large, stern man guarded the entrance to the location where Taylor was hold up for the day. Instead, Taylor stuffs rolls of toilet paper into a backpack because he’s close to running out at one of his other places of refuge.”
Of course, there is no excuse for making death threats, no matter how unserious. Although it is theoretically possible that one of them was real, that seems highly unlikely. After all, no one really serious would announce their intent, immediately making any plot more difficult to carry out. Anyone mad at Taylor in October now is probably angrier with Attorney General Bob Barr, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, or any number of Republican and Democratic election officials.
But just as Taylor imagined himself as a “senior official” two years ago, he apparently still views himself as important enough to target today. The unfortunate focus of hatred from both right (for criticizing Trump) and left (for sticking around the administration for a couple years) fears he must evade Red and Blue State death squads, busy seeking his location, tracking his movements, following his car, and sending out reconnaissance drones.
I write about this stuff for a living. I have seen Taylor’s face all over cable news. But I would not notice him at a supermarket even if he stood right next to me. He has that sort of “generic white guy” quality about him that defines most Washington, D.C., careerists. If I can’t pick him out of a lineup — and I do this for a living — I basically guarantee Joe Public can’t do the same. All of this is to say: These security measures he has taken seem unnecessary — unless, of course, feeling important is the point, which would be consistent for him.
Obviously, Taylor’s sense of self-worth was charmingly inflated from the start. Reported Roig-Franzia: “Miles Taylor wanted out. But he wanted company. He envisioned a dramatic en-masse resignation, including Cabinet secretaries and their top aides, to prove the point that Trump was unfit for office.” Apparently their failure to fulfill their expected role — which doesn’t say much for the scope and commitment of the alleged resistance movement throughout the government — caused Taylor to pen his Times chef d’oeuvre litteraire.
Now he “would like to be a Republican Party thought leader, he says, offering, along with fellow Trump dissenters, ‘a rational voice within the party to steer the GOP back to principles-based governing and away from the cult of personality around Donald Trump,’ ” wrote Roig-Franzia. He might believe it’s really generous of him to make the offer — I generally share his objective and like his ideas. But the fact that the president’s share of the registered Republican vote went up in 2020 suggests that more journalists than Republicans are likely turn to him for guidance. Indeed, you generally can’t nominate yourself to be someone else’s thought leader. I know — I’ve been trying to do so for many different groups for years, without much success!
But that’s not all, according to the Post: “he sounds a little like a future candidate for public office. Asked whether he’d run, he doesn’t say yes. He doesn’t say no, either.”
Not that he’s in a good position to run for city council, let alone president. He’s “out of work, except for the part-time CNN employment and some consulting projects, and his finances are in tatters,” reported Roig-Franzia. Family matters aren’t good either. I suppose spending your time running around in a disguise with bodyguards in tow between ill-equipped safe houses would be difficult on any marriage.
It’s hard not to feel a bit sorry for Taylor. He thought highly about himself but was unable to lead a parade of “senior officials” out of the administration. When he offered his tour de force to the Times, it was happy to use him while misleading its readers about his position since doing so would discredit Trump.
That likely reinforced his view of his influence. But there apparently was little interest when he offered his services to save the GOP. Republicans just don’t want to be saved, let alone by Taylor. Now the Post is attempting to salvage his credibility as his personal life and career have been reduced to swiping toilet paper to cover his basic needs.
Perhaps L’Affaire Taylor should be viewed as a modern morality play. In Taylor’s case, however, there appears to be an obvious way out: get off TV, stop calling reporters, and go home. Leave the GOP’s future to someone else.
Doug Bandow is a former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan. A graduate of Stanford Law School, he is a member of the California and D.C. bars. He is the author of several books, including The Politics of Plunder: Misgovernment in Washington and The Politics of Envy: Statism as Theology.