The American Spectator is taking the courageous step of publishing an anonymous essay. We have done so at the request of the author, a former ghostwriter and press secretary in Republican administrations whose identity is known to us and whose ability to have lunch in the Nation’s Capital would be jeopardized by its disclosure. The Spectator also is taking the unprecedented step of employing gender-inclusive pronouns for the ease of discussing the Trump Administration’s famed but unnamed and sexually indeterminate resister/resistrix. The oppressive terms “he” and “she,” “him” and “her,” “his” and “hers” have been replaced with the liberating language of “ze,” “zir” and “zirs.”
Practitioners of haruspicy — divining the unknown by poking around in entrails of sacrificed animals — are facing a test to their talents unlike any faced before. They are in a race against time and their rivals to uncover the identity of the Trump administration official who has shouted from the Gray Lady’s housetop zirs “quiet resistance” to the performance of zirs duties.
They want to know: Who is ze?
So do I, but, since ze is gutless, what’s the point of examining guts?
I think a more effective path to unmasking zir is to consider who might have been zirs ghostwriter.
Bill Kristol tweeted that ze seems to be a “competent, even practiced, op-ed writer (or had help from one.)” Kristol also says ze is a movement conservative — “free minds, free markets, and free people.” Further, Kristol says, ze “thinks free trade important” and is “foreign policy focused.”
As a former ghostwriter and press secretary, I would say almost surely the article was ghostwritten. It does not have a personal style. I also think it probably was shopped to the New York Times op-ed page by a person experienced in media relations and with a close, even confidential, relationship with the Gray Lady.
This makes a prime suspect Kristol’s good friend Peter Wehner.
Wehner is a veteran, Triple-A utility player in the leagues of neoconservative think tanks and journals. He is a sidekick of the Washington Post’s Church Lady, Michael Gerson, whom he assisted on the White House speechwriting staff during the presidency of George W. Bush.
The article closely matches what Wehner and Gerson have been saying forever about President Trump and his administration. The whole litany is there, offering the Wehner/Gerson/Bill Kristol/Eliot Cohen version of right and wrong approaches to Russia, trade, international democracy, and the sanctity of John McCain.
Most of all, the article is bathed in the self-righteous moralism for which Gerson and Wehner are famous.
“At the root of the problem,” the article says, “is the president’s amorality.”
Now, I believe that the major initiatives and achievements of the Trump administration are not in the least amoral. Indeed, many Trump policies have advanced moral good so significantly that it is specious to suggest that the Republic is in the foul clutches of an amoral evil-doer.
To the contrary, moralistic utopians such as Gerson and Wehner are responsible for great harm, as in their propagation of policies that led to moral catastrophes in Iraq and Libya. Gerson and Wehner always mistake prudent statecraft — policy and executive action refraining from self-defeating moralism while pursuing objectives that are manifestly moral or at least not immoral — for amorality.
The Times op-ed is not so much an essay revealing the mind, motives, and actions of an actual public official engaged in real-world duties as it is a string of talking points with the scent of the shopworn campaign slogans of John McCain or Marco Rubio and the effluences of the Bill Kristol Twitter feed.
While the ghostwriting bears the hallmarks of both Gerson and Wehner, the placement of the article in the New York Times is a natural fit for Wehner. He is a regular contributor to the Times op-ed page. He was perfectly positioned to be both the ghostwriter and the intermediary who arranged publication of the piece.
It’s possible Wehner and Gerson had nothing to do with the Times op-ed. Perhaps it’s merely a coincidence that the piece is in lock-step conformity to their oft-expressed mindset.
And I still don’t have a strong sense of who is ze — the person who signed “Anonymous” to the article that was ghosted for zir. But it would make sense if that person were someone with whom Wehner and Gerson were known to meet now and then to imbibe Shirley Temples.
Surely it’s worth finding out:
Who was the ghostwriter?
Who made the placement arrangements with the Times?
And it’s worth asking Wehner, Gerson, Kristol, Cohen, and others in their network: What if anything was their involvement in the article’s preparation and publication?
Peter Wehner (YouTube screenshot)