September 2018 took place either 13 months or a decade ago, depending on the news of the day. Donald Trump warps time. He generates so much news, most of it insane, that sometimes it feels as if we’ve always been here, reading the same headlines about the same walls closing in a fraction of an inch at a time. So perhaps that’s why I’d nearly forgotten about the infamous Resistance Inside the White House, the existence of which was allegedly revealed by an anonymous author in the New York Times last year. “To be clear, ours is not the popular ‘resistance’ of the left,” the author said — as if anyone assumed otherwise! No, theirs is a uniquely conservative phenomenon. “We want the administration to succeed,” they continued, “and think that many of its policies have already made America safer and more prosperous.”
Because there is seemingly no limit on how stupid the news can get, the author is now writing a book. On Tuesday afternoon, the Twelve imprint of Hachette Book Group announced that it will publish A Warning in November. The author is still anonymous, identified only as a “senior administration official,” and the book will allegedly provide “a first-hand account” of the president and his foibles. Their agent, Matt Latimer, told the Times and other press outlets that the author “refused the chance at a seven figure advance and intends to donate a substantial amount of any royalties to the White House Correspondents Association and other organizations that fight for a free press that seeks the truth.”
The book, Latimer continued, “was not written by the author lightly, or for the purpose of financial enrichment. It has been written as an act of conscience and of duty.” Perhaps. There is obviously a difference between a “substantial” amount of royalties and “all” royalties; the author will presumably make some profit from the book. They’ve also set themselves up nicely for a future career once their identity inevitably becomes public, either because they reveal themselves voluntarily, or because someone in the White House or the conservative press figures out who they are. They never specify which of the president’s policies they support, though it seems safe to assume that they share the usual Republican predilections for tax cuts, deregulation, and restrictions on abortion and immigration flows. But whoever they are, and whatever they believe, they can now claim that they were part of a resistance — if not necessarily the resistance — all along.
That risk was obvious the moment the Times published the editorial. The piece was bullshit. The entire premise smelled like bullshit, too. If you belong to a secret resistance, talking about it in public suggests that it’s not actually that sensitive. And their resistance, as the author described it, isn’t all that subversive either. They take pains to clarify that they are not of the left, that their opposition to Trump is based mostly on his perceived threat to right-wing goals, “free minds, free markets and free people.” Maybe it’s true that the Trump administration would be even worse without the intervention of this mysterious stranger, but it’s impossible for anyone to say with certainty that this is the case. From the outside, the author and his claims represent something quite familiar: the usual Never Trumper lines, issued this time by an anonymous mouthpiece. There’s nothing so explosive about that.