The romantic view is that he – or she – is a renegade hero, a rebel at the heart of a corrupt empire.
An opinion piece by an anonymous “senior official” in the administration of US President Donald Trump, published last week by the New York Times, told a story of decent people fighting to upend the dangerous plans of this most erratic commander-in-chief. This plucky band may work for Trump but their mission was to “thwart parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations”; they were the “resistance” within the administration.
I’ve no doubt the writer of the piece would very much like to be viewed as a Jedi inside the Death Star. The Trump administration will, at some point in the future, face a reckoning – perhaps in the courts, perhaps solely in the history books – and anyone involved in it will want a good story.
The view of the writer of the New York Times story will be that they tried to fend off the worst of it.
A less charitable view might be that their defence will amount to nothing more than “I was only following some orders.”
The anonymous senior US administration official and any others acting similarly seem perfectly happy to go along with a great deal of Trump’s appalling agenda. They have strong stomachs when it comes to the politics of cruelty and division.
What, other than the salving of the writer’s conscience, does the anonymous piece achieve?
Trump spoke of “treason”, which is just the sort of thing to fire up his blood-and- soil nationalist supporters for the next round in his battle against the right of the press to exist. The fully committed Trump supporter won’t see this piece as anything but an attempt to undermine a good man. It’s just fake news, isn’t it?
What’s more, in playing his or her hand in public, the writer of the piece has surely put an end to any good that any “principled” defiance has done until now. How can anyone continue to play the president now that they have told him they are doing precisely that?
We must also contend with a troubling irony thrown up by the contents of the opinion piece. If a legitimate concern is that Trump is an enemy of democracy, should we take comfort from the knowledge that a group of unelected officials have appointed themselves arbiters of what is right and what is wrong? These are, after all, people willing to work for this most appalling president.
The rebels inside the Trump administration were not attempting to bring an end to his bleak reign, at best they were attempting to make it palatable by protecting the President from himself.
Unless someone on the inside makes a public stand, unless they speak out, loudly and clearly, about what is rotten inside the White House, then how can we know the truth about what madness may have been thwarted? All we have to go on, right now, is the word of an anonymous official.
On this side of the Atlantic, a different band of rebels is currently committed to fighting a flawed political project from the inside. Labour “moderates” – by which I mean those not fully signed up to the cult of leader Jeremy Corbyn – remain in the party despite outrage after outrage.
The crisis over anti-semitism in the party – a crisis which stems directly from Corbyn’s years of associations with extremists who wear their hatred of Jews with pride – was not enough to induce their resignations. Instead, they would stay and fight inside the party for the principles they held dear.
Last week, Iran’s Press TV was allowed to film the passing of a vote of no confidence in the Enfield MP, Joan Ryan, the current chair of Labour Friends of Israel. This appalling collusion with the propaganda channel of the Iranian state is proof that the “moderates” have already lost. The battle against the hard-left, the rag-bag of Stalinists, ageing Trots, and wide-eyed idealists who worship at the altar of Corbyn, has already been lost
What more evidence do those Labour members who oppose the Corbyn project require? The state broadcaster of a country with an appalling record on human rights was allowed to film the humiliation of an MP, for goodness sake. And the leader said nothing.
Those MPs who kid themselves that there is something to fight for are now sitting ducks. Corbyn’s weird henchman, Chris Williamson MP, who looks like a freeze-dried Norman Tebbit, has been touring the country, visiting the constituencies of unfriendly colleagues to agitate in favour of deselection. Meanwhile, Corbyn’s pet columnists pay lip service to the anti-semitism issue while supporting the Labour leader’s decidedly Trumpish line that the media is out to get him.
The time for those Labour MPs – the majority of the Westminster Group, don’t forget – to bail out of the Labour Party has long passed. There is nothing left for them to fight for, now, but a brand tarnished by anti-semitism.
By remaining inside the party, these MPs give legitimacy to the Corbyn project in all its miserable glory. What’s more, if they don’t go now, their inevitable deselections will undermine any future action. Well, of course, they’ve quit the party now – their members had lost faith in them.
Their moral cowardice is leading those MPs meekly to the political slaughter.
Some argue that, by quitting Labour, they’d be conceding ownership of the party to Jeremy Corbyn and his acolytes. This position fails to recognise that Corbyn got the deeds some time ago and it well into his programme of refurbishment.
If serious people of good intent want to fight political extremists, they have to stand up and be counted.
Self-interested newspaper columns by anonymous officials and pointless defiant statements about fighting on inside Labour just don’t do it.