Just How Unprecedented Was The NYT's Trump Op-Ed?

Not all historians agree that it was a turning point for the president's administration.
Posted at 5:50 PM, Sep 06, 2018

We've all seen it by now, the New York Times op-ed anonymously written by a member of the Trump Administration that calls the president amoral and his actions anti-Democratic. Trump called the editorial "gutless" and even suggested it could be treasonous on Twitter. So just how unprecedented was the controversial piece? 

It may be a unique situation, but it isn't exactly a revolutionary act. 

"I think while the form is unprecedented, the message is a cut and dried campaign message designed to relieve general election voters who might be thinking of voting Democrat because they think that Congress has to act as a check on the president," said Ken Hughes, historian at the Miller Center and author of two books on President Richard Nixon.

Not all historians believe this is just part of the 24-hour news cycle, though. Chris Whipple, author of "The Gatekeepers," told CNBC "The only thing that would be even remotely comparable it seems to me would be during the darkest days of the Nixon administration." Michael Beschloss, presidential historian at NBC News, said "I've never seen anything like this in modern presidential history."

The editorial has attracted a lot of attention, with endless theories of who the author could be from Vice President Mike Pence to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo -- all of whom have denied responsibility. Regardless of if or when we find out, it might not impact Trump's standing among his most faithful backers.

"It threatens his self-image and maybe a little bit of his public image," Hughes said. "But I don’t think it’s going to deter any of his supporters out in the country who’ve been hearing things like this in other forms since before he was nominated but the Republican Party in 2016."

However, a day after the op-ed was published, a senior administration official told Axios that "A lot of us [were] wishing we were the writer," adding that there are "dozens" of them resisting the president's agenda from the inside.