Politics

Goodbye, Anonymous Republican Source

An anonymous Republican source—with his face blurred—waves farewell.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Getty and Getty Images Plus.

So long, Anonymous Republican Source, you omnipresent feature of countless stories about calumny and chaos in the West Wing, you utter, utter coward. By narrating the horrors of the Trump administration while never going on the record about any of them, you attempted to have it both ways: to play the hero while still remaining on the payroll of America’s greatest villain. You worked for a man who bashed “fake news” in public while you ran to reporters in private in your feeble attempts to soothe your guilty conscience (and/or advance your agenda amid the White House’s various eye-clawing factions). You participated in the degradation of countless democratic norms while maintaining the one norm that matters most in official Washington: the political insider’s right to never face consequences for saying what is really on their minds.

While we’re at it, let’s also bid farewell to your cousins, A Source Familiar With the President’s Thinking and A Senior Administration Official. More often than not these Highly Placed Sources were likely either Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Jared Kushner, the president’s various chiefs of staff, or Donald Trump himself, breaking kayfabe behind the scenes while maintaining character in public for the benefit of the rubes watching at home. By speaking to reporters while never standing behind your words, for four years you all used the press as a tool to advance your own ulterior motives and self-serving ambitions.

Anonymously sourced stories come and go like whispers in the wind, because the allegations contained therein aren’t backed up with names. I’m sort of oversimplifying here—for reporters, sometimes anonymous sourcing is a move in a long game to get that source to eventually go on the record, or at least publish the most information possible while maintaining a channel of reporting—but not really. In Washington, with anonymous sourcing, nothing ever really changes, including reporters’ complicity in the whole sordid practice. You certainly never changed anything, Anonymous Republican Source, because changing things was never your intent. Your goal was to save face with your savvy buddies, to assure them that you didn’t actually believe any of this horseshit, that like everyone, you were just playing the game.

This game will continue during the Biden administration, albeit with different players, who hopefully will not be quite so breathtakingly cynical. Goodbye, you gutless ghouls, and may your next contact with a reporter come when you offer a hasty “No comment” on the day of your indictment.

This is part of a series of goodbyes to Trumpworld figures. Read the rest here.