Cockburn must give credit where it is due: Miles Taylor knows how to get attention.
America is less than a week away from one of the most bitter presidential elections in living memory. There are frenzied legal battles over how late and how illegible a mail-in ballot can be while still counting as a Biden vote. The coronavirus is still rampant, with Europe heading into what could be an economically suicidal second lockdown. There may or may not be proof of the Bidens having shady dealings in China, if Tucker Carlson can ever sort out his mail.
There’s no shortage of things for Americans to chatter about. And despite all that, on Wednesday, unremarkable ex-Trump flunkie Miles Taylor got a news cycle to himself.
In an essay on Medium, Taylor, who spent two years as an aide in the Department of Homeland Security, revealed with glee that he was the author of 2018’s unsigned New York Times op-ed boasting about an internal resistance against the Trump administration. Taylor described his decision to anonymize himself this way:
‘The decision wasn’t easy, I wrestled with it, and I understand why some people consider it questionable to levy such serious charges against a sitting President under the cover of anonymity. But my reasoning was straightforward, and I stand by it. Issuing my critiques without attribution forced the President to answer them directly on their merits or not at all, rather than creating distractions through petty insults and name-calling. I wanted the attention to be on the arguments themselves.’
Cockburn pities anybody falling for this. Hiding his name didn’t put the attention on Taylor’s arguments. It put the attention entirely on the author, as pundits played one of Washington’s most execrable games of Guess Who. The article was the Times’ most-viewed piece for all of 2018. When the book-length version came out a year later, it spent nine weeks at number one. With no specific name to tie the piece to, Trump supporters could spin their most fantastic conspiracy theories, while Trump haters were free to indulge their wildest fantasies. CNN’s Chris Cilizza proposed 13 different possibilities, ranging from John Kelly to Mike Pence to First Lady Melania Trump herself.
Needless to say, though, exactly zero of Cilizza’s contenders were 30-year-old IR dweebs. The Times told America that they were hearing from a ‘senior administration official’. Instead, they got someone who looked like a senior in high school.
And you know what? Good for Taylor. Even on the left, Taylor’s announcement was met with no small amount of befuddlement and anger. This is Anonymous? Chris Cuomo demanded that Taylor answer for the crime of fibbing to Anderson Cooper. The New Republic’s Alex Shephard sputtered that Taylor was pulling a karmic Houdini act, dodging culpability for his role in DHS’s family-separation policy. ‘Don’t Let Miles Taylor Get Away With Being a Fraud,’ Shephard begged.
Too late! Taylor already got away with being a fraud. Literally thousands of smart-ish young people come to DC every year, bearing masters degrees and a passion for policy, hoping to hit it big, despite not actually thinking anything interesting. Taylor actually pulled it off. He bamboozled America into thinking he mattered, and rode a two-year stint at one of the crappier Cabinet departments to the top of the bestseller lists. He took the single safest political position in Washington, hating Donald Trump, and managed to become famous for holding it. Now, he’s revealing himself just before he would have become irrelevant. Is it any surprise at all that he just founded his own political organization, and you can donate to it right here?
What a genius.