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Article writer should resign

Official Washington was all a-flutter after the New York Times printed an unsigned op-ed article Wednesday in which the author stated that he is part of a group of White House advisers that are trying to protect the country from some of President Trump’s worst behaviors.

The NYT stated it was printing the piece unsigned in order to protect the writer’s job.

Well, the writer should lose his or her job. If I found out that someone who worked for me was intentionally going behind my back to keep me from doing my job the way I think I should, I’d either come to a pretty quick understanding with that person about who is in charge or I would show that person the door, and lock it when they left.

It’s not treason, as the president asked in a tweet, but it is insubordination.  

The writer describes a president who is off the rails, whose decision-making processes are often not what we would hope for in our nation’s top leader. If that really is the case, the 25th Amendment to the Constitution spells out a way for the president to be removed from office. The article said some Cabinet secretaries had talked of using that process but decided against putting the country through a Constitutional crisis.

The process outlined in the 25th Amendment wasn’t meant to be simple or easy. It’s also not a simple process for the Congress to impeach a president and then convict him of the offense and remove him from office.

But it’s the people who elect the president and, barring proven incompetence or some grave felony or misdemeanor, it should be the people who replace him in a subsequent election.

As a newspaper editor, I questioned myself about whether I would have printed that unsigned piece. For all of my career, I have worked at newspapers which have had stated policies of printing signed letters and opinion pieces, granting only rare exceptions. For much of my 45-year career, I’ve been the one who decided whether to honor a writer’s request for anonymity. I’d guess there have been fewer than 10 times I’ve honored the request.

The one that sticks out most in my memory came when a parent wrote a scathing letter about some things that were happening at a school in that community. She asked that her name be withheld because her child was a student there and she didn’t want the teachers and, especially, the superintendent, to take it out on the kid. I agreed to her request after quietly verifying that what she reported in the letter was true; and because, in that situation, I could see that school officials would likely make things tough on the child. 

(In that case, the superintendent filed a lawsuit the day in 1986 that we printed the unsigned letter, asking for the identity of the writer or a million bucks. Our attorney showed his attorney legal precedent that said the paper had no obligation to reveal the writer’s identity. The superintendent dropped the lawsuit. It cost us about $2,500 in legal fees, though.)

Back to the case at hand.

There is precedent: the New York Times does occasionally publish unsigned pieces on its editorial pages. There has to be a pretty compelling reason, though, according to NYT staff. The editor responsible for publishing opinion pieces said in a follow-up article in another publication that the writer is a person he knows.

I think the piece would have had much more impact had it been printed with the person’s name. If the writer is unable to work for the president, he should have resigned and then gone to the Times with the piece.

Then let the processes outlined in the Constitution work, if necessary.

Bob Hansen is editor of the Connersville News-Examiner. Contact him at bhansen@newsexaminer.com or 765-825-0588 ext. 235.