Is Vice President Mike Pence trying to pull off a "House of Cards"-style scheme to undermine Trump and increase his own chances of assuming the presidency?
Apparently, more than a few journalists believe that might be the case. According to the Huffington Post, some believe that the use of a single word - "lodestar" - is a crucial tell pointing toward Pence as the op-ed's author. During the op-ed's final paragraphs the mystery author refers to John McCain as "a lodestar for restoring honor to public life and our national dialogue."
Senator John McCain put it best in his farewell letter. All Americans should heed his words and break free of the tribalism trap, with the high aim of uniting through our shared values and love of this great nation.
We may no longer have Senator McCain. But we will always have his example - a lodestar for restoring honor to public life and our national dialogue. Mr. Trump may fear such honorable men, but we should revere them.
There is a quiet resistance within the administration of people choosing to put country first. But the real difference will be made by everyday citizens rising above politics, reaching across the aisle and resolving to shed the labels in favor of a single one: Americans.
Pence has, of course, categorically denied these allegations and affirmed his loyalty to the president.
The Vice President puts his name on his Op-Eds. The @nytimes should be ashamed and so should the person who wrote the false, illogical, and gutless op-ed. Our office is above such amateur acts.— Jarrod Agen (@VPComDir) September 6, 2018
Still, one video circulating on twitter shows Pence using the word in eight different speeches dating back to 2001, when he was a Congressman from Indiana.
Holy crap, it's true! I searched my White House Gmail for "lodestar," there were 4 examples, all Pence. [Obama said it once in 2011] Either he wrote the op-ed, or someone very clever wants people to think he did https://t.co/sbKBajt7eg #lodestar pic.twitter.com/xn8fig3zjk— Tommy Christopher (@tommyxtopher) September 6, 2018
Others pointed out that the op-ed's praise for McCain would rule out Trump hardliners like Stephen Miller as the author.
The word is "LODESTAR." Note that it comes in the same paragraph praising John McCain. That would rule out flame-throwers like Stephen Miller and Dan Scavino and suggest someone with Senate ties. This reveal is not going to take long. pic.twitter.com/NwnUtvFlko— Dan downLODESTAR Bloom (@danbl00m) September 5, 2018
At the very least, there's some evidence to suggest that the author is a man. As Bloomberg's Jennifer Jacobs pointed out yesterday, the Times' official Twitter feed may have inadvertently revealed their gender.
NYT tweet suggests the anonymous senior admin official is a man -- "he."— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) September 5, 2018
The official complains Trump "engages in repetitive rants, and his impulsiveness results in half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless decisions." https://t.co/HsNLRTCK5d pic.twitter.com/6GRD4Lbdbn
Though Jacobs also reported that several officials have told her that they suspect the author's "seniority" isn't as ironclad as the Times implied.
Several sources now saying they have doubts the anonymous senior admin official works in the West Wing — more probably works elsewhere, in one of the departments. @KellyannePolls on Fox says “hundreds of folks that would qualify for that title alone.”— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) September 6, 2018
For those who aren't familiar with the word, Merriam-Webster defines "lodestar" as "a star that leads or guides" or a person who "serves as an inspiration, model, or guide."
To be sure, the Pence theory isn't without its holes. Trump staffers have said previously that they pay attention to the idioms employed by others as a defense mechanism when speaking to the press under the guise of anonymity.
"To cover my tracks, I usually pay attention to other staffers’ idioms and use that in my background quotes. That throws the scent off me," one White House official told Axios.
But online betting markets have put Pence at the top of the list of suspects, with MyBookie currently reflecting 2-to-3 odds on Pence as the culprit, per the New York Post. The favorite right now, at 1-3 odds, is "the field" - i.e. someone not listed among the 18 most likely senior admin officials, according to the Costa-Rica-based betting operation.
Still, at first brush, the theory makes a degree of sense: As first in line for the throne, Pence undoubtedly has the most to gain from the collapse of the Trump presidency. But it's equally likely that a more junior official could've intentionally included these cues to sow discord in the ranks.
As the Trump administration has proved time and time again, anything is possible in the West Wing.