Impeachment is too slow. Assassination is too messy. A coup d’etat sounds just about right, and it sounds French besides. Come, let us plot together.

The New York Times, marketed under the conceit that it supplies “All the news that’s fit to print,” clearly wants to help with the coup and rid the nation of the man the plotters regard as a blowhard president out to rain on the established order.

The publication in The New York Times of an op-ed essay about how plotters at the White House are determined to block the president’s aims and wishes at every turn, landed in Washington with a great noise. The newspaper won’t say who wrote the account of how the miserable wise men at the White House have even discussed using the 25th Amendment, which sets out how to remove from office a president unable to perform the duties of a president, to rid Washington of this president.

Publishing such dark speculation without saying who the speculator is, is a remarkable departure from the high and holy which newspapers have honored almost since Johannes Gutenberg, the German blacksmith who invented movable type 500 years ago to make newspapers possible.

The capital is currently in a mad rush in three or four directions at once to discover the identity of Mr. Anonymous. They’re sure he’s a mister because an editor at the newspaper used, perhaps inadvertently, the pronoun “he” to describe the author. Some people eager to rush to judgment concluded that one of the editors sat down and wrote the op-ed himself, but the op-ed was written in the brisk and straightforward English well beyond the Dick-and-Jane prose style of the editorial page of the Old Gray Lady.

But such speculation is plausible because it wouldn’t be the first time The New York Times has been guilty of playing tricks on the reader. Several years ago, citing “senior industry experts and insiders,” the newspaper set out to “expose” the fracking industry, claiming that energy experts and insiders considered fracking “little more than a Ponzi scheme.”

The “energy analyst” and a “federal analyst” quoted by The New York Times turned out to be an intern at the U.S. Energy Information Agency. Vague terms like analyst, insider, expert and official are words of art much admired by polemicists disguising themselves as reporters and pundits.

Luckily for the plotters (if luck was actually what it was), the op-ed was published just as Bob Woodward is out with his latest book, “Fear,” which further describes the carnival that Trump Cabinet meetings are said to be, with the president making free with vulgar street talk and wild demands to rid the world of villains.

In a discussion of what to do about Bashar Assad, the president of Syria who has killed many thousands of his own people with chemicals and poisons, Mr. Trump is said to have told James Mattis, the secretary of Defense, with an assortment of verbs and adverbs you might hear on a construction site, “Let’s kill him! Let’s go in and kill him! Let’s kill the lot of them!”

Mr. Woodward insists he has everything on tape, and maybe he does. One pundit who shares Mr. Woodward’s opinion of himself describes him as “known for his impeccable research and honesty.” But he has used his lively imagination to fill in the blanks, and not all of it sounds very peccable.

He once claimed to have interviewed the late William Casey, the director of the CIA, on his deathbed at the end of a long illness. He said he slipped past an iron ring of CIA operatives, nurses and hospital security and finally Mrs. Casey, all determined to let no one disturb him as he lay in a coma. But the intrepid Mr. Woodward lets nothing stop the master interrogator on his appointed rounds, and he worked out a code, something like wink your right eye to say yes and flutter your left eyelid for no. He got his scoop.

The bookies in Costa Rica have established betting odds that Vice President Mike Pence is the likely source of The New York Times op-ed, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Chief of Staff John Kelly at 4 to 1. There’s a sucker born every minute, and the smart money is staying home on this one to watch the coup. I put the odds on that at 2 to 1.

The Costa Rican bookies say they consulted the veep’s speeches in establishing their opening odds, and found that he is fond of the words “lodestar.” When he searched the speeches of others of the administration, “lodestar” came up only in Mr. Pence’s speeches. The entrails of goats are said to work well, too.

• Wesley Pruden is editor in chief emeritus of The Times.

© Copyright (c) 2018 News World Communications, Inc.


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