The term “Vichy,” as in Vichy, France, has become synonymous with collaboration with evil. In 1940, following Germany’s swift victory over France, the area of southern France that remained relatively unoccupied by German troops became known as “Vichy France,” with the former capitol city of Paris moved to the southern town of Vichy. Headed by Marshall Philippe Petain, this nominally “free” zone of France quickly became an autocracy, associated with participating willingly in the Nazi’s worst horrors, both towards French citizens and, in particular, towards Jewish French citizens. The Vichy government was replaced with a government headed by Charles de Gaulle, the leader in exile of the French Resistance, by the Allies in 1944 after the invasion of France, and thousands of members of the Vichy government were summarily executed after the war for their treason.
In three glorious paragraphs Frank Rich, interviewed for New York Magazine, sums up everything we need to know about the “Anonymous Trump official” behind the New York Times op-ed that has set everyone’s hair on fire.
If we are to believe Mr. (or Ms.) Anonymous, he and his fellow in-house Trump resisters are the “adults in the room” and “unsung heroes” who are “working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.” This is no doubt how Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, and all the rest of the president’s Vichy Republicans see themselves too.
It’s the same way the officials in Vichy France saw themselves—although they were collaborators, they imagined that their collaboration was actually a check on the most extreme excesses of the Nazi regime that they worked for and answered to. Thus they could pat themselves on the back and justify their so called consciences by claiming they were preventing a greater evil, even that they were a part of the “resistance,” of sorts.
Rich sees this through this pretension as the pure, self-dealing sophistry it is. He asks exactly what “inclinations” has this President really manifested that haven’t already seen the light of day with wholehearted internal support? What have we been spared, really?
[W]hich of Trump’s “worst inclinations” have any of them frustrated? The ripping apart of immigrant families? The nonstop race-baiting and the condoning of white neo-Nazis at Charlottesville? The assaults on Americans’ health care, on LGBT rights, on the press? The nonstop ethical abuses and kleptomania of the Trump family and Cabinet members? The wholesale effort to sabotage the rule of law?
Unlike the collaborators in Vichy France, no one held a gun to Mr. Anonymous’ head and told him he had to continue working for someone as corrupt and venal as Trump. For someone who managed to infiltrate Trump’s circle, there were certainly other employment opportunities that didn’t involve aiding and abetting a criminal President. And yet, he stayed, supposedly to protect us all from his boss’s worst impulses.
Mr. Anonymous is a coward so lacking a moral compass that he doesn’t realize that the best way to “preserve our democratic institutions” (as he claims to be doing) is to identify himself, resign, and report any criminal activity he has witnessed by the president or his colleagues.
As far as the lyrical apologia in the Times, penned by someone who looks like they have a bit more journalistic experience than you would expect from inside this White House, Rich is about as contemptuous as can be imagined.
It reads like a defense document that’s being put on the record should that rainy day come when Mr. Anonymous, no longer anonymous, will have to defend his own actions in a Nuremberg-like legal reckoning once the king of Crazytown has been carted off. As any student of Vichy knows, there was no shortage of French collaborators who falsely claimed to have been secretly part of the underground Resistance to the Pétain regime once the war was over.
As the Trump Administration settles in to its death spiral, we can expect more collaborators to jump ship, looking desperately for sympathy that they neither merit nor deserve. Some, like Mr. Anonymous, may even bill themselves as heroes, or part of the “Resistance.”
They’re not. They’re just Vichy Republicans trying to escape the consequences of their actions.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.