Jonathan Swan at Axios quotes an unnamed Senate Republican aide as saying: “Everyone is over the leaks from this White House. Why is it that every emotional moment he has, has to be leaked, has to be a tick-tock, every second has to be transmitted to you guys in the press? . . . It is a disservice to the president when every single thing and every single thought gets leaked out . . . I don’t understand why people don’t get that. It’s not fair to the president, to his agenda and to those who work hard every day to move the ball down the field.”
In the same vein, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., whined in a tweet, “I don’t agree with congratulating (hash)Putin but [the] bigger outrage is this leak that could only come from someone in @POTUS inner circle.” He worries that aides truthfully telling us what the president is up to is part of an “ongoing pattern of duplicity [that] holds potential for serious damage to the nation.”
To begin with, Rubio’s comment is absurd. The American president congratulating the autocratic, repressive leader of our greatest geopolitical foe for having run a sham election - and not bothering to mention the poisoning of two Russians on British soil or the ongoing attempts to undermine our elections - is not merely an outrage but also yet one more sign of his abject unfitness for the job and his possible indebtedness (literally or figuratively) to Russia. That’s a scandal of unprecedented proportions. Leaking, by contrast, is a way of life, rarely a problem if it’s the other party’s president who is suffering from leaks.
Now, normally presidents should expect loyalty and confidentiality. There is no question that when it comes to classified material, leaks are a serious threat to national security. And presidents do get to pick their staff and Cabinet (subject to the Senate’s approval) in order to get the best advice they can from the people they trust the most. However, if the president goes through staff at an unprecedented rate, can only get blabbermouths to work for him and cannot gain their trust, there is a bigger problem here.
The leaking, backbiting and constant staff churn are symptoms of the real problem, namely a president who does not command loyalty (in large part because he shows none), who publicly rips aides, who makes rash decisions that imperil the country’s standing in the world, who has an unexplained and dangerous level of deference to a hostile power, who has set out to tear down the institutions of democracy (the press, independent courts, a professional civil service) and who lies (and directs his staff to lie) so constantly that the public, including Congress, really has little idea what is going on inside the White House. The problem, in short, is the president and not the people spiriting tidbits of information out of the entirely dysfunctional and duplicitous West Wing. And to the extent this president cannot attract loyal, decent, expert and careful staff, perhaps the better question is why loyal, decent, expert and careful people don’t want to work for him.
It is also worth noting that in this White House the leaks have been remarkably accurate. You’ll notice that the leaks on “DO NOT CONGRATULATE,” on Rob Porter’s security-clearance problem and on just about every major development all surfaced accurate information. White House aides aren’t spreading lies; they are spreading the truth - which the White House constantly tries to conceal under a torrent of “alternate facts.”
Moreover, if we actually had proper oversight from the GOP-controlled House and Senate, those in the White House who are leaking out of a patriotic concern about the country’s survival could rest assured that the truth would come out in the normal course of events. But here, the GOP has abdicated their oversight role. Republicans opposed an independent commission on the Russia scandal. House Republicans ran a fake investigation in which they didn’t bother to interview key witnesses or obtain relevant documents before exonerating the president. Not a single hearing has been held on the president’s dizzying array of conflicts, his receipt of foreign emoluments or his family members’ conflicts.
In sum, leaks are the least of our problems. A president weirdly deferential to our chief international foe and lacking the intellectual and temperamental traits to do the job presents a far greater danger to the country. Add in Republican lawmakers utterly devoid of spine and dismissive of their oaths of office, and we have an intolerable situation. Fortunately, voters can strip the GOP of its House majorities in November. Then we can get real oversight - and won’t be dependent on leaks to understand just how dangerous this president is.