The Trump White House has been plagued by leaks almost since the moment the president was sworn in. The Trump-hating media have been having a field day with “sources” and probably wish that the party would go on forever.
Today, the Washington Post published leaked telephone transcripts of conversations that President Trump had with two world leaders: President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. This leak is not being roundly celebrated by those opposed to Trump, however.
Commentary’s John Podhoretz agrees that the transcripts are newsworthy and fascinating to people like him, but explains why the leak of them is particularly troublesome:
But we shouldn’t be reading them. We really shouldn’t. It’s not because they might be embarrassing to Trump, though they are. It’s not because any president deserves to have a staff loyal enough to him not to release highly sensitive information for whatever reason the leaker might have, though he should. It’s because the leaders of other countries need to know that if they have private and candid conversations with the president of the United States, they will not be putting their country’s relationship with the U.S. or their own relationship with their own people at risk due to their candor.
A president’s interactions with the leaders of other countries are asymmetrical. America is the most powerful nation on earth. Mexico and Australia are not. It’s news in a foreign capital when a deputy assistant secretary of state gives a speech there—days of news, during which that country’s pundits and politicians comb through that relatively unimportant American official’s words looking for clues about America’s feelings about and relations with it. A one-on-one with a president might have the power to topple a government if his candid interlocutor says something direct and impolitic. If such people cannot have confidence their private words remain private, there will be no candor between leaders, no serious plain talk, nothing.
We’re so used to talking about how America’s influence has fallen over the years and how little we are respected here and there and blah blah blah that we forget America bestrides the narrow world like a Colossus, and one false step can crush someone or something that we had no intention of crushing. It seems likely the leaker was so enraged by Trump he dropped this dirty dime on him to make the president look foolish. It’s not an overstatement to say that one leaker has singlehandedly introduced a new kind of instability into the international system. I hope he or she enjoys the fruits of his labors today. Then I hope he or she is exposed, and shamed, and is denied any further work in government.
It is obvious that the disturbing dance between the media and people leaking information from the White House is designed to create instability for the administration. The press hasn’t been hiding their intentions at all. Since failing to deliver for Granny Maojackets last year, they’ve been more hysterically emotional than a teenage girl who just got stood up by her prom date. The Constitution be damned, they want to de-legitimize this presidency by whatever means they can.
The broader consequences that Podhoretz mentions were probably never even considered or, if they were, probably deemed acceptable collateral damage. If the latter is true, then the anti-Trump sentiment has officially become pathological.
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) is no fan of the president’s by any stretch of the imagination, but even he is “alarmed” by this:
I am alarmed at leaks of conversations between two heads of state. It doesn't matter what I think of this President, this is terrible.
— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) August 3, 2017
Hopefully, the new White House chief of staff will be able to identify and unceremoniously purge the leaker(s) in a relatively short time.
Even if, as Podhoretz hopes, this particular leaker isn’t allowed to work in government again there will probably be a cushy CNN contract waiting.