Leaks and the horrible burden of responsibility

We need leaks because we’re not trusted, and maybe we shouldn’t be


This is what it’s like in America these days:


Leaks occupy a strange place in American politics, governance, and media. So many big decisions get made in secret, decisions that are momentous and important and for all that hidden as well. We’re not supposed to know what’s going on, and leaks are weapons in that cultivated ignorance: if it was only official leaks, we’d only hear the inside story from one perspective – the one that wants to hide the decision-making process yet still make it seem like it isn’t hidden. So we need unofficial leaks as well… and sometimes it’s just gossip, sometimes it’s lies, and sometimes it’s truth, and there’s no immediately easy way to discern between them.

Transparent governance would address a lot of this, but no one in power likes to shine a light on the sausage making process. They don’t think we can handle it. Maybe we can’t. Maybe we need immaculate leaders in high towers that make us trust they know what they’re doing. I don’t buy that though… but even then, if someone up top was honest with everything,that it was hard and mistakes get made and the complexity was mind-boggling, you know all it would take is one jerk with a loud mouth or a smooth delivery to tell us that he’s got all the answers and we can get rid of those poor flawed mortals up top, and you just know people would fall over themselves to fawn for the hustler.

Maybe we’re not better than that. Maybe. I’d like to try, all the same.

You can’t Tweet from the SITROOM

Crisis response requires preparation, and is the President’s most unique role. It does not appear Trump is interested in preparing.

We’ll start with this:


Trump was Tweeting during the Yemen raid, which you can’t do from the Situation Room.

I don’t believe anyone in the SITROOM would’ve been able to react to events in Yemen in any direct fashion, but they certainly can do so indirectly. I don’t know what it’s like to be President, and I don’t think that a President should need to monitor every military operation they order; goodness knows I hope the career professionals would have a better grasp on events as they happen than the latest popularity contest winner.

Still, something about this doesn’t sit right. It seems callous. I would’ve thought that a first-time President would’ve wanted to see this, to get walked through it all by the professionals, to get context on what’s involved, to learn what it is that he actually ordered. The logistics, background on the planning, the reality of execution… all the myriad bits that make the difference between a plan and a reality, especially in a situation like this.

It’s one thing to muck around with executive orders, or sign bad laws. They’re reversible, mistakes can be corrected, courts have a role if things are bad enough. But crisis response is probably the one thing the President does that’s supreme in authority, immediate, and irreversible, and there are many, many hints that a crisis under Trump would not be reacted to with wisdom, grace, or coordination.

Hacks talking about serious topics unseriously

Take a look at this thing:

I want to use the word “shocking” to describe an article covering this topic that would mention Bush only once, for the surveillance powers he doled out, and only to praise them. I can’t, because it’s not surprising at all.

The USA PATRIOT Act was the real first shot fired in the modern Imperial Presidency (back when it was just the “Unitary Executive” according to Cheney). Under that, the NSA lied to Congress and the American people and conducted flatly illegal surveillance – and Congress saw no reason to challenge any of that and still doesn’t. In fact, the only reason we know about such abuses is due to Snowden’s leaks… which this article feels were unnecessary and totally should be prosecuted.

Remember, this is an article warning of the Imperial Presidency. It doesn’t excoriate Congress for inaction. It goes out of its way to praise Bush, and then specifically Obama’s prosecution of leaks. It never mentions Cheney.

Articles like these are the reason why people can read extensively about serious topics and not have much to show for the effort. The Imperial Presidency is a real danger to the Republic, but it’s a symptom of a weak Congress and a divided nation with little capability for discourse. Articles like these are one reason why that divide exists.