, 09.11.2018 01:20 PM

Column: Leaky McLeakface

There’s leaks, and there’s leaks. And then there’s the leak the New York Times got.

It was splashed across last Wednesday’s paper, to the extent that the Old Gray Lady “splashes” anything on its front page: “I AM PART OF THE RESISTANCE INSIDE THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION.”

Wow. Like, wow.

To ensure that no one missed the significance of the piece, the Times’ editorial board – who are the only ones who reportedly know the identity of the leaker – topped the resister’s tale with this:

“The Times today is taking the rare step of publishing an anonymous Op-Ed essay. We have done so at the request of the author, a senior official in the Trump administration whose identity is known to us and whose job would be jeopardized by its disclosure. We believe publishing this essay anonymously is the only way to deliver an important perspective to our readers.”

You don’t get onto the front page of the most influential newspaper on the planet by being the West Wing janitor. While we don’t presently know the author’s name, we can be reasonably assured that he or she holds a position of power.

And his or her essay spilled the proverbial beans, and then some. Here are some of the juicier bits:

“Senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations. I would know. I am one of them.”

And:

“We believe our first duty is to this country, and the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic.”

And:

“The root of the problem is the president’s amorality. Anyone who works with him knows he is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision making.”

And:

“The president’s leadership style, which is impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective. From the White House to executive branch departments and agencies, senior officials will privately admit their daily disbelief at the commander in chief’s comments and actions. Most are working to insulate their operations from his whims.”

It was the biggest White House leak since Watergate, pretty much. And its significance was underlined by the reaction of no less than the Mango Mussolini himself. On his cherished Twitter, Donald Trump screeched: “Does the so-called “Senior Administration Official” really exist, or is it just the Failing New York Times with another phony source? If the GUTLESS anonymous person does indeed exist, the Times must, for National Security purposes, turn him/her over to government at once!”

There was time when it would be news for a President of the United States to invoke “National Security” to justify “turning in” an American citizen who had exercised their First Amendment free speech rights. We are in those times no longer. President Pisstape has violated so many political conventions – he has moved so far from the most basic societal and legal norms – no one is surprised anymore.

But the White House resistance leak? That should surprise us all.

Not because a senior official is the source: senior officials leak all the time (some would say that’s all they do, along with planning their next junket). Not because it was on front page of the august New York Times (leaks have made their way onto that coveted piece of news real estate before). And not because the leak contained salacious, get-even stuff (that’s what leaks are, most of the time: the bleatings and screechings of someone who lost a political fight). Not because of any of that.

No, the I AM PART OF THE RESISTANCE INSIDE THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION story was shocking for this reason: it details a high-level mutiny against a sitting President of the United States. It describes what can only be fairly regarded as a constitutional crisis, one that will shake the world’s most powerful democracy to its foundations.

As a leak of Bob Woodward’s book Fear detailed the day before the resister’s tale was told, senior officials are now actively and regularly bypassing and overruling the decisions of the President. They are even snatching documents off the top of his desk in the Oval Office, so he doesn’t see them.

The ramifications of the New York Times’ bombshell will be felt beyond the United States. With the mid-terms just weeks away, with the Democrats maintaining a double-digit lead over Republicans, and with the Trump Administration falling apart at the seams, the resisrtance story will oblige Donald Trump to mostly give Canada what it wants in the byzantine NAFTA negotiations.

Ten days ago, Donald Trump was promising to exclude Canada from a trade deal, and mocking us. Ten days later – and after the revelation in Woodward’s book, and the Times’ account of the resister’s palace coup – Trump cannot afford to lose the few Republican allies he has left in Congress. The moment that leak was published, Canada’s trade ambitions were rescued.

There’s leaks, and there’s leaks like the one the Times had. And it’s a leak that has helped Canada, big time.

10 Comments

  1. KmmF says:

    It’s a great article, but dropping the persuasion-filter for just a second:
    the NAFTA renegotiation began because Trump instigated it. But this narrative of negotiating better deals against all non-Americans plays well with nationalists in US of which there are many adherents. Doubtful any civil servant in the White House has a strong affinity with Canada’s interests.

    Hurting Canada is still the administration’s MO, not just Trump’s. We probably need better leverage than tariffs, just saying.

    • Angel Martin says:

      https://globalnews.ca/news/4438916/nafta-negotiations-chrystia-freeland-donald-trump/

      Freeland left the negotiations to participate in a “Taking on the Tyrant” conference in Toronto.

      How is this a smart negotiating strategy (unless you are trying to deliberately have a failure) ?

      • KmmF says:

        Angel, agreed. I think Freeland may be thrown under the bus if the outcome is bad, hence she’s leading the charge. But totally true, there is no benefit to bashing ‘the obvious’. Too easy as well.

        And the correct strategy is to say “Canada has been getting a raw deal on NAFTA. We’ve been screwed on soft-wood and access to X items!” Dish back, it’s never too late to change strategy.

  2. Angel Martin says:

    2016 all over again !

    First “Donald Trump on the bus” would finish him forever.

    Then the polls showed that clinton had a 70 percent, 80 percent even 90+ percent chance of winning.

    Trudeau and Freeland should not base their trade strategy on the effect of a NYT editorial, or an election outcome that may not happen.

  3. Walter Foc says:

    root of the problem is the president’s amorality. Anyone who works with him knows he is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision making.”
    How come it has taken more than two years for the political class to face that reality?

    • KmmF says:

      Walter, it’s definitely incorrect that Trump has no first principles. Everyone knows that Trump is not a Republican, that’s part of his appeal (that I don’t share, obviously…)
      1) “economic nationalism”;
      2) “positive mental attitude for ones-self and negative branding for all opponents”;
      3) “create a viral policy position that violates ideological principles”;
      These are first principles, so figuring out how to undermine his marketing saavy is critical for victory in November. Trump is disruptive to representative democracy because political parties aren’t flexible enough to accommodate competing visions; hence Maxine Bernier and Macron’s moves. That’s why Bloomberg should run in 2020.

  4. Gord Tulk says:

    Despicable that the NYT published it as an op-ed

    Want to know the last time the NYT did this?

    Try NEVER.

    Op Eds should never be anonymous for the obvious reason of it lacks context and accountability.

    By all means they could have quoted him as a source.

    The NYT has been a lefty screed for a few decades now. This is just the latest example.

  5. Ronald O'Dowd says:

    Warren,

    Well, the proof will be in the pudding. Colour me highly skeptical on a NAFTA deal.

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