Yesterday’s WaPo transcripts of Trump’s calls with the leaders of Mexico and Australia may be the best filter yet for separating garden-variety Trump critics from hardcore anti-Trump fanatics. Who thinks it’s a welcome development that the president can’t have a candid phone conversation with a fellow head of state anymore without having to worry that a minute-by-minute account will find its way into the newspapers? Not Democrat Ben Cardin:
“I don’t think the transcripts should have been leaked,” Sen. Ben Cardin told CNN’s John Berman Friday on “New Day.” “We’ve had reports on both … the Australian call was well reported. So I don’t think it was a surprise to read the transcripts.”
Not former Obama advisor David Axelrod:
Transcripts of @POTUS calls w/leaders of Mexico; Australia were embarrassing. Yet the leaking of them feels like a terrible precedent.
— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) August 4, 2017
Not former Obama NSC member Ned Price:
“This is beyond the pale and will have a chilling effect going forward on the ability of the commander in chief to have candid discussions with his counterparts,” Ned Price, a former National Security Council official under President Barack Obama, told The Hill.
“Granted, the White House contributed to this atmosphere by welcoming the free-for-all environment, where anonymous leaks are commonplace. But we must draw the line somewhere.”
Not stalwart Trump skeptic David Frum either:
But if no high national-security secret has been betrayed in these transcripts, the workings of the U.S. government have been gravely compromised, and in ways that will be very difficult to repair even after Trump leaves office. Trump’s violation of basic norms of government has driven people who would otherwise uphold those norms unto death to violate them in their turn. Contempt for Trump’s misconduct inspires counter-misconduct.
Nor is that the end. The less Trump can trust the regularly constituted government, the more justified he will feel in working irregularly. His irregular actions then justify more counter-irregularity from the rest of the government.
The hazards of mainstreaming this sort of leak are obvious for reasons both pro-Trump and anti. If nothing else, a Trump-hating Democrat should be able to imagine a future Democratic president being hamstrung this way and dislike what happened yesterday for purely precedential reasons. The argument might be different if something alarmingly newsworthy had come from leaking the transcripts, but it didn’t. It was done purely to embarrass the president and stoke his insecurity. Only a dull, hyperpartisan hack with an agenda would treat it as something to celebrate. So here’s Maxine Waters treating it as something to celebrate.
Exit question: Should we be bothered that a sitting congresswoman is encouraging natsec crimes on national television?
— The View (@TheView) August 4, 2017