Let’s give President Donald Trump his due: He’s right when he refers to Washington as “The Swamp.” It really does fester with marsh scum. What the Trumpster doesn’t say is that he’s just another of the bottom-feeding swamp cretins. Right now, you’re probably muttering at me sarcastically: “Don’t hold back. Tell us what you really think.” Well, that is what I really think, a contempt of the political lowlifes and their petty con men and women inner tubes who keep them afloat in the contamination. One of their favorite survival tactics is cynical manipulation of leaks. In fact, if Donald Trump ever decides to have another book ghostwritten in his name, he might call it “The Art of the Leak.” Certainly, he is a true champ when it comes to perverting the use of information shared in confidence, usually for public consumption.
At its best, it’s a way of spreading information that responsible citizens have a need to know if circumstances require that a source be anonymous. Even though there’s nothing intricate about the rules, I always make sure the leaker, and me, the leakee, agree on terminology:
— Background: The person can be identified as a “source” in a position to know, such as a “senior White House source.”
— Deep background: He or she can be described only as “a source,” perhaps an “informed source.” As an aside, I’ve always been tempted to specify that my reporting was based on knowledge passed on by a “totally UN-informed source,” but I’ve resisted, perhaps realizing that my credibility was already threadbare.
— Off-the-record: The guidance is strictly that it is not to be reported, but is provided so newspeople can better understand the story we’re seeking to unravel.
This is all useful in providing full coverage of facts that would not be otherwise available through official channels, which often otherwise are used to gloss over reality.
But, like everything else, in the wrong small hands, these virtues can be corrupted. Many is the time when a self-serving prominent politician has spilled his guts to me with confidential information and then loudly attacked the leakers, knowing full well that I am honor-bound to not identify him or her as the one. Which brings us to one of the major D.C. deceivers, Donald Trump.
As he so often does, the president blasted away on Twitter: “The Failing @nytimes quotes ‘a senior White House official,’ who doesn’t exist, as saying ‘even if the meeting were reinstated, holding it on June 12 would be impossible, given the lack of time and the amount of planning needed.’ WRONG AGAIN! Use real people, not phony sources.”
Here’s the problem, folks: The source wasn’t “a phony source” at all. He or she did exist (and still does). It was, in fact, “a senior White House official,” offered up by the administration to reporters to fill gaps in the uncertainty over the off-again-on-again-who-knows-again North Korea negotiation. It happens a lot, particularly in the coverage of diplomacy, where official statements are disruptive, but backgrounds are not. It’s silly, but whatever.
As president, Trump surely was aware of the briefing. If he was unaware, then he’s a blithering incompetent. If it’s the latter one, then his communication via tweet with his base, the millions who feel anger because they’ve been overlooked, was once again a case of the ignorant leading the ignored. The Trumpster is well-aware that his relentless attacks mean his followers always can be riled up over a media “conspiracy.” Oftentimes he uses half-truths, but frequently he doesn’t even bother; he just outright lies.
He also does not concern himself with originality. He’s playing the same old game all the swamp inhabitants have played since politics first rose out of the muck. Of course, it immediately sank again and Donald Trump, in reality, is just taking us deeper.