On the Leak State

I regularly engage in long, thoughtful conversations about The Events of the Day with a respected Doctor, a man of science who has a certain respectability about him. I’ll not go so far as to suggest I know his political views, but it is, I believe, fair to say that he is–somewhat–to my right (although I’m on such a bizarre three-dimensional spectrum that the “left-right” distinction doesn’t carry much weight. Ask me later).

Recently, our conversations have had much to do with the Troubles in the Oval Office, with one memorable talk (as I drank an iced coffee, black, in the abandoned cafe of a Starbucks with no internet access) dealing with the revelation that our Commander-In-Chief had shared classified information with The Pesky Russians.

My stance, as is normal for this sort of thing, is resigned horror at the sheer weight of the incompetence of the man who lost the popular vote. The Doctor had a different view. He was troubled, deeply troubled, by the leaks, he said. What the President did was bad, he agreed; but at least he has the authority to share such information as he will. Isn’t it a little disturbing, he asked, that random anonymous people were sharing this information with people who most certainly did not have security clearance? Isn’t it a problem that these people are essentially assassinating the President in the press?

I have thought about this question a great deal, and since it’s a crutch of the right-wing media apparatus, I thought I’d address it here.

First, regarding the “Deep State.” Do I believe that our government has been infested with a cabal of shadowy figures dedicated to overturning the duly-elected administration? No, I don’t. But do I believe that the thousands and thousands of unelected federal employees who have been working in public policy and national security for decades have a bias towards stability and the established status quo? Of course. So when I say “Deep State,” that’s what I mean–the Establishment. The Stability of the Way Things Are.

Under normal circumstances, I’d obviously be horrified at the notion that the Deep State, disagreeing with their boss on the direction of the country, would seek to undercut him by leaking damaging information to the press. As a citizen, I would hope that the bureaucrats and civil servants would follow their orders to the best of their abilities, regardless of politics.

Furthermore, I have the deep-seated distrust of the Security State that befits somebody who read Scahill’s book on Blackwater years before Erik Prince’s sister became Secretary of Education. The Security State (by which I mean the surveillance apparatus of the Executive Branch, the prison-industrial complex, and the military-industrial complex) wields incalculable power and authority, and I have a reflexive distrust of their motives. To suggest that they would take it on themselves to overthrow the President to further their own motives has implications about who is truly in charge, and I’m not a fan of that.

On the other hand, as has been widely reported, these are not normal times. The President is categorically and demonstrably unfit for his office. Every second he is in a position of authority, people are in danger, both in this country and abroad. His healthcare “policies” would sicken and bankrupt millions; his budget cuts would doom millions to starvation. In that context, in the presence of a global geopolitical threat, the action of the Deep State is not just reassuring, it’s heroic.

As I said at the time, this is a choice between a bad and a worse. I don’t like that the unelected Deep State has the power to destroy a man’s reputation in the media; but I also don’t believe that a halfway competent actor would be as susceptible to that level of assault. Mainly, I don’t want The Chief Executive to be brought down by anonymous leaks, I want it to be something named, sourced, and public.

Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

Categories: Commentary

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1 reply


  1. News of the Morning 6.18.17 – The Georgia Wonk

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