President Trump took to Twitter this morning to condemn the leaks that have embarrassed his administration for the last month. After The New York Times reported that his campaign aides had repeated contact with Russian intelligence agents last year, citing “four current and former American officials,” the president tweeted that “The real scandal here is that classified information is illegally given out by ‘intelligence’ like candy. Very un-American!” Compare this to the less real scandal of accepting the help of a hostile foreign power to become president, which is only mildly un-American. But Trump raises a valid question. When is it a betrayal of the United States to leak classified information to the public, either directly or indirectly through the press, and when is it a service?
Those of you who picked “three weeks” in your office pool on the first resignation of the Trump administration are about to get free cupcakes. Retired general Michael Flynn resigned as National Security Advisor last night, approximately seven hours after Kellyanne Conway told MSNBC that he enjoyed the “full confidence” of the White House. Why Flynn retired is unclear. His original mistake was to discuss sanctions in a phone conversation with the Russian ambassador to the United States back in December, when he was not yet a federal official. That conversation itself is not the problem; the problem, ostensibly, is that he lied to Mike Pence about it. But the administration has known he lied about it for more than a month. Here’s Conway admitting that while simultaneously claiming that this lie was the straw that broke the camel’s back:
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) February 14, 2017
It seems like the real problem is that people are finding out about the lie. But Conway has issued two contradictory statements on this issue in the last 24 hours—three if you consider the resignation a statement, since she was almost certainly involved. Between her, Stephen Miller, and the
shadowy blotchy Steve Bannon, this administration is turning out to be a real field laboratory for students of lying.
Last Saturday, as you know, CIA director and four-star general David Petraeus resigned after an FBI investigation tangentially revealed that he had an affair—a real clusterfudge, it turns out, hereafter to be known as the Petraeus Affair Affair. The inciting incident in his exposure was a complaint from Jill Kelly, who told the FBI that she had received harassing emails from an anonymous source. That source turned out to be Paula Broadwell, Petraeus’s awesome and/or crazy biographer, who resented Kelly’s closeness to Petraeus because she, Broadwell, was doing sex on him. My fellow Americans: you must not do sex on your biographer. It’s like buying stock in your accountant. If Johnson could go 30 years without humping Boswell, you can do it, too.
It’s a disorientingly beautiful day in Missoula, where the sun and light breeze and 71-degree forecast almost distract me from the roaring of the creek, which has gone from eight inches deep to about eight feet. In this way it resembles the Clark Fork river, another usually placid body of water that has decided to erupt in rage and have its way with everybody’s basement. It’s like my father used to say: this whole thing could fall apart at any time. It’s summer now, everything is awesome, but all it takes is one driving mistake or subprime lending crisis or month of heavy rainfall and boom—everything sucks. This week’s link roundup is all about stuff going catastrophically wrong very quickly. You’d think that’d be depressing, but don’t worry: it’s stuff going wrong for other people. Fun, right? I’m sure we personally will be fine.
The good news about the roiling pot of oversteamed irrelevance that we call a national discourse is that there is pretty much always, through sheer mathematical imperative, one news story going on that is completely hilarious. For the last week it has been Sarah Palin’s and Rush Limbaugh’s public argument over the words “retard” and “retarded.” As is usually the case when a news story centers on something you’re glad the president didn’t do, this one originated with Rahm Emanuel. Two weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal ran this news analysis piece about liberal resentment of the chief of staff, including the revelation that, back in August, he dismissed a plan to run attack ads against senators opposing health care as “fucking retarded.” First of all, I sincerely want to believe that if you come to Rahm Emanuel with some idea that turns out not to be so great, he will immediately call you retarded and send you back to your desk. Second of all, everyone can stop accusing the WSJ of conservative bias, because the chief of staff saying “retarded” in a private meeting six months ago has turned out to be hot news. In a Facebook post titled “Are You Capable of Decency, Rahm Emanuel?” Sarah Palin called on the president to fire his chief of staff, saying that “Rahm’s slur on all God’s children with cognitive and developmental disabilities—and the people who love them—is unacceptable, and it’s heartbreaking.” By “God’s children,” she was generally interpreted to mean her own personal child, who—I don’t know if you’ve heard this—has Down syndrome.