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Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Richard Connor: Leaks are here to stay; live with them or sink

If the White House were a ship the leaks would have sunk it by now.

Eventually, those leaks may send President Donald Trump and his administration to a watery grave.

The latest – not counting which leak might have sprung seconds ago – is the release by The Washington Post of full transcripts of phone calls between Trump and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Contents of the phone conversations are not shocking. They show a hotheaded person quick to lose his temper, to be intemperate in his remarks, and totally lacking in diplomatic skills.

Trump tells Peña Nieto to stop criticizing plans to construct a wall between Mexico and the United States. He argues with Turnbull about the U.S. accepting refugees and the news reports say Trump ended the call “abruptly.” That would strongly suggest that, in plain language, he hung up on Turnbull.

In the call with Peña Nieto, Trump referred to New Hampshire as a “drug-infested den.” People in New Hampshire – whose state motto is “live free or die” – speak with sharp New England clarity. Let’s just say they are not happy with their president. Their Democratic U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan used the president’s favorite medium, Twitter, to say his remark was “disgusting.”

If Trump makes it through four years, and if he runs again, those first-in-the-nation presidential votes that quadrennially roll in from Dixville Notch, New Hampshire, may not be favorable.

If the government and President Trump are ever going to get back on track in Washington and accomplish meaningful change and legislation, Trump needs to get over his obsession with leaks and with catching and punishing the leakers.

Anthony Scaramucci, who was the communications director for four seconds, had vowed to catch and destroy the leakers. Had he stayed employed at the White House, he would have failed at that task in record time – second, perhaps, only to his blink-of-an-eye tenure as the president’s unbridled mouthpiece.

I have news for the White House. The leaks will not stop and the leakers will not be caught.

Chasing them, responding to them, and wasting focus on them is an enormous waste of time. Leaks are part of government life just as they are part of life in business, where “secrets” are traded and given to employees, the press, and even competitors.

The press feeds off leaks because journalism works like this: We know nothing until someone tells us something. Once we know something, we can pursue a story by following the bread crumbs of information that we hope will lead to truth. Doesn’t always end up that way, but that’s the goal.

There will always be those who leak information. They have a variety of motives – some petty, some vindictive, some altruistic, some patriotic. Sometimes the leaks bring transparency to government, which is supposed to be open and accountable but often is not because many in government lie and cheat and steal. It’s a fact.

For better or worse, the practice of leaking is ingrained in our culture. The current president and his administration are setting records for springing leaks. Trump and his trusted aides – if he has any trusted aides – should learn to live with the leaks and move on. They are a distraction and fighting them is a battle he cannot win.

Hopefully, Trump will not do what one of his leak-fixated predecessors did. Knee deep in leaks back in the 1970s, President Richard Nixon brought in a sinister crew of “plumbers” – a decision that led to the distressing spectacle known as Watergate and an ignominious end to his presidency.

Richard Connor is president and publisher of the Fort Worth Business Press. Contact him at rconnor@bizpress.net

Richard Connor
Richard Connor is the owner and CEO/Publisher of DRC Media, the parent company of the Fort Worth Business Press. he also owns newspapers in Virginia. Mr. Connor held a number of corporate media executive positions before founding his own company. He is an award-winning columnist and at one time wrote a weekly column on national politics for CQ Politics, the online version of Washington, D.C.-based Congressional Quarterly.

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