President Donald Trump is mad as hell about the leak of a White House meeting in which an aide named Kelly Sadler “joked” that Arizona Sen. John McCain was “dying anyway.”
“The so-called leaks coming out of the White House are a massive over exaggeration put out by the Fake News Media in order to make us look as bad as possible,” Trump tweeted Monday. “With that being said, leakers are traitors and cowards, and we will find out who they are!”
White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway upped the ante on Fox News Monday night, answering in the affirmative when asked whether there would be personnel changes in the White House as a result of these leaks.
The message from the White House is simple: We will find the leakers. We will get rid of them. They are traitors. And fraidy-cats.
But all of that chest-thumping ignores the more important question: Why are there so many – and so many damaging – leaks coming from the White House?
The answer to that question is very, very simple. And that answer is: Donald John Trump.
Now, there are several parts to the answer.
1. It’s Donald Trump because he is someone who himself has shown a penchant for using the media – via selected leaks of information – to finesse the narrative to be more favorable to him. Never forget that the President of the United States once made up a person named John Miller, a young PR person in the Trump organization, to call gossip columnists and talk up “Mr. Trump’s” virility, sexual attractiveness, wealth and overall coolness. Trump was Miller! Miller was Trump!
If you think Trump’s symbiotic relationship with the media – primarily conducted via leaks – stopped before he was President, ask yourself this: Would someone who made up a character as a vehicle to leak favorable information for himself (and unfavorable information for his enemies) suddenly turn against leaks when he entered politics? The answer to that question is, of course, absolutely not.
2. It’s Donald Trump because the best way to communicate with Trump is via the media. Time and time again reports – based on leaks!!! – out of the White House suggest that aides seeking to influence Trump on policy or on some other contentious issue take to cable TV or selective leaks to major print newspapers to do so. That strategy speaks to a) how much cable TV Trump watches and b) how much he consumes his presidency through the lens of cable TV. Leaks about a certain policy or even a certain person that drive news coverage are a far more effective way to ensure that issue or person gets seen by Trump than a memo written to the President or even a verbal mention in a meeting context.
3. It’s Donald Trump because he encourages the knife combat between rival aides and advisers. “I will tell you something else that’s going on in this White House, but not as badly as it was in the beginning, it’s not so much leaking as using the media to shiv each other,” Conway said Monday night. And she’s right! But, she forgot to note that the reason so many White House staffers are trying to “shiv” each other is because they know that’s what the boss likes.
“I like conflict,” Trump said in March. “I like having two people with different points of view, and I certainly have that. And then I make a decision. But I like watching it, I like seeing it, and I think it’s the best way to go. I like different points of view.”
Think of it sort of like “Gladiator” where two men would fight and Joaquin Phoenix would then give the thumbs up or thumbs down – influenced by the crowd – as to whether they lived or died. The gladiators may not have liked the process but it was the only one they had. Same goes for Trump’s White House staff. If you don’t fight – and that includes leaking to make yourself look good and your opponents look bad – you aren’t in the game. And, if you aren’t in the game, you can’t win.
This White House leaks and leaks and leaks because Donald Trump is the leaker-in-chief. It’s that simple.