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The Dishonorable White House Leaks

Conservative writer Erick Erickson said he knows [1] one of the White House sources who has leaked information critical of President Trump. Erickson said on FOX News on May 16 that “more and more White House sources are leaking to the press so that the president does get the memo … people in the White House are trying to get the president’s attention.” Erickson said this is “not intentional sabotage.” He said the person he knows who is leaking is a Trump supporter who is frustrated with President Trump.

Since Erickson said this the leaks from anonymous sources in the White House have, if anything, increased. Now White House communications director Mike Dubke has resigned and it doesn’t seem a big leap to assume the issues are related—we shouldn’t have to wait long for leaks from the White House to tell us.

At the root of all of this is me-generation, inside-the-beltway-style thinking, as leaks designed to “get the president’s attention” don’t just publicly showcase a lack of loyalty from White House staff, but they actually expose a complete lack of honor in those doing the leaking. It’s hard not to wonder if these leakers even understand what real honor is.

When those on the inside of an embattled administration empower themselves by trying to check their boss (in this case the president of the United States) not from within their chain of command, as they rightly can, but by anonymously leaking information to the media, then what we have is mutinous conduct. That is only honorable in one extreme circumstance.

Before getting to that, it should be said anyone who has spent a good deal of time inside the Beltway has likely been exposed to an unhealthy dose of Machiavellianism. Anyone who has spent a career in Washington, D.C.’s political circus might have a hard time clearly comprehending, much less believing in, real honor. I’ve even had some who live and work inside the Beltway tell me honor is a quality they can’t afford, as others won’t play by gentlemanly rules.

Journalists with that point of view can only do so much damage, but officials with that view can sink a presidency.

Now sure, a good argument could even be made that journalists should be circling sharks who feel most emboldened when there is some blood in the water. And that might be a sound basis for an argument if the Washington media went after Democrats with the same zeal it does Republican administrations.

But whatever we think of journalists, any reasonable person will likely agree that when someone takes a staff position in an administration they are agreeing to support the administration. To accomplish this, instead of trashing their boss and hierarchy in the media, those within an administration would be wiser to come to an understanding of what real honor is, or, if they are not happy with what they signed on for, to leave the administration in protest.

So okay, what is honorable? Dictionary.com begins defining “honor” as “honesty, fairness, or integrity in one’s beliefs and actions.” That’s a fine start, but honor is much more than those lofty words. For a more practical understanding of honor, it is helps to look at the actions of those who’ve misunderstood it.

Edward Snowden is a good example of a person who showed he didn’t understand honor. Hopefully being stuck in Russia’s cold embrace has taught him what he clearly didn’t know—though, based on his tweets, it hasn’t.

Some on the right and the left consider what Snowden did to be honorable, even heroic, because they like that he checked Big Brother. I like that, too. (I even have a soon-to-be-released novel coming out called Kill Big Brother [2] that shows how to get it done right.) But the thing is Snowden wasn’t courageous enough to do the real honorable thing. If he took his information on government invasions of privacy to Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who helped write the Whistleblower Protection Act [3] and is a strong advocate for whistleblowers, or another member of Congress and let the system fight it out on the inside before, as a last resort, possibly leaking some small portion of the data to the media, then he could be called honorable from a certain and very American point of view.

But that’s not what he did. According to a bipartisan report by the House Intelligence Committee, Snowden calculatingly tried to trick coworkers, sometimes successfully, into giving him their security credentials so he could access their network drives. He then copied all of the information and, finally, leaked it. According to the report [4] the “vast majority of the documents he stole [had] nothing to do with programs impacting individual privacy interests—they instead pertain to military, defense, and intelligence programs of great interest to America’s adversaries.” Snowden soon fled to China and then to Russia—two nations that hardly stand up for the values he was supposed to be fighting for. And he gave those nations this secret U.S. government data.

There is little that is honorable in Snowden’s actions. Chelsea Elizabeth Manning (born Bradley Edward Manning), who delivered nearly three-quarters of a million classified or sensitive military and diplomatic documents to Wikileaks, also acted dishonorably. He/she should have acted as a whistleblower, not a leaker.

Meanwhile, those now in the White House who reportedly decided to check President Trump by leaking information to the media have acted just as dishonorably.

If honor requires them to act, then it also requires them to act in an honorable way. It takes real guts to do that, especially when you realize how the U.S. government’s bureaucracy treats whistleblowers—and then realize that even a congressman can’t do much to help a whistleblower even as the whistleblower’s career is destroyed, often by politically appointed bureaucrats who consider whistleblowers to be traitors.

The honorable, and American, way to check the system is to use its built-in checks and balances, not to hide behind anonymity while muckraking in the media. Going outside the system might be honorable if the checks and balances do not work; checking the entire system like that, however, must be a last resort in a freely elected democracy. (This is arguably what Deep Throat did.)

Those in the current administration who are uncertain about what is honorable should pick up a copy of Herman Wouk’s 1951 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Caine Mutiny. Or, if they don’t have the time, watch the 1954 film version starring Humphrey Bogart, Van Johnson and Fred MacMurray.

In the film version Captain Philip Francis Queeg (Humphrey Bogart) shows clear signs of paranoia as he tries to enforce discipline on the Caine’s crew. Communications officer Thomas Keefer (Fred MacMurray) soon tries to convince executive officer Stephen Maryk (Van Johnson) to consider relieving Captain Queeg on the basis of mental incapacity under Article 184 of Navy Regulations. Maryk refuses, but finally has to do so when the ship is imperiled by a storm and Captain Queeg falls apart under the pressure. The film then turns to a court-martial hearing for Maryk and others for mutiny. They win the case when Captain Queeg falls apart on the witness stand. This leaves them feeling justified, but then, later, their Navy defense attorney (Jose Ferrer), now drunk, confronts them and tells them they were wrong. He tells them they should have helped Captain Queeg along the way instead of mutinously pulling away from him until he collapsed under pressure. The honorable thing to do was to first try to help.

Honor can be a hard, subtle thing like that, especially when the boss doesn’t always showcase all the traits of a man of honor.

Frank Miniter is the author of the New York Times bestseller The Ultimate Man’s Survival Guide: Recovering the Lost Art of Manhood [5]. He is also the author of This Will Make a Man of You [6] and The Future of the Gun [7].

37 Comments (Open | Close)

37 Comments To "The Dishonorable White House Leaks"

#1 Comment By Joe the Plutocrat On June 2, 2017 @ 12:03 am

Can’t help but chuckle at you obsession/focus on the word honor. What you call honor borders on treason. Oh, by the way… The Caine Mutiny was a work of FICTION.

#2 Comment By Whine Merchant On June 2, 2017 @ 1:38 am

This nostalgic plea for a return to a gentleman’s code of honour only would only succeed if the system is aligned with the same basic principles. If the system is populated by unprincipled real estate hacks and survivors of Pentagon in-fighting, then the upstream managers will crush anyone who does not serve their ambitions on any given day.

The rule is that you protect your back by protecting the boss in public, even if you are the leaker to the press after dark.

#3 Comment By Thrice A Viking On June 2, 2017 @ 6:47 am

Are there genuine “checks-and-balances” in our system? It strikes me that the courts are unchecked, and therefore there’s no real balance.

#4 Comment By Johann On June 2, 2017 @ 9:03 am

“Erickson said on FOX News on May 16 that “more and more White House sources are leaking to the press so that the president does get the memo … people in the White House are trying to get the president’s attention.” Erickson said this is “not intentional sabotage.” He said the person he knows who is leaking is a Trump supporter who is frustrated with President Trump.”

Sorry, I don’t believe this, especially coming from Erick Erickson, whose middle name is probably Erick, and who was a never Trumper.

#5 Comment By Corwin On June 2, 2017 @ 10:19 am

Except that our checks and balances have failed. The first line of defense is supposed to be Congress, but as long as the republicans who control Congress can get what they want, or at least move in that direction, they will never hold Trump accountable.

The next line, voters, have at least 19 months before we can even hope to have a different Congress, and 2 years beyond that for a different president. That’s a long time, with a huge amount of potential damage to be done all for the sake of honor.

Would you be willing to risk a world war, or a depression, or thousands of people dying from lack of insurance all so that you can say they acted honorably?

#6 Comment By stefanie Neubert On June 2, 2017 @ 10:29 am

“Honor is honesty, fairness or integrity in one’s beliefs and actions…” None of which could ever be used to describe the psychologically and emotionally shrunken little man with the voracious ego now running this country. Maybe the leakers should just resign. On the other hand, one assumes at least some of them are motivated by desperation. And how is it that this genius businessman has created such an utterly dysfunctional and chaotic white house? Don’t real leaders inspire ? Keep the leaks coming. At this point, they are acts of patriotism, not dishonor.

#7 Comment By joe361 On June 2, 2017 @ 10:42 am

The author as is typical ignores context. Was it honorable to initiate a war of aggression against Iraq. No war no Manning. Is it honorable to ignore your oath to the Constitution and shred it? No shredding no Snowden.

#8 Comment By Adriana I Pena On June 2, 2017 @ 11:08 am

I understand that the loyalty of those men is to the Constitution and the country, not to whoever happens to be President.

And they might decide that they are not qualified to be psychoterapist to the incompetent in charge. All they can hope for is to minimize the damage.

#9 Comment By p3cop On June 2, 2017 @ 11:10 am

I totally agree. These are not heroes, these are traitors to their oaths, if not to their country. The noble thing to do if you can’t support your boss would be to step down, but these cowards don’t have the guts to do that. That takes actual moral courage. The leakers should be found, fired, and tried in a court of law.

#10 Comment By Mark Thomason On June 2, 2017 @ 11:14 am

Snowden and Manning did the right thing, just as did Ellsberg on the Pentagon Papers before them.

If what is happening in the White House now is really comparable to those three, then I need to re-consider these leaks from the White House, perhaps they too are correct.

However, I think back stabbing covert power plays by insiders are different from those other things. It is dishonorable and suborns what it purports to be part of because of those differences.

#11 Comment By Dan Green On June 2, 2017 @ 11:28 am

Better known as the Swamp. No surprises what folks who work in it, will stoop to. Reality is two fold. People love to gossip, and yes you can undermine your boss to get him canned.

#12 Comment By Kevin On June 2, 2017 @ 11:34 am

“The leakers should be found, fired, and tried in a court of law.”

This is a good time to remind us that 99% percent of leaks have nothing to do with classified information. As much as you would like it, the US has no lèse-majesté laws.

Also, given that it is now the official policy of the White House not to release any information to Democratic Congressmen (who, after all were not elected by REAL AMERICANS, so what do they expect?), not to leak information would be dishonorable.

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[I am curious to see how our constitutional conservatives respond to this one.]

#13 Comment By Fred Bowman On June 2, 2017 @ 12:27 pm

Honor and Integrity are sadly of little use in today’s political world. Down and dirty is how that game is played. And what have we got from that? Our current POTUS who doesn’t have a clue about “Honor” or “Integrity” and yet many “good Christian Americans” are putting a misguided faith in him.

#14 Comment By One Man On June 2, 2017 @ 12:31 pm

Do leaks make this administration MORE transparent or LESS transparent?

Is transparency a GOOD thing or a BAD thing?

Should the government be HIDING things or letting the people see what’s going on?

#15 Comment By Kevin On June 2, 2017 @ 1:09 pm

“However, I think back stabbing covert power plays by insiders are different from those other things. It is dishonorable and suborns what it purports to be part of because of those differences.

The obvious counter-argument is that if the White House is riven by factions, and the president spends a lot of his time watching cable news and agreeing with whomever speaks to him- as the leaks indicate- the public has a right not know about that.

#16 Comment By Howard On June 2, 2017 @ 1:12 pm

Being a traitor to one’s king, a la George Washington, is perfectly compatible with honor, though, right?

#17 Comment By Robert Levine On June 2, 2017 @ 2:13 pm

Honor can be a hard, subtle thing like that, especially when the boss doesn’t always showcase all the traits of a man of honor.

And when the boss never showcases any of those traits? What then?

#18 Comment By TJ Martin On June 2, 2017 @ 2:31 pm

So its ok for Trump and the RNC to promote , request and possibly finance leaks not to mention laud the efforts of Assange etc [ until recently ] … but its dishonorable and traitorous for a Whistleblower on the inside to let loose with pertinent information in regards to the future and well being of this country ?

You gotta just love the blatant abject hypocrisy of the Alt Right addled RNC . And perhaps Mr Miniter … as with the majority of your fellow blinded by greed and power RNC sycophants tis time you start placing Patriotism over Party and Country over King ( POTUS )

FYI ; Moi ? A staunch dyed in the wool card carrying Independent . e.g. I think for myself rather than obey the dictates of any party / entity / religion

#19 Comment By David Naas On June 2, 2017 @ 4:03 pm

How quaint. Mentioning Politicians and Honor in the same essay. OK, I’ll bite.

Name one American Politician with Honor, the sort of Honor you are talking about, present or past. If past, are we talking recent past or long past (and hence, possibly mythological)?

Go ahead. I’ll wait.

#20 Comment By Howard On June 2, 2017 @ 4:21 pm

@David Naas — I’m not by any means the world’s biggest Ulysses S. Grant fan, but he did have enough honor to give his famous “Sorry, I Really F***ed Up In Office” speech when he left. Ironically, that is one of the most honorable moments any president has had.

#21 Comment By KennethF On June 2, 2017 @ 4:52 pm

“I was just following orders”.

At some point your loyalty should be to your country and the rule of law, not your boss.

No doubt some are out to harm Trump for the wrong reasons. But given his ignorance and incompetence, on display to the entire world via his tweets, speeches, and actions, it’s perfectly reasonable to believe that some are putting country before boss, country before party.

The author said it: whistleblowers get screwed. Leaks happen in every administration… and please stop with the “liberal media” whining, it’s as false as it is tedious. The right-wing media is every bit as powerful as the left, if not more so. Donald “John McCain is not a war hero because he got captured” Trump’s victory last November is proof enough of that.

#22 Comment By georgina davenport On June 2, 2017 @ 7:05 pm

“The American way is to use checks and balances, not to hide behind anonymity while muckraking in the media.”

Precisely. But where are the checks and balances? Who is doing it? The Republican Congress?

Speaking of hiding, why are Trump and associates hiding their meetings with Putin people?

Why do you expect honor from the staff when the the boss is himself dishonorable and constantly betray his staff?

#23 Comment By Steve Waclo On June 2, 2017 @ 8:22 pm

“Snowden fled to China, then to Russia…”

Fun Fact: Snowden had ticket in hand for Cuba when the State Department pulled his passport, stranding him in the Moscow Airport. Sure he fled but, if it matters, Russia was not
Snowden’s first choice and he was ultimately heading for Central America (Brasil?).

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#24 Comment By John S On June 2, 2017 @ 8:29 pm

“…as a last resort, possibly leaking some small portion of the data to the media, then he could be called honorable…”

Do these words not run counter to your argument? It could be that this is where the White House leakers are.

#25 Comment By tz On June 2, 2017 @ 8:46 pm

Snowden and Manning did the Honorable thing.

It’s nice for you to sit there in your comfortable office and tell them what they should have done. But do you even know what happened to every other whistle-blower under Obama? I’d expect Grassley to tell the Administration which would figure out it was Snowden and would throw him into a dungeon, while there would be even less of an investigation into the NSA than Hillary’s server or foundation.

I have no idea why you something we have thousands worthy of Diogenes award in DC. I can count on my fingers the number of congressmen that USUALLY do the honorable thing. And wouldn’t the NSA look to see who visited Grassley?

Had we elected Ron Paul in 2012, Snowden would have had someone to go to. Even if there were a whistleblower’s office, the NSA would be tapping it and exposing the whistleblowers, and the office would likely to do NOTHING while assuring they are taking it very seriously and investigating. Like the FBI did with Hillary.

Trump? I’ll believe the swamp is drained when Hillary is in prison. Until then don’t talk about Snowden.

#26 Comment By John Fargo On June 2, 2017 @ 9:07 pm

Chelsea Manning did the honorable thing and was thrown in jail for her efforts.

#27 Comment By JD Ryan On June 2, 2017 @ 9:27 pm

You’d have a point, if the GOP in the House and Senate weren’t marching lockstep with the POTUS. Yes, McCain and Graham are “concerned” every now and then, but still do the dirty work. But, hey, more tax cuts for the wealthy at the expense of everyone else – that’s the priority for the GOP. The people leaking are heroes, as they are doing what Congress is failing to do. If it were HRC in there, there’d already be impeachment proceedings underway and militias storming the WH.

#28 Comment By Hardfloor On June 2, 2017 @ 9:54 pm

I dare say that the leakers (and I’ll limit this discussion to those leaking the serious intel, not the vast armies of extraordinary leakers that occupy the White House)- the leakers must recognize that today our government is entirely controlled by a Republican Party that is virtually unanimously dismayed with their Republican president — and yet they lack the courage/brass to say so publicly lest they be consumed by the tribal loyalty machine. So they’re trying to undermine the tribe’s loyalties to the President. Only when he’s weakened enough to look vulnerable can they come out and act with “honor” to take a stand. Doing so today would just be futile and dangerous.

#29 Comment By polistra On June 3, 2017 @ 5:06 am

Checks and balances never existed here. When we abandoned the Parliamentary system in 1776, we gave up the entire package of “rule with consent” and intentionally adopted tyranny and dictatorship.

#30 Comment By Jon Butler On June 3, 2017 @ 9:58 am

Frank, you were doing OK until you turned the article into a diatribe against Snowden. It’s claimed once again, against all experience and evidence, that Snowden could have curbed the abuses of the Deep State by going through channels … the same ones that have now deep sixed the CIA torture report forever.

Snowden served the public – we never would have known anything at all, with the stonewall of official denials of the truth.

And the fact is, so powerful is the Deep State, that no one yet has managed to curb its unaccountable and unlawful conduct, not even a President, let alone congresscritters like Grassley. Such can only say, “Gee, if the public only knew what I do, they’d be upset to see what I’ve seen, but loyalty to regulations means I can’t tell them anything.”

And as for a dissenting President, it seems that Schumer’s “six ways to Sunday” for the Deep State to bring him down is coming true. CIA “color revolutions” come home to roost, overthrowing democracy the Deep State doesn’t like.

The anonymous leakers disloyal to Trump aren’t anything like Snowden – they’re not disclosing who they are, and they’re not leaving their jobs, facing arrest or going into exile for a cause – they’re engaged in cynical Washington careerism. You could never accuse Snowden of that sort of patriotism, true – our real American political religion.

#31 Comment By Howard On June 3, 2017 @ 12:39 pm

@KennethF — You have some important missing steps in your “proof” that “the right-wing media is every bit as powerful as the left”.

#32 Comment By Conewago On June 3, 2017 @ 1:25 pm

David Naas, who speaks with such an arrogant tone that ignorance is probably the reason, has apparently never studied the administration of George Washington. Washington willingly included Jeffersonians and Federalists in his team and was rewarded by them with backbiting and – in Jefferson’s case – near-treason. Yet Washington never stooped to the level of personal attack and sought always, even when aggravated, to be conciliatory towards these rival views of the republic.

Although his reputation has been soured by neo-Confederate “history,” certainly Lincoln acted honorably in his administrative dealings. And it is not mere myth that Confederate soldiers had mixed feelings towards his death.

#33 Comment By KevinS On June 3, 2017 @ 4:34 pm

“At the root of all of this is me-generation, inside-the-beltway-style thinking, as leaks designed to “get the president’s attention” don’t just publicly showcase a lack of loyalty from White House staff, but they actually expose a complete lack of honor in those doing the leaking.”

No. At the root of this is a completely unqualified buffoon sitting in the Oval Office.

#34 Comment By William Dalton On June 3, 2017 @ 5:32 pm

Before rooting out whistleblowers like Manning and Snowden, those who are exposing evidence of actual government wrongdoing, Trump should concentrate upon those in the government who are overtly conspiring and working to subvert the policies of his Administration.

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#35 Comment By Mark Thomason On June 4, 2017 @ 10:27 am

“Muckraking in the media” dates as a phrase and concept to the rise of the big media newspapers of the 19th Century. It is very American.

It was however only one feature of DC, and not dominant. Now it is the whole of DC, how the place functions. It is all knife in the back, no leadership.

#36 Comment By EliteCommInc. On June 4, 2017 @ 11:34 am

As has been clear since the nomination, the current President should have cleared the previous staff, and not hired anyone who was not n his agenda from the beginning. It does not make those not on board bad people. But it makes them problematic that they had policy, and attitudinal agendas in opposition to his own. By bringing them on board, he gave them a kind of tacit permission to steer events. Those people had established loyalties and networks. They had no intention of dismantling them to the man most never expected to win.

That anyone is complicit in this is not shocking. That anyone actually supports this is very disturbing,. It were revelations of criminal behavior that might be one thing, and even then there are appropriate mechanisms for dealing with such issues.

There are people who have very peculiar ideas about what it means to be a conservative and worse they have perspectives that actually undermine the US citizen, especially on all things immigration. The most dangerous to this admin are those tat opposed him with the ranks of the GOP.

Its a standard principle, once you decide to work for someone, then you follow their lead to fulfill their goals. You may do that in your own way. But undermining their authority is not a noble task, nor an appropriate tool to get their attention. At least not leaks such as those that have become part of the ethos of governing.

“If you getting their attention means thwarting their agenda, then one should most likely resign or be terminated. but it is customary to bite your press save in appropriate settings , such as meetings, or as part of the overall communication in house. It does not mean that there is no dissent. Bt said dissent exists withing the confines of the those involved. It’s a very tough row to hoe. Because inevitably issues come up in which there are strong disagreements about method, direction, or that an issue should be an issue at all. Personalities, style, status all impact that process.

Now sometimes things happen. I remember venting on a computer system with no intention of sending the info anywhere, but . . . poof there it went. To this day, I have no idea where it went, but I do know, I regretted it. Hence the issues with emails. Someone may be venting frustrations to a friend or someone they think is a confident and discover or not, that the information is being used in very nefarious ways.

Being on staff of any organization requires something standard — a deep and profound loyalty. That does not mean being a “yes” person. But it does mean being honorable enough to honor the person who hired you. In today’s strainer of political communication systems, those demands to be honorable require a steel will and some self discipline.
_____________

“This nostalgic plea for a return to a gentleman’s code of honour only would only succeed if the system is aligned with the same basic principles.”

Actually honor is not subject to the environment. One seeks to be honorable as one seeks to be honest, have integrity regardless of the environment. And inability to comprehend that honor is a goal in spite of the environment, and motives personal or otherwise which explains this comment,

“The rule is that you protect your back by protecting the boss in public, even if you are the leaker to the press after dark.”

The leaking we are talking about undermines protecting the goals, and persons of the one’s “boss.” Otherwise, one would not be leaking in the first place.

________________________

“But given his ignorance and incompetence, on display to the entire world via his tweets, speeches, and actions, it’s perfectly reasonable to believe that some are putting country before boss, country before party.”

The constant handringing about hard to country has yet to indicted by any leak. And of one thinks the position is that damaging that they cannot support the admin. they should quit, and make their case.

If they have constitutional issues, again they should resign and make their case.

#37 Comment By Ivo Olavo Castro da Silva On June 13, 2017 @ 9:47 am

The author is being too kind to the leakers. Intentionally providing information to a hostile media to undermine even more an embattled President they should support (even having disagreement) is simply treason.