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Time to call out anonymous leakers

The more I read, the more the memory surfaces.

Way back in the early fall of 1987, my younger self, working in the Reagan White House, leaked a story to a rising reporter of the New York Times. The reporter’s name was Maureen Dowd. And my scoop was a notable one.

The Reagan White House was in the middle of the Bork hearings. The superbly qualified Robert Bork was having his nomination for the Supreme Court torpedoed by left-wing special interest groups and Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee. The chairman of Judiciary was then-Senator from Delaware Joe Biden, who was also a candidate for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination.

As the hearings went on, along with Biden’s campaign, a story about Biden surfaced. Leaked by his rivals in the presidential campaign of Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, the story revealed that Biden had plagiarized a few lines from the then-leader of the British Labor Party, Neil Kinnock. Kinnock was a Welshman and something of a mesmerizing orator. He had been in the news for a few memorable lines spoken to a Welsh Labor Party Conference in May 1987:

Why am I the first Kinnock in a thousand generations to be able to get to university? Was it because our predecessors were thick? Does anybody really think that they didn't get what we had because they didn't have the talent or the strength or the endurance or the commitment? Of course not. It was because there was no platform upon which they could stand.

As the spotlight on Biden increased in September 1987, with his dual roles presiding over the Bork hearings and his presidential campaign, the Dukakis campaign revealed that Biden had been roaming America using these lines:

Why is it that Joe Biden is the first in his family ever to go a university? Why is it that my wife... is the first in her family to ever go to college? Is it because our fathers and mothers were not bright? ...Is it because they didn't work hard? My ancestors who worked in the coal mines of northeast Pennsylvania and would come up after 12 hours and play football for four hours? It's because they didn't have a platform on which to stand.

Nowhere did Senator Biden attribute the lines as an Americanized version of Kinnock’s speech. There was an instant media furor. Governor Dukakis, in a fit of liberal piety, fired his campaign manager for planting the story and damaging Biden. Biden, on the other hand, denied that he plagiarized and wrote the misstep off as a mere mistake. He just didn’t do that sort of thing.

Reading this in the Washington Post, I knew better.

Months earlier, I had watched Biden on C-Span as he addressed the California Democratic Party. To my amazement, I realized I was getting to the end of his sentences before he was. Why? Because Biden had used a direct quote from a 1967 speech by Robert Kennedy. And geeky Kennedy-admirer that I was as a kid, when RFK died and long-playing tribute albums of his speeches were sold, I quickly bought them and memorized every word. Thus, years later, sitting in the Reagan White House, of all places, I knew that Biden had in fact plagiarized RFK — giving the lie to his claim that he didn’t do these things.

What to do? Why … leak the story, of course. To the New York Times. To reporter Dowd. Which I did. She was astonished. I produced my album and the speech in question, delivering it personally to the Times’ D.C. bureau. She listened and made the match with no difficulty, and a few days later there was a front-page story in the Times about Biden’s plagiarism — this time mentioning the RFK speech. A week later, as more plagiarism examples dating as far back as law school began to surface, Biden withdrew from the presidential race.

What does this old story have to do with all the leaks that are now appearing in the Times and the Washington Post about President Trump? Everything. Inside the pages of the Times in my 1987 adventure, where the Biden story continued from the front page, the source for Dowd’s story was named. That would be me. I was identified by name and by job title. In other words, I was “on the record,” making the accusation and attaching my name to it.

Today? As these stories surface, what they all have in common is that not one of the sources has the guts to go “on the record.” To the contrary, this is how the stories read, emphasis mine:

The New York Times, May 19:

WASHINGTON — President Trump told Russian officials in the Oval Office this month that firing the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, had relieved "great pressure" on him, according to a document summarizing the meeting.

"I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,’ Mr. Trump said, according to the document, which was read to The New York Times by an American official. ‘I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off."

...The White House document that contained Mr. Trump’s comments was based on notes taken from inside the Oval Office and has been circulated as the official account of the meeting. One official read quotations to The Times, and a second official confirmed the broad outlines of the discussion.

The Washington Post, May 15:

President Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting last week, according to current and former U.S. officials, who said Trump’s disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State.

… "It is all kind of shocking," said a former senior U.S. official who is close to current administration officials.

The New York Times, April 6:

WASHINGTON — The C.I.A. told senior lawmakers in classified briefings last summer that it had information indicating that Russia was working to help elect Donald J. Trump president, a finding that did not emerge publicly until after Mr. Trump’s victory months later, former government officials say.

…In an Aug. 25 briefing for Harry Reid, then the top Democrat in the Senate, Mr. Brennan indicated that Russia’s hackings appeared aimed at helping Mr. Trump win the November election, according to two former officials with knowledge of the briefing.

The New York Times, February 14:

WASHINGTON — Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials.

These stories are a mere sampling of the gusher of stories pouring forth from disaffected “Deep State” bureaucrats, current and former. And note well that to be a “former” official means the person is a member of the Obama administration who inexplicably still has access to classified or confidential information. One suspects these “officials” are a mix of career bureaucrats and Obama political appointees. What both the “current” and “former” officials have in common are two things: One, they hate the duly elected president of the United States and seek to undermine him. And two, they are cowards.

Unlike my own leak to the New York Times all those years ago, not one of these leakers had the guts — or the simple decency — to attach their name to the story they were peddling. Say again: Not. One.

I don’t hold the journalists responsible. The First Amendment is crystal clear. They have the right to print what they want. I’m not advocating sending reporters to the slammer and making them stay there until they rat out their sources.

No, the problem here is anonymous sources, every one of whom has a political objective: effectively hamstringing the president if not in fact effecting what is called a “silent coup.”

What is being done to expose these people? Good question. Their own selfish concerns with power, prestige, and position forbid them to stand up honestly themselves. But the effort to bring them to light must be made by the Trump administration and by Congress.

And for a small but effective place to begin? The now-famous “Comey memorandum” that was read to a New York Times reporter over the phone is as good a place as any to start. When James Comey next encounters a congressional investigating committee, the very first question should be: Who had access to his memo? What was his distribution list? Then summon everyone on the distribution list. Get a subpoena for phone records if need be. And let the world know that this business of “Deep State” bureaucrats sabotaging the president of the United States without attribution is going to change.


One last thing…
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