The Leakiest House on the Block

By Susan Estrich

May 23, 2017 5 min read

What's the leakiest house in Washington, D.C.? Here's a hint: It's on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Ask anyone who's been inside the White House lately. There's never been anything like it. Sinking ships leak. As do losing campaigns, lame-duck administrations, and most White Houses, eventually. But not in April and May of a president's first year in office.

This is ridiculous. Or not.

In case you haven't noticed, hardly a day goes by without a source very, very close to the top leaking some very, very damaging tidbit about the latest Donald Trump explosion, implosion, incredibly stupid mistake or attempt to maybe obstruct justice. Most of these stories appear in The Washington Post and the so-called "Failing New York Times" (a nickname that amuses its staff). Failing no more, thank you, Mr. President.

Just to give you an example: It isn't easy to get a transcript of the word-for-word notes taken when the president meets with the foreign minister of, say, a somewhat important country such as Russia. Think about the last time you saw a transcript like that.

That's because there are very few people who could transcribe one, and none of them are loose-lipped members of the chattering class. They are "all the president's men" (and women). And they are — they have to be, because no one else knows this info — leaking like sieves.

Why? That's what a few of us have been asking ourselves. I mean, it's one thing if we don't like Donald Trump and think he and his administration are doing an embarrassingly bad job, but why should they be selling that?

The answer — the one I keep hearing from people who know such things, and the one that makes sense — is the ultimate irony.

It's the only way for the top staff to get through to their boss. He doesn't listen to their opinions. He doesn't even ask them. The only way they have to get ideas in front of him, to get through to him just how serious they are, is to have them appear in the "Failing New York Times" — which he reads and pays attention to, because everybody he cares about does. Take that, Mr. and Mrs. Populist.

The thing to remember, for those who missed Dick, is that Richard Nixon didn't fall from favor and lose the support of his party in a day. In fact, unbelievable as it may sound, he was quite busy during the drip-drop of bad stories in the same two aforementioned newspapers: He went to China, was starting the Environmental Protection Agency, was busy being an effective president (with the dual exceptions of Vietnam and Watergate).

So for now, Americans keep hoping that something good might happen for them economically; that their insurance premiums won't go through the roof; and that their kids get into a decent charter school. But you can play out the next few months in your head: Michael Flynn's taking the Fifth (it's very bad to take the Fifth: The only thing worse is going to jail because you didn't take it); the public testimony from James Comey; the investigation led by Robert Mueller; the testimony of the deputy attorney general; the question of what the president knew and when he knew it; the president's having possibly given out classified information; and so on, and so on.

And if the White House lawyers are really studying impeachment, as reported, then they have already learned that impeachment is — despite all the legal nomenclature — an essentially political process, entrusted to the legislative branches of government and not the judiciary. And it is ultimately controlled, as it will be in 2018, by the will of the people. That will be a midterm referendum.

I wonder if we'll read tomorrow that the White House is considering opening a war room.

To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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