Tr-mp Leaks When He Speaks

Among the emerging Democratic Party stars in Congress is Rep. Adam Schiff, of California. He’s the Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee and has been a leading anti-Tr-mp voice, speaking calmly and intelligently and authoritatively, Adam Schiffparticularly when it comes to Tr-mp’s unhinged tweets about Obama’s nonexistent wiretapping of Tr-mp Tower. The congressman has put a lot of pressure on his Republican colleagues to take the danger of Tr-mp seriously.

Just this morning, Schiff pointed out something Tr-mp said on Fox last night that I confess I missed the first time:

I just want people to know, the CIA was hacked, and a lot of things taken — that was during the Obama years.

Schiff pointed out that Tr-mp has the power “to declassify whatever he wants,” which, I might add, includes anything and everything if he completely loses his mind—just one fact among many that makes Tr-mp too dangerous to contemplate sometimes. And because Schiff cannot declassify anything he wants, he was limited to accusing Tr-mp of only possibly blurting out classified stuff:

In his effort to once again blame Obama, the president [sic] appears to have discussed something that, if true and accurate, would otherwise be considered classified information.

Schiff can’t confirm Tr-mp revealed classified information because Tr-mp could have Jeff Sessions and the FBI throw him in the hoosegow, thus the appears to have discussed…classified information.” Schiff is no dummy.

In any case, the Democratic congressman added a little jab that he could get away with:

For anyone else to do what the president [sic] may have done, would constitute what he deplores as “leaks.”

I think it is accurate to say that much of what comes out of Tr-mp’s disordered mind could be fairly characterized as “leaks.” Like when the oil pan gasket on  your car is damaged and oil gets all over your driveway. In that case, you can either get the damned thing replaced and stop the leaks or you can put a piece of cardboard under your car to stop the leaks from mucking up your driveway.

As we all can see, the gasket on the mind of this 70-year-old man is beyond repair. We need a giant piece of cardboard, if we are to keep the dangerous orange goo off the country’s pavement. The leaking can’t be stopped, whether we are talking about nutty conspiracy theories involving Obama or about obviously true events like the hacking of the CIA (or a leak by a contractor), the revelation of which, you will notice, Tr-mp used to attack Obama rather than his friends at Wikileaks, who posted the stolen material online.

A patriotic American would think Tr-mp, if he were going to openly confirm to the world the legitimacy of the security breach at the CIA, would attack the Russian-loving Julian Assange, who is acting as an agent of the Russians. But nope. Assange and Wikileaks—and the Russians—have all done too much for Agent Orange. He is in their debt every day he sits in America’s driveway and leaks.

Ignore The Polls. A “New” Trump Is Being Born

Yes, there has been good news on the polling front for Hillary Clinton. Really good news. But forget it. Don’t get confident at all. Why? Obviously because there is a long way to go. But beyond that, there is what happened this morning on MSNBC and CNN regarding Trump’s delusional claim that he saw a video—provided by Iran, he said, to “embarrass” our country and our “incompetent” president—of Obama’s “ransom” money being taken off a plane in exchange for hostages.

I turned on CNN at 9:00am. I found the top story was Donald Trump’s early morning tweet trying to correct the record:

The plane I saw on television was the hostage plane in Geneva, Switzerland, not the plane carrying $400 million in cash going to Iran!

trump tweet on video.jpgThe anchor, Carol Costello, said the tweet was “a possible sign that Trump is moderating a bit.” It was, she continued, “a simple acknowledgement that’s causing big ripples this morning.” She introduced CNN correspondent Phil Mattingly who reiterated the “big ripples” riff and told us that Trump’s advisers are saying the candidate has an opportunity “to get back on message.”

At the exact same time, on MSNBC, anchor Chris Jansing also led with the Trump tweet, asking, “Is this the start of the new Donald Trump?” And a correspondent kept referring to Trump’s prior claims of seeing a video that does not exist as “misstatements.”

trump tweet on video2No. They weren’t misstatements. They weren’t mistakes. They were delusions. He didn’t see what he claimed he saw because what he claimed he saw does not exist. And, no, Trump is not “moderating a bit” by admitting the obvious. And the only reason the tweet this morning caused “big ripples” is because television journalism is a shallow pond that Trump can drop pebble-tweets into and know that the ripples will be big and will last all day.

But it is Chris Jansing’s question that should bother us all, at least those of us concerned that television journalists, who for weeks now have been trying to get Donald Trump to do exactly what he did today with that tweet, will attempt to rehabilitate a sick candidate, if not a sick, sick man. Jansing’s “Is this the start of the new Donald Trump?” is a dumb and dumbing question.

Trump is 70 years old. There isn’t a new Donald Trump hiding behind a tree waiting to pop out and say, “Joke’s on you! I was just kidding when I said all that crazy shit! Here I am now ready to get serious! Let’s talk throw-weight and ballistic missiles!” Beyond that absurdity, though, Jansing’s question is dumbing because it lowers the standards of critical analysis that we should expect of journalists, if not voters.  The man has demonstrated for more than a year that he would be, as former CIA honcho Mike Morell said this morning in The New York Times,  “a poor, even dangerous, commander in chief.” You can’t unsay and undo all Trump has said and done by a couple of “oops!” tweets.

Mike Morell is a highly respected, non-partisan Serious Man. He was George W. Bush’s top briefer before, during, and after 9/11. He also helped President Obama and his team, as they made the decision to make fish bait out of Osama bin Laden. Morell says his “training as an intelligence officer” taught him to call it as he sees it, and his opinion dispels any notion of a Trump reset. Like all of us of sound mind, Morell has noticed Trump’s character traits:

These traits include his obvious need for self-aggrandizement, his overreaction to perceived slights, his tendency to make decisions based on intuition, his refusal to change his views based on new information, his routine carelessness with the facts, his unwillingness to listen to others and his lack of respect for the rule of law.

And the logical conclusion, from the former acting director of the CIA, follows:

The dangers that flow from Mr. Trump’s character are not just risks that would emerge if he became president. It is already damaging our national security.

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia was a career intelligence officer, trained to identify vulnerabilities in an individual and to exploit them. That is exactly what he did early in the primaries. Mr. Putin played upon Mr. Trump’s vulnerabilities by complimenting him. He responded just as Mr. Putin had calculated.

Mr. Putin is a great leader, Mr. Trump says, ignoring that he has killed and jailed journalists and political opponents, has invaded two of his neighbors and is driving his economy to ruin. Mr. Trump has also taken policy positions consistent with Russian, not American, interests — endorsing Russian espionage against the United States, supporting Russia’s annexation of Crimea and giving a green light to a possible Russian invasion of the Baltic States.

In the intelligence business, we would say that Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.

That sobering assessment of Trump does not allow for a “new” Trump to emerge. It does not permit journalists to ignore an ugly Trump Past for a supposedly better-looking Trump Future. But because television journalism depends so much on a close horse race to get high ratings, look for some talking heads on TV to try to convince us—if Trump makes an effort to even slightly curb his enthusiasm for delusions and conspiracies and lies—that he is “growing” as a candidate.

Thus, even as Clinton soars in the polls right now, Democrats have to keep fighting hard until November. Because as good as her numbers are today, we should expect the race to tighten back up. And when it does, we should expect some journalists to pronounce Trump a “new” man and ignore the strange and dangerous man we have come to know.

How Safe Are We? Nobody Knows

Morning Joe this morning featured a segment with Dana Priest, who co-authored a Washington Post article on our nation’s intelligence apparatus.

As Morning Joe‘s Mike Barnicle remarked, the Post article is why we have newspapers and why they are indispensable—this was a two-year investigation. 

The opening paragraph of the Post‘s story, “Top Secret America grows out of control,” began like this:

The top secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.

Now, whether you are a Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, that is scary stuff.

The key part of the story is this line:

…the system put in place to keep the United States safe is so massive that its effectiveness is impossible to determine.

As the article pointed out and Dana Priest reiterated this morning, since there are so many government organizations (1,271) and so many private companies (1,931) and an estimated 854,000 people working on “programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in some 10,000 locations across the United States,” the responsibility for keeping us safe has been so diffused “that it’s impossible to tell whether the country is safer because of all this spending and all these activities.”

Army Lt. General John Vines, who conducted a review last year of “the method for tracking the Defense Department’s most sensitive programs,” said this:

I’m not aware of any agency with the authority, responsibility or a process in place to coordinate all these interagency and commercial activities. The complexity of this system defies description.

Because it lacks a synchronizing process, it inevitably results in message dissonance, reduced effectiveness and waste. We consequently can’t effectively assess whether it is making us more safe.

The inability to assess its effectiveness, and not the size or cost (the “publicly announced” budget is 2 ½ times the cost prior to 9/11) of our intelligence apparatus is the point.  If its size is making it less effective, it should be streamlined; if the newly created Office of the Director of National Intelligence needs Congress to give it “clear legal or budgetary authority over intelligence matters,” then Congress needs to do so.

But the Post article points out that intelligence collection systems “intercept and store 1.7 billion e-mails, phone calls and other types of communications,” and at the heart of analyzing all these data “are low-paid employees carrying their lunches to save money“:

They are the analysts, the 20- and 30-year-olds making $41,000 to $65,000 a year, whose job is at the core of everything Top Secret America tries to do.

Half of these critical analysts are “relatively inexperienced,” says the Post:

Contract analysts are often straight out of college. When hired, a typical analyst knows very little about the priority countries — Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan — and is not fluent in their languages. Still, the number of intelligence reports they produce on these key countries is overwhelming, say current and former intelligence officials who try to cull them everyday.

Whatever the reason for the inability to gauge the effectiveness of our intelligence capabilities, this should be something that Democrats and Republicans can jointly agree to fix.

After all, terrorists don’t care whether they kill “liberals” or “conservatives.”

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