Monday, July 30, 2012

White House Leaks: What Does Axelrod Know, and How Does He Know It?

So is David Axelrod now in charge of the investigation into the May-June leaks that have jeopardized our troops and undermined our national security in what is arguably the single greatest breach of sensitive national security information in the modern era? Or has Axelrod, the top adviser at Obama’s re-election campaign, merely been briefed on the status of that investigation--ahead of the proper authorities, and ahead of the general public?

In any case, how could it be that a political operative is now speaking out on perhaps the most sensitive national security matters that the nation confronts? These questions come to mind in the wake of Axelrod’s Wednesday appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

Host Joe Scarborough said to Axelrod--in a statement, not a question--“It is very obvious that the White House is leaking classified information.” And how, exactly, did Axelrod respond?

Axelrod answered, “I can tell you that the president of the United States did not leak classified information, as Mitt Romney suggested yesterday, and he didn’t authorize the leak of information, as Mitt Romney suggested yesterday.”

Romney had, indeed, delivered a stinging attack on the leaks, declaring in a speech to the VFW on Tuesday, “This conduct is contemptible. It betrays our national interest.” Clearly, those words from the Republican challenger had rattled both the White House and the Obama re-election campaign. Thus, Axelrod was on TV the very next day, battling back. Axelrod’s message was intended to be political pacification: in effect, he was saying, Hey, folks, don’t worry about the leak issue; these are just partisan attacks from Barack Obama’s Republican opponent. So there’s nothing to see here, other than the usual political bickering.

But in fact, Axelrod’s words on “Morning Joe” represented a significant backpedaling for Axelrod, who on June 10 had told ABC News that the White House, as a whole--beyond just the President specifically--was not involved in the leaks. Interestingly, in that appearance, we can see that Axelrod continuously used the word “we” in referring to the White House. For a man who left the White House staff in February 2011--giving up his security clearance and thus all access to classified materials--Axelrod certainly sounded as if he were still working in the building. Let’s pause here. Eighteen months after leaving the White House, Axelrod is still able to give precise and informed commentary on a serious legal investigation. The new position, of as July 25, is that Axelrod can attest only to the President’s personal non-involvement in the leaks, as distinct from the rest of the White House.

Amazingly, the next day, Thursday, White House press secretary Jay Carney echoed Axelrod’s new line, assuring reporters that the President himself was not involved, while not offering the same assurance about the rest of the White House. So there we have it. Axelrod, from his Chicago political cockpit, calls the tune, and the White House press secretary, a federal employee, get up and dances to it.

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