November 21, 2008

Stop Worrying and Love the Leaks

People on all sides of opinion seem to be going crazy over the amount of leaks coming out of the Obama Transition team, especially with regard to whether or not Senator Clinton will be nominated as Secretary of State. For example take this now over-extended entry at the Huffington Post, going through the various gyrations of what has been leaking to date.

We’ve heard it all, it’s a done deal, it’s not happening, the problem is Bill, Bill turned over all of his records, it’s yes, it’s no, and on and on we go.

I do think that this is pretty much as close to a done deal as can be had right now. Recall that this speculation, while feeling like a long time, has been going on now for about a week, with the actual vetting seeming to have taken place beginning around Tuesday of this week.

Indeed, there is now a “leak” that uses the exact same language being bandied about the media, seen here in the AP:

President-elect Barack Obama plans to nominate Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state after Thanksgiving, a new milestone for the former first lady and a convergence of two political forces who fought hard for the presidency.

The senior adviser, speaking on condition of anonymity because the president-elect is not prepared to officially announce the nomination, said Obama believes Clinton would bring instant stature and credibility to U.S. diplomatic relations.

I also don’t think these leaks are coming entirely from the Clinton camp, or that she is trying to gain leverage, simply put she has none to gain. Senator Kennedy in a reversal from where he once stood along with the Democratic Senate Leadership are considering what leadership role she could play should she stay in the Senate. Obviously she has a decision to make, and she gains no leverage in either direction at this point, she needs to make a monumental and life defining choice, but hey let’s just hope she does it in 24 hours since Obama asked her, and how could she say no.

But what does this say about the once leak proof Obama campaign? Greg Sarget at TPM Election Central argues that it’s an issue of planned vs. unplanned leaks. While I think this is true, I still think it misses the point all together, which is these leaks don’t hurt anything.

Let’s imagine for a moment a government that didn’t have any leaks? I think that ideally we shouldn’t use unnamed sources, that conversations should be on the record, but the media climate and the rules of the game say otherwise, and often times leaks, whether unofficial or planned are an important part of how we get our news. To think that we should allow the Obama Transition and soon to be Administration to operate in a leak free world, and indeed be distressed when leaks are happening is to want to play a part in the game that we don’t play in the first place.

Leaks are fundamental to our free press, for better or worse at this point. There are good ones and bad ones, planned and unplanned, and even illegal, but without this information coming out, we’d be far worse, and further in the dark for what our government is planning. I trust Obama as President, but I like to know that there will always be leaks to know what’s going on.

Tags: , , — Gary Nuzzi @ 2:04 pm | Comments (3)


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