Eliot A Cohen writes: In the wake of the [Washington] Post story, the White House—hoping, presumably, to avoid another Comey-firing publicity debacle—trotted out three reasonably sane, responsible, experienced adults to vouch for the President’s story. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell, and National Security Adviser Lieutenant General H. R. McMaster made public statements calling the story false, giving different variants of this argument: The President did not disclose sources and methods for intelligence gathering, or future military operations.
Well, of course not. That is not what the Post said in its story: It said that he divulged intelligence. And since it seems likely that the Russians captured all of the conversation—they were allowed to bring their electronics into the room, including the only video cameras, the American press having been excluded—they undoubtedly got all of it. And you bet that their analysts are even now chuckling as they figure out what the sources were.
But that is not the half of it. Tillerson casually said of Trump in an interview on Meet the Press on Sunday “I have to earn his confidence every day.” One does not earn Donald Trump’s confidence by calmly conveying to him some unpleasant but essential truths. Rather, one earns his confidence by truckling to him, and by lying to everyone else. Now, what Tillerson, Powell, and McMaster said are not quite lies, but they are the kind of parsed half truths that are as bad, and in some cases worse. This is how one’s reputation for veracity is infected by the virulent moral bacteria that cover Donald Trump. Friends will watch, pained and incredulous, as they realize that one simply cannot assume that anything these senior subordinates of the president say is the truth. And having stretched, manipulated, or artfully misrepresented the truth once, these officials will do it again and again. They will be particularly surprised when they learn that most people assume that as trusted subordinates of the president, they lie not as colorfully as he does, but just as routinely. Perhaps the worst will be the moment when these high officials can no longer recognize their own characters for what they once were. [Continue reading…]