Editorial: Trump adds ‘spiller of state secrets’ to his resume
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The rule for closed-door intelligence briefings of presidential candidates is simple: Don’t blab about it.
Donald Trump has failed that test. Is anybody surprised?
At a town hall meeting on Wednesday to discuss issues of national security, Trump leaked details of his classified briefing in a big way. (Assuming he didn’t just make stuff up, which is a big assumption.)
The Republican candidate for president said he could divine from the intelligence experts’ “body language” that “they were not happy” with President Barack Obama’s decisions and that Obama did the opposite of what experts recommended.
Does this sound like a candidate who is ready to hold confidential talks with other world leaders? Or someone other world leaders can trust to zip his lips?
Trump will never understand — it is beyond him — that he is running for a job that calls for tact, discretion and the keeping of confidences, even while under extreme pressure. His usual way, on full display Wednesday, is to say anything about anything that gives him an edge in the moment.
Trump even made Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid look prescient. Back in July, a very worried Reid suggested that the CIA and the other intelligence agencies give Trump fake briefings.
“I would suggest to the intelligence agencies, if you’re forced to brief this guy, don’t tell him anything, just fake it, because this man is dangerous,” Reid said then. “Fake it, pretend you’re doing a briefing, but you can’t give the guy any information.”
We laughed a little then. We thought Reid was half-joking. We can’t laugh now.
Banning certain candidates from classified briefings is not the answer. Where would we draw the line? It would become political theater. Earlier this year, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan wrote a letter to National Intelligence Director James Clapper saying Hillary Clinton was too big a risk to be given security briefings.
Security briefings are not required by law, but they’re a good idea. They go all the way back to President Harry Truman, who was overwhelmed by the amount of new information he had to absorb when he suddenly ascended to the presidency after Franklin Roosevelt’s death. Truman didn’t want future presidents to enter office facing such a big learning curve.
Donald Trump thinks it’s all about him. He crosses any line accordingly.
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