Leaked calls: What they reveal about Trump
“For Donald Trump, all politics is personal,” said Stephen Collinson in CNN.com. Leaked transcripts of President Trump’s January phone calls with Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto and Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull reveal a president who sees complex world affairs solely in terms of his “personal political brand.” In the conversations published by The Washington Post last week, Trump tells Peña Nieto to stop telling the press Mexico won’t pay for his promised border wall, because it makes Trump look bad. “I cannot live with that,” Trump grouses. In the combative Turnbull call, immigration hardliner Trump angrily complains about having to honor President Obama’s “stupid” agreement to accept 1,250 Muslim-nation refugees from Australia, even if they’re heavily vetted. It “will make me look terrible,” Trump says. Despite Trump’s tantrums, neither Peña Nieto nor Turnbull give an inch, said Michelle Goldberg in Slate.com. So much for “the idea that the putative author of The Art of the Deal is any good at deal making.”
These conversations “should not have been leaked,” said Elliot Kaufman in NationalReview.com. Presidents need some assurance of confidentiality in their discussions with foreign leaders, so they can speak “openly, honestly, and bluntly.” Now, “Turnbull, Peña Nieto, and every other foreign leader will think twice about opening up.” Yes, it’s titillating to see Trump’s hypocrisy over the border wall, his obsession with press coverage, and his strange word choices. But a few laughs aren’t “worth damaging the U.S. government.” Whoever released these transcripts “single-handedly introduced a new kind of instability into the international order,” said John Podhoretz in Commentary Magazine.com. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has vowed to prosecute leakers, and in this case, “I hope he or she is exposed and shamed.”
Though leaking presidential phone calls is potentially harmful, in this case “it is justified,” said Jennifer Rubin in The Washington Post. Trump is revealed as “frighteningly obsessed with himself and his image,” and clueless about the concerns of other world leaders. Trump’s narcissism also “leaves him open to flattery” by adversaries like Russia’s Vladimir Putin, suggesting “he’d be more than willing to make the country’s interests subordinate to his own need for personal affirmations.” Our president simply “cannot fulfill the role of commander in chief”—and that’s a far greater national security risk than some leaked calls.