The sting that helped furious White House plumbers unmask the National Security Council official driving them crazy with snarky Tweets is a time-honored device often employed at high levels of government to identify leakers.
“It’s an easy way to nail somebody who talks too much,” laughed a former senior political adviser to a Republican president expert in such ploys. “You drop a harmless little nugget into a meeting where everyone is in on the scam except the suspected leaker. Then when the information pops up somewhere - bingo.”
National Security Council staffer Jofi Joseph was fired last week after being exposed as the creative talent behind @natsecwonk, an anonymous Twitter account that routinely trashed such Obama heavy-hitters as counselor Valerie Jarrett (“vacuous cipher”), NSC chief Susan Rice and UN ambassador Samantha Power - not to mention former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and other ObamaWorld stalwarts.
Published reports say that top Obama advisers, enraged and embarrassed by the commentary, decided to leak innocuous material to Joseph to see if it turned up on the notorious snark-site. It’s not clear the ploy produced the proverbial “smoking gun,” but suddenly Joseph was fired. In a statement, he admitted to being the anonymous agent- provocateur and apologized to “everyone I insulted.”
There’s a famous corollary to this practice that helped undermine White House chief of staff Donald Regan. During Ronald Reagan’s second term, some senior White House officials eager to grease the skids under Regan concocted snappy one-liners certain to make it into print from appreciative journalists. But there was a twist: the anonymous quotes often contained a favorite Regan phrase (“and the like”). When Nancy Reagan, never a Regan fan, saw some of the provocative quotes she immediately assumed Regan was the leaker. Nancy’s rage was a prime factor in Regan being forced out of his job in 1987.
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Before we get to the specifics of this exposé about escorts working the Iowa and New Hampshire primary crowds, let’s get three things out of the way: 1.) It’s from Cosmopolitan; 2.) most of the women quoted use fake (if colorful) names; and 3.) again, it’s from Cosmopolitan. That said, here’s what we learned:
- Business was booming: one escort who says she typically gets two inquiries a weekend got 15 requests in the pre-primary weekend.
- Their primary season clientele is a bit older than normal—”40s through mid-60s, compared with mostly twentysomething regulars” and “they’ve clearly done this before.”
- They seemed more nervous than other clients, because “the stakes are higher when you’re working for a possible future president” but “all practiced impeccable manners.”
- One escort “typically enjoy[s] the company of Democrats more, just because I feel like our views line up a lot more.”
No matter where you stand on mandating companies to include a backdoor in encryption technologies, it doesn’t make sense to allow that decision to be made on a state level. “The problem with state-level legislation of this nature is that it manages to be both wildly impractical and entirely unenforceable,” writes Brian Barrett at Wired. There is a solution to this problem. “California Congressman Ted Lieu has introduced the ‘Ensuring National Constitutional Rights for Your Private Telecommunications Act of 2016,’ which we’ll call ENCRYPT. It’s a short, straightforward bill with a simple aim: to preempt states from attempting to implement their own anti-encryption policies at a state level.”
Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
The New Covenant. The Third Way. The Democratic Leadership Council style. Call it what you will, but whatever centrist triangulation Bill Clinton embraced in 1992, Hillary Clinton wants no part of it in 2016. Writing for Bloomberg, Sasha Issenberg and Margaret Talev explore how Hillary’s campaign has “diverged pointedly” from what made Bill so successful: “For Hillary to survive, Clintonism had to die.” Bill’s positions in 1992—from capital punishment to free trade—“represented a carefully calibrated diversion from the liberal orthodoxy of the previous decade.” But in New Hampshire, Hillary “worked to juggle nostalgia for past Clinton primary campaigns in the state with the fact that the Bill of 1992 or the Hillary of 2008 would likely be a marginal figure within today’s Democratic politics.”
At first, “it was pleasant” to see Trevor Noah “smiling away and deeply dimpling in the Stewart seat, the seat that had lately grown gray hairs,” writes The Atlantic‘s James Parker in assessing the new host of the once-indispensable Daily Show. But where Jon Stewart was a heavyweight, Noah is “a very able lightweight, [who] needs time too. But he won’t get any. As a culture, we’re not about to nurture this talent, to give it room to grow. Our patience was exhausted long ago, by some other guy. We’re going to pass judgment and move on. There’s a reason Simon Cowell is so rich. Impress us today or get thee hence. So it comes to this: It’s now or never, Trevor.”