It’s clear to pretty much everybody in Washington that the torrent of national-security leaks is coming from the top levels of the Obama administration. After all, The New York Times variously identified its sources as administration “officials” and “members of the president’s national-security team” and “three dozen of his current and former advisers.”
The paper cites a specific date and exact quotations from the president and vice president in a Situation Room meeting with the head of the CIA. Even President Obama belatedly conceded that the leaks are probably criminal, which is why two Justice Department prosecutors were appointed to pursue cases.
But there remains a huge and crucial difference of opinion over the motives of the leakers. Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham and John McCain and GOP House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Pete King charge that the goal was to boost Obama’s warrior credentials for the campaign. As King puts it, the descriptions of Obama deciding which terrorists to kill make him look like “George Patton or John Wayne.”
Not coincidentally, the Republicans conclude that having a prosecutor independent of the Justice Department chain of command is the only way to ensure an honest probe.
On the other side sits Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California. Although furious at the release of classified information, saying it “puts American lives in jeopardy,” she opposes a special prosecutor and brushes off any political motive.
Feinstein matters because she is one of her party’s few trusted voices on national security. Her criticism of the leaks finally forced Obama to address them. If she flips on the independent prosecutor, he’ll have to follow her.
That should happen soon, because the motive, like the sources, is remarkably obvious. Understanding it starts by reversing the question: Other than to help Obama’s campaign, what possible motive could there be?
Tick, tock, tick, tock . . . time’s up. There is no other possible motive.
All roads lead to the campaign, all the more so because the Times puts re-election boss David Axelrod at the “kill list” meetings. He denies being there, but the paper insists he was. White House attendance logs could settle it.
Remember, too, Vice President Joe Biden’s pithy summation of the campaign’s themes: “Bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive.”
And consider the most likely reason aides revealed to the Times that Israel and the United States jointly developed the Stuxnet computer virus to disrupt Iranian nuclear computers. Doubts about whether he intends to stop Iran from getting nukes is central to Obama’s tension with Israel and many American Jewish voters. Disclosures that he sped up and expanded the cyber attacks directly address that vulnerability.
Never mind that many Israelis are said to be shocked at the disclosure. There isn’t much they can do about it. Even complaining publicly would be an admission of guilt.
On the kill lists, Times reporters note the irony of the “liberal law professor who campaigned against the Iraq war” now launching drone strikes. To offset that whiff of hypocrisy, the leakers go to great lengths to assure Obama’s left-wing base, which overlaps with Times readers, that Obama is steeped in the “just war” doctrine of “Christian philosophers.” An Irish aide is likened to a “priest” and readers learn the president “is a student on the writings of war by Augustine and Thomas Aquinas.”
The president is described as agonizing, sharp, decisive and “comfortable with the use of force on behalf of the United States.”
The only thing missing is a pitch for a campaign contribution.
Two final points. First, neither Obama nor the White House condemned the leaks. They would have if they saw the articles as damaging or incorrect. They must have been happy with them.
Second, the Times defended publishing classified info because the issues are serious. On Stuxnet, the paper’s managing editor issued a statement saying, “As always with sensitive stories, we described the piece to the government before publication. No one suggested we not publish.”
Case closed. This was an inside job with an obvious purpose. An independent prosecutor is essential.
To read Michael Goodwin's New York Post column on other topics, including more on Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposed ban on sugary drinks, click here.