Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Obama's Leak Scandal

The one thing congressmen from both parties can agree on recently was that leaks from the White House about national security issues such as attempts to sabotage the Iranian nuclear program are completely intolerable. There are several possibilities for why the information was leaked.

The first is that the leaking was done on purpose by someone in the White House in order to secure political points. The information released shows that Obama has been taking aggressive steps to keep the country safe. This would portray Obama as a strong leader in a tough election year. The problem is that if this is the case, whoever leaked the information might unwittingly have hurt Obama’s chances. The White House is now being accused of playing fast and loose with national security secrets to gain political advantage. The fact that both Democrats and Republicans in Congress are upset provides poor publicity during this campaign.

The second possibility of course is that the information was unintentionally leaked by the White House. Perhaps someone in the White House was speaking off the record to a reporter, who chose to publish what he was told. This suggests that the White House is unable to keep a tight rein around state secrets which would also be unhelpful politically.

Another possibility is actually that the White House was providing the information on purpose, but not to secure political advantage. There are other objectives served by the release of the information. Israel is obviously worried about an Iranian nuclear program. Releasing details of its actions against Iran may show the Israeli public as well as allies around the world that the US is making substantial efforts to prevent an Iranian weapon from coming into operation. This could combine to put pressure on Netanyahu to avoid a preemptive strike on Iran, which the Obama administration thinks will have ruinous consequences at this point.

In the end, I still think the economy will trump other concerns on Election Day in November. If anything, this episode might provide a slight advantage to President Obama. It highlights that we live in a very dangerous world with an array of threats and that Obama has managed to keep us safe for the past four years by taking aggressive action. Any chance the Obama administration can talk about foreign policy and terrorism (highlighting of course the killing of Bin Laden and important subordinates) instead of the economy, it should take it.

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