They call it “transparency,” and it’s all the rage in serious circles. Everyone wants more of it, as long as it’s not their own secrets being revealed. Those are much too important. So journalists will go to jail to protect their sources — i.e., keep them secret — to encourage whistle blowers to reveal government secrets.
Meanwhile the government stamps “CLASSIFIED” on cafeteria menus.
In her recently published book, “Presidents’ Secrets: The Use and Abuse of Hidden Power,” Mary Graham rampages through American history to show that it’s an old story: Presidents almost always try to keep information secret, and someone else is always trying to make it public.
There are some surprises. George Washington was pro-transparency; Woodrow Wilson anti. Much of the current national security state apparatus can be traced back to Wilson, via Harry Truman, another tarnished icon of liberalism.
Donald Trump is running what might be the most transparent administration in history. The president picks fights with his own cabinet members, and they argue it out in public. He delivers his views and his reaction to the news in the middle of the night, when officious aides aren’t there to mess around with them.
This month, The New York Times published a story saying that President Trump was becoming “discontented” with his own attorney general, Jeff Sessions. Mr. Trump accused the Justice Department — his own Justice Department — of practicing political correctness.
It may not be exactly what the founding fathers had in mind, or what progressives and liberals today have in mind, or what the Trump people have in mind. And Mr. Trump complains about leaks in the traditional presidential manner. But he enjoys exercising his own First Amendment rights. Though he might like to stop others from doing the same, he can’t. His administration leaks like a cheap faucet.
In the course of running this series, we asked readers if they, too, wanted to “say something nice about Donald Trump.” Of the thousands of responses, very few seemed to want to seriously engage with the question. There were lots of suggestions that are anatomically impossible. There were good things that might happen in response to something terrible Mr. Trump did or said.