It would all make for a great half-hour sitcom. First, they released classified memos on interrogation practices used to grill terrorists. Then, the White House promised the ACLU that they were going to release photos showing detainees being interrogated. Then, White House officials said they were not going to release photos of the Air Force One photo-op that sent New Yorkers screaming into the streets—because they were “classified.” Then they announced they were going to release to release the “classified” Big Apple Air Force One shots. Then they threatened to retaliate against the British for releasing information about enemy detention, after the administration released CIA memos about interrogation. Then they got mad at the CIA for releasing information about Congressional briefings on interrogation.

Now they are not going to release CIA photos.

Oh, we forgot, they apparently have no knowledge of the request to release the CIA memos Vice President Cheney asked for.

It would all make for a great half-hour sitcom if it had nothing to do with national security. It is far from clear what is driving White House policies on these issues—but this much is clear. Campaigning and governing are two different things. In a campaign, “messaging” comes first, in governing doing the right thing comes first. Once you figure out the difference these kinds of decisions are easy—when you can’t see the difference these choices are hard and the results, often disappointing.

Last week, they found a computer on E-Bay with government secrets. Just today a defense official was indicted for passing intelligence to the Chinese…a reminder that keeping the difference between “need to know” and “compulsion to share” clear is deadly serious business. How can we expect government employees to take this seriously when senior administration officials act like keystone cops in dealing with classified data.