While I was recently home on vacation, I heard on the radio that President Obama “didn’t know” that the NSA was spying on Germany’s Angela Merkel. I burst out laughing and told my father that in Barack Obama’s world, the buck stops with the NSA. It looks like I’m not alone with the observation. He’s ‘The Man Who Knew too Little.’

The New York Times reports:

As a practical matter, no president can be aware of everything going on in the sprawling government he theoretically manages. But as a matter of politics, Mr. Obama’s plea of ignorance may do less to deflect blame than to prompt new questions about just how much in charge he really is.

In recent days, the president’s health and human services secretary said that despite internal concerns and a failed test run Mr. Obama was not told about serious problems with the new program’s website until it was rolled out this month. Other officials said the president was not aware that the National Security Agency was tapping the phone of Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and other friendly leaders until this summer, although intelligence officials said Tuesday that others in the White House had known. …

“It seems to me there’s a pattern here — with any bad news coming out of the administration, the excuse is the president just didn’t know about it,” said Representative Adam Kinzinger, Republican of Illinois.

“There’s a point at which the I-didn’t-know excuse really violates the idea of the buck stops here,” he added.

The conservative who doesn’t realize it yet, Jon Stewart, puts it nicely:

“It may be a be concerning that the president was not kept in the loop about the program that was named after him, but in his defense it appears that there are fairly few loops … he’s in.”

You can not be for an ever-expansive federal government on one hand, and then not own up to its failings when they happen. Saying “I didn’t know” that the NSA was spying on world leaders for five years is not a good PR move. In fact, it’s just the opposite. You can only believe the president was left in the dark — for years — and didn’t bother to ask tough questions of the spy agency if you believe that he’s incompetent or ill-suited for the task at hand.

The New York Times continues:

[President Obama] has seemed uninvolved at significant junctures. He has said he learned from news reports about Operation Fast and Furious, a botched federal investigation into gun smuggling that allowed weapons to fall into criminals’ hands.

His staff knew about an investigation into the targeting of conservative groups by the Internal Revenue Service, but did not tell him until it was becoming public. Likewise, aides said the president was unaware of a Justice Department decision to secretly obtain reporters’ phone logs in a leak case.

If this was anyone else, comedians would be likening the president in all the worst ways to Bill Murray’s ‘The Man Who Knew Too Little.’

Think of all the bad news stories that have come out over the past five years that the president “didn’t know” about. Now ask yourself how your employer would respond if you pulled the “I didn’t know” card with Barackian aplomb. Would you still have a job?


  1. Hey I object!

    For one, Man Who Knew too Little is totally awesome and I will not let you besmirch its name!

    Second, In the movie, Bill Murray kept SUCCEEDING despite his ignorance. So it’s nothing like the current administration. ;-P

    (yes, this comment was very tongue in cheek)

    1. Haha. Well, I did add a little disclaimer: “If this was anyone else, comedians would be likening the president in all the worst ways to Bill Murray’s ‘The Man Who Knew Too Little.” 😉

      Seriously though, I always thought that it was an underrated movie. I don’t think it did very well at the box office, but at the time I thought it was pretty good. I haven’t seen it in years. I might have to give it another watch.

  2. Interesting film comparison, bro.

    I’d think of it as “The Man Who Wasn’t There”, an excellent neo-noir film by the Coen Brothers.

    Let’s do a sequel entitled “The Man Who Shouldn’t Be There”, with the part of the CIC portrayed by PeeWee Herman in blackface riding a ridiculous bicycle through the White House.

    1. “I have a soft spot in my heart for Paul Reubens.”

      Yes….the guy who played a drug dealer in ‘Blow’ and how was arrested for choking his ‘Pee Wee Herman’ in public at a Titty Theater…

    2. I heard that he was pretty good in ‘Blow,’ actually. And yes, ‘Pee Wee’s Big Adventure’ was ahead of its time. I really don’t care if he went to a XXX theater in the days before the Internet and DVD’s existed. It has nothing to do with his creative talents.

    3. It was always a favorite movie of mine growing up. The Large Marge scene scared the s*** out of me when I was younger. I also remember watching Pee-Wee’s Playhouse. Did you know it was Tim Burton’s directorial debut?

      Ironically, even though both the film and the TV series were aimed at kids, the character of pee-wee Herman has its origins on an HBO special from 1981… that was aimed more for adults. He toned it down for the movie and series, however.

    4. When we were kids, my brother and I played a trick on my sister. Back then, we had the movie on tape. We turned the TV off but left the movie running. We told my sister she should watch TV because the Flinstones were probably on. I’m not sure how it was timed so perfectly, but she flipped the switch and Large Marge did her thing. It felt like a one in a million shot. Of course she began crying… We got in trouble and the story is still told until this day.

      I wish Burton would come back for the sequel. It’s been rumored for ages, but it never seems to gain traction. Phil Hartman had a pretty big role in the creative process with the original, so if it ever happens I’ll always be reminded that he’s gone. He was another huge talent that was lost too early.

  3. Ha. That is a great movie… sadly, it’s very underrated. I just have a hard time believing that Obama is unaware and out of the loop as he claims to be. If you’re the President, you should know what’s going on in your administration.

    Also, the “I don’t know” excuse might work in third grade, but it doesn’t fly in the real world.

  4. I would agree this administration seems to be carrying the notion of the “Teflon President” too far……and stick me in the “Paul Rebuens is underrated” camp! 😄

  5. Great comparison the man who knew to little is without a doubt my favorite comedy. Though of course there is little way of knowing what he did or didn’t know in an age where societies have become averse to such things as common sense and cause and effect. I read in the newspaper today that Putin has displaced Obama in the rankings of most powerful man on the planet. What do you think of that?

    1. It’s amazing to me how people can’t see the double standard. Like Mr. Root says, can you imagine if a CEO did the exact same thing the president has? He’d be wearing an orange jumpsuit in no time.

  6. Hey Douglas, what do you think of Lincoln (A Republican) using his Executive Power to enact the Civil War and the modern and some times incorrect perceptions of the South during that time in popular conscience.

  7. Also, would you say that today’s Low Information voters who would let the NSA spy on them are the equivalent of Low Information Voters who allowed and supported slavery?

    1. Slavery was the norm for thousands of years. In all cultures throughout human history, man has found ways to enslave his fellow man. It was the best and brightest of Western Civilization that finally relegated slavery (for the most part) to the dustbin of history. There are still parts of the world where slavery exists…but that’s another story. You can’t hold the men and women of hundreds of years ago to the value system of 2013.

    2. Yes, the ‘value’ system of 2013. The same value system that has allowed the LGBT crowd to pressure the APA to take off their obvious disorder from the list of pathological disorders and is now allowing Pedophiles (and eventually other deviants) more freedom than ever to, eventually, accomplish the same thing…


      and the same value system that has led us to the slippery slope of mass redistribution of wealth by folks, ironically, much wealthier than us. 😛

  8. Speaking of Dystopias, what were the main differences between the visions presented in Huxley’s Brave New World and in 1984?

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