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.’
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?