Obama’s Flight from Responsibility

The president needs to take responsibility for the actions of his own administration.

"Hey, don't look at me -- I'm just the president!" That's the common thread in President Obama's response to his recent scandal eruptions, from IRS harassment of Tea Partiers to his Justice Department's spying on AP reporters. Like everybody else, Obama learns about these things via cable news, according to press secretary Jay Carney.

Obama's flight from responsibility punctured the stratosphere in his recent speech on "the Future of Our Fight against Terrorism" at the National Defense University in D.C. In the speech Obama seemed to position himself as the loyal opposition to his own administration.

He worried that "perpetual war ... will prove self-defeating, and alter our country in troubling ways." Look at the current situation at Guantanamo Bay, Citizen Obama chided, "where we are force-feeding detainees who are being held on a hunger strike ... Is this who we are? Is that something our founders foresaw?" Obama pronounced himself "troubled" by the proliferation of drone strikes in an ever-expanding war and "the possibility that leak investigations may chill the investigative journalism that holds government accountable."

All valid concerns, compassionately expressed. So how can we get this guy into the room when the big decisions are being made?

Whoever it is that's been in charge for the last four-plus years has waged an unprecedented "war on whistleblowers" with a record number of leak prosecutions. He's radically expanded drone strikes and the theaters in which drones operate -- and his top national security officials foresee at least another decade of robot warfare. The dronings will continue until morale improves.

As the Brookings Institution's Benjamin Wittes points out, Obama doesn't need congressional approval to "get off of a war footing. He can do it himself." Instead, Wittes writes, the president used the NDU speech "to rebuke his own administration for taking the positions it has -- but also to make sure that it could continue to do so." For its sheer, brazen phoniness, the NDU speech should be a scandal in itself. What about the domestic scandals currently roiling the administration? Though it makes me want to break out the world's smallest violin, I have to admit there's something to David Axelrod's lament that because "the government is so vast," it's become almost "impossible" to manage. "You go through these [controversies]," the former Obama consiglieri told MSNBC, "because of this stuff that is impossible to know if you're the president or working in the White House, and yet you're responsible for it and it's a difficult situation."

Maybe so: "the sheer size of federal government creates an impossible management paradox," Cornell law professor Cynthia Farina observed in a 2010 article; with 15 Cabinet departments, over 160 different federal agencies with regulatory authority, and some two million civilian employees in the executive branch, the idea that strong presidential leadership can bring "coherence, rationality, and accountability to the vast U.S. regulatory enterprise is unrealistic, if not completely implausible."

Thus, with the IRS imbroglio, for example, it may well be the case that (to rework the old joke from the Reagan era) the left hand doesn't know what the far-left hand is doing. But surely it's not too much to expect the president to keep tabs on his own attorney general -- one of the four original Cabinet posts dating to 1789.

Moreover, it's pretty rich to hear complaints about the vast federal bureaucracy from people ideologically devoted to making it vaster still. And it's utterly galling to hear the president complain, in the NDU speech, about decisions he personally made.

President Bush's "I'm the Decider" attitude sounded arrogant and grating at the time, but Obama's denial of responsibility just might make us grow nostalgic for it.

This article originally appeared at the Washington Examiner.

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  • Brian D||

    Clearly we need some sort of federal agency empowered to oversee the federal agencies overseeing these things.

  • Pro Libertate||

    THE CENSOR!

  • LTC(ret) John||

    Q: Sed quis custodiet ipsos custodiem?

    A: Censor Pro L!

  • Pro Libertate||

    Exactly. I wear the formal toga and carry the formal fasces lictoriae with reluctance but a firm commitment to removing the officials from government at an alarming rate.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    "Lictor, unbind your rods and axes and smite that Senator!"

  • NicoleM||

    Start working at home with Google! It's by-far the best job Ive had. Last Monday I got a new Alfa Romeo from bringing in $7778. I started this 9 months ago and practically straight away started making more than $83 per hour. I work through this link, www.Mojo50.com

  • Bucky||

    O-blame-o just read in the newspaper last Friday that (insert latest scandal)...

  • creech||

    Someone with guts should stand up at one of these speeches, yell "What a bunch of bullshit!" and walk out and be prepared to talk
    cogently to the media that will swarm him....

  • Dweebston||

    Like Neil Munro in 2012, or the Code Pink agitator a few weeks back? Obama will deftly turn criticism into a sympathy plea, and left and right alike will mostly decry the lack of civility in political proceedings.

  • ||

    Madea Benjamin is who you're thinking of. Even her liberal cronies were calling her "rude" for daring to sass the Illustrious One.

  • wareagle||

    yet during the reign of the evil Boosh, Benjamin was speaking truth to power.

  • Bucky||

    oh stop, that theater was 100% staged...

  • DEATFBIRSECIA||

    "Whoever it is that's been in charge for the last four-plus years..."

    Now we've arrived at the actual question.

  • DEATFBIRSECIA||

    http://www.theonion.com/articl.....ntry,1810/

    Could apply just as well to the current occupant.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Obama abjures responsibility for himself, demands others take responsibility.

    “There’s no reason — aside from politics — for Republicans to block these individuals from getting an up or down vote,” Obama said during a ceremony unveiling three nominees he is putting up for the federal appeals court in Washington, D.C.

    Obama also ridiculed Republicans for claiming he is trying to “pack” a court that ranks just below the Supreme Court itself; the president said he is only trying to fill three open slots on an 11-member court that was at full capacity under Republican predecessor George W. Bush.


    Pew Research: More Egyptians view America unfavorably under Obama than Bush.

  • Sevo||

    “There’s no reason — aside from politics — for Republicans to block these individuals from getting an up or down vote,” Obama said"...

    What bullshit!
    First, of course it's "politics" you idiot! What do you want us to believe drives your choices.
    And then, a pass is a "no" vote.
    Just lame armwaving.

  • wareagle||

    so if the sheer size of govt makes management damn near impossible, why do folks like Axe refuse to consider reducing it?

  • DEATFBIRSECIA||

    Management is not the goal. The goal is expansion of the bureaucracy, and they're doing quite well on that front.

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  • PapayaSF||

    There's another aspect of all this. For decades, the left has accused people of very bad things due to vague words and indirect influences. A rape joke "contributes to rape culture." A criticism of Obama is a "racist dog-whistle." A picture of your wife in a bathing suit on your desk creates a "hostile environment" for women in the workplace. Metaphors like "targeting" are partly to blame for assassinations and massacres. And on and on.

    So now we have the IRS (and the EPA and FBI and ATF) targeting Tea Party groups and Republicans and conservatives and Christians. And, not coincidentally, Obama and top Democrats have been publicly demonizing these people for years. They speak of "enemies" and advocate "revenge." There were even Democratic senators explicitly calling for the IRS to crack down on Tea Party groups. And yet now the left says Obama is entirely innocent, because we have not found a presidential memo ordering these things. He's not responsible because, somehow, the concepts of "dog-whistles" or "hostile environments" don't seem to apply to the left.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    "All I said was, 'will no-one rid me of those prying journalists and pesky Tea Partiers?'"

  • Free Society||

    ohhhh look at you making awesome historical references. well said

  • Anders||

    It's all part of the wigger's attempt to keep it real.

    Ghetto level expectations being aped by a privileged upper middle class poseur.

    "I don't know whats going on with the IRS but at least I take care o my kids / don't beat my wife / go to prison" etc.

    People need to show some respec.

  • Kenner||

    The answer is for someone to ask the following question in a press conference or at a speech:

    "How can we get you into the room when the big decisions are being made Mr. President?”

  • larry hammond||

    That would imply that decisions are being made. They are following a very old playbook, but there is no new thinking or decision making involved. The answer is either in the playbook or the issue is ignored.

  • JWatts||

    That would imply that the President regularly accepts questions from someone likely to ask a hard question. Instead Obama has actively avoided hard questions for the last 5 years.

  • ||

    Press: Do you take responsibility for your actions?
    Obama: I didn't know I had to be responsible.

    Press: Mr. President the numbers don't add up.
    Obama: It was to my understanding there would be no math.

    Press: Why do you loathe free enterprise and free-markets?
    Obama: I don't loathe them, it's just that it needs to be socialized is all. Er, I mean it's just that we need more common sense.

  • JWatts||

    It would go more like this:

    Press: Do you take responsibility for your actions?
    Obama: That's the kind of gotcha question that coarsens our civil discourse and I won't be drawn into that kind of argument. I stand above the partisan fray unlike those vote blocking Republicans.

    Press: Mr. President the numbers don't add up.
    Obama: I'm sorry that question is off topic, now who has a relevant question?

    Press: Why do you loathe free enterprise and free-markets?
    Obama: It's been nice meeting with you today. It's been a great press conference and I look forward to the next one. Now I have urgent matters of State that I must attend to.

  • ||

    Here's another:

    Press: Are you responsible?
    Obama: I didn't do it.

    Headline: 'I didn't do it' boy asks "what difference does it make at this point?"

  • Jacurdy||

    I think I'd be more afraid if Obama took the "I'm the Decider" attitude. I'm going to give that some more thought.

  • JWatts||

    He already did the very first month of his presidency.

    But Obama showed that in an ideological debate, he’s not averse to using a jab.

    Challenged by one Republican senator over the contents of the package, the new president, according to participants, replied: “I won.”

    http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/.....gop-i-won/

  • ||

    my classmate's mother-in-law makes $80/hour on the laptop. She has been out of a job for 7 months but last month her pay check was $16148 just working on the laptop for a few hours. Read more on this site http://www.grand4.com

  • coma44||

    Obama’s Flight from Responsibility

    It will never happen. To a progressive liberal responsibility is like herpes or the plague. They avoid it first, blame "the other guy" next then they just go silent once they are caught.

  • JohnD||

    What a foul scumbag this "president" is. A large segment of American voters are low information fools. I've always heard that in a democracy (or democratic Republic) you get the government the people deserve.

    As for force feeding the detainees, I say let that trash starve.

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