I’ve always thought of Barack Obama as the “Chauncey Gardiner” of American politics. Like Peter Sellers’ character in the classic film, “Being There,” Obama is an embodiment of outsiders’ hopes and dreams for who they think he is. Reality, like the film, shows there isn’t really a lot of there, there.
This weekend, we learned that President Obama “didn’t know about” NSA spying on world leaders, especially German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He also “didn’t know about” the posthumously obvious problems with the rollout of the ObamaCare website exchanges. According to the New York Times, these problems were evident eight months ago. Yet, it seems, they never made it to the President’s desk.
President Obama was also completely unaware that the IRS was subjecting conservative organizations to undue scrutiny on their tax-exempt applications. At the time of the alleged targeting, the IRS Commissioner visited the White House more than almost any other federal official, but, apparently, never disclosed his agency’s targeting of political opponents of Obama.
President Obama also, presumably, was unaware of the Justice Department’s program to allow Mexican drug gangs to purchase military-grade arms from the US. Those arms have been used to murder thousands of Mexicans and at least two US border patrol officers.
President Obama also, apparently, didn’t know that his spy agencies were monitoring millions of phone calls and cataloguing billions of web visits and data transfers. He, it is reported, didn’t know that these same agencies were also recording phone calls in foreign countries.
President Obama also didn’t know that his diplomatic mission in Libya had requested more security and felt threatened by rising tension in the war-torn country. As someone who had helped launch the chaos in that country, one would have thought he would be more engaged in the aftermath.
He has advisors, right? He gets regular briefings, I assume. None of this ever comes up? Or worse, are we at the point now where agencies can embark on boundary-bending action without White House approval? Has the whole government “gone rogue.”
Even accepting that Obama didn’t know any of these things in advance, why has he taken no action to reverse them? Perhaps he is a bad manager, allowing these scandals to unfold on his watch. But, is he also completely ineffectual?
Comparing Barack Obama to Chauncey Gardiner is an insult to the iconic Peter Sellers character. At least he was honest about what he didn’t know.