Guest Editorial

BY TOM TOTH | MAY 28, 2014

As seen on TV: Obama's leadership failure

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tom toth"I first learned about it from the same news reports that I think most people learned about this." -President Barack Obama

Barack Obama's lack of operational awareness of what's happening within his own federal bureaucracies has reached legendary proportion.

The most recent institutional crisis to hit the White House is the widespread issues with Veterans Association hospital phony waiting lists, which have threatened the lives of thousands and have allegedly resulted in at least 40 deaths so far.

The White House's predictable response to the scandal? The President learned about it on TV.

The quote above is actually from a year ago — May 13, 2013 — when the administration was facing the IRS targeting scandal. Interestingly, it could be easily copied and pasted into numerous other situations when the Oval Office ducked blame for a federal organization's misconduct. When facing an issue that risks Obama's image, the President has repeatedly chosen to not take responsibility for actions within an organization under his direct supervision, bucking a response with something akin to, "man, I heard about it the same way you did."

For an executive leader it's a preposterous excuse, even if true. Now it's a trend.

The administration's use of this particular PR deflection maneuver began innocently enough in 2009 on a day when Air Force One had been directed to do low-altitude flyovers above New York City for a photo op. Although a fairly routine process, the problems sprouted from the fact that there had been a systematic failure to inform the general public this would be happening. The 9-1-1 emergency lines filled up with callers recalling September 11, 2001; unaware New Yorkers panicked. As one who was sitting in LaGuardia Airport that very afternoon, watching out a terminal window an airline-sized jet flew unusually low over the city while flights were being unexpectedly delayed for an indefinite period of time, the tension was palpable. Afterwards, the President claimed to have no idea—which was believable enough as it was a simple, albeit unfortunate, communication failure.

Two years later, news reports flooded the airwaves that the administration's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) had lost track of illegal firearms it had allowed to be smuggled to Mexican drug cartels, supposedly to be tracked, in the now-infamous Operation Fast and Furious. These weapons (which included heavy machine guns and other high-caliber firearms) were ultimately used to kill American border agents and further the interests of the powerful drug organizations in the troubled bordering nation. In response to the scandal, the administration told CNN that neither he nor the Attorney General had no knowledge of Operation Fast and Furious, and that he had learned about it from the news.

Then launched. The moment when the rubber of Obama's touted healthcare reform hit pavement, the results were catastrophic for the administration. Billions had been wasted over three years to develop the website and the President, despite voiced concerned within the Department of Health and Human Services and a failed rollout test, claimed to have no prior knowledge that the rollout would likely fail.

When the Department of Justice seized two months of Associated Press phone records, the administration claimed that they learned of it from news stories.

When the NSA was exposed for spying on the heads of state and other government personnel of international allies, the administration, again, claimed ignorance.

If Barack Obama is indeed unaware of what's happened in New York, Operation Fast and Furious, NSA targeting, the IRS Tea Party targeting, and the VA hospitals, there is a much larger problem in the White House than just plummeting poll numbers. An organization's Chief Executive Officer is the person atop the pyramid of conduct and responsibility. If the President's knows nothing about these scandals, then he knows nothing about the operations within the individual arms of the government he leads and the American people have no representative presence atop the federal government responsible for corruption and misconduct.

Therefore, all of the White House's claimed ignorance leaves the American people ignorant of one important thing: who exactly is in charge of the executive branch of the United States Government?

It's clearly not any elected official.

Tom Toth (@TomToth3) is the social media director for Americans for Limited Government.