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May 15, 2013

The Accidental Administration

Energy in the executive is a leading character in the definition of good government. It is essential to the protection of the community against foreign attacks; it is not less essential to the steady administration of the laws; to the protection of property against those irregular and high-handed combinations which sometimes interrupt the ordinary course of justice; to the security of liberty against the enterprises and assaults of ambition, of faction, and of anarchy.

- Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 70

The concentration of authority in the hands of a single leader with ultimate authority is the essence of the executive branch of government. The other two branches - the legislature and the judiciary - are characterized by diffused power and shared decision making. They act by consensus and compromise, but the executive branch alone places power in the hands of one man: the President.

To a position demanding forcefulness, energy, decisiveness and conviction, we have elected a man who is disengaged, unresponsive and defensive, unaccountable. When circumstances demand an active response, his first response is to hesitate; to stonewall, delay, obfuscate. To appoint a commission to study the options. To plead ignorance of what transpired under his watch, blame subordinates for not doing his job for him managing themselves, or blame his predecessor. Exhibit 1:

Over the last two years, government watchdog groups filed more than a dozen complaints with the Internal Revenue Service seeking inquiries into whether large nonprofit organizations like those founded by the Republican political operative Karl Rove and former Obama administration aides had violated their tax-exempt status by spending tens of millions of dollars on political advertising.

The I.R.S. never responded.

Exhibit 2:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her senior staff conducted a conference call with Gregory Hicks, deputy chief of the U.S. mission in Libya, in the early morning hours of Sept. 12, 2012.

Hicks was overseeing a chaotic scene in Tripoli, where his staff was busy destroying classified material with axes and whatever else was at hand and as the few security people left in Tripoli were preparing to evacuate to a safer location at dawn. (Think the opening scenes of the movie "Argo.") The U.S. Consulate in Benghazi had been stormed and the ambassador was missing.

In his testimony Wednesday before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the inspiring and obviously fearless Hicks recounted that, at the end of the 2 a.m. call, Hillary concurred with his decision to evacuate, and the call ended.

An hour later, having received "the saddest phone call of his life," Hicks then relayed to the State Department in Washington that Ambassador Christopher Stevens was dead.

Hillary never called back.

In the President's twisted leadership calculus, the misdeeds of unit commanders or mid level officers are blamed on systemic failures in the Department of Defense. The responsibility for similar misdeeds by his own mid-level subordinates, however, lies with them alone. The proverbial buck stops with middle management. Unlike cream, it never percolates up to the top echelons who are charged with leading, supervising, and setting policy.

These are the people who said: "Elect us. Believe in us. We are going to change the world: stop the rise of the oceans, heal the planet, restore America's lost moral legitimacy." Close Gitmo on Day 1. Go through the federal budget line by line, eliminating duplicative and wasteful programs. Instead, as the size of government expanded, deficits remained unaddressed, and thousands of gallons of oil spewed into the Gulf, America got fundraisers and beer summits:

As oozing oil fouls Louisiana’s marshes, Obama has committed to maintaining the semblance of a regular schedule, adhering to his walk-and-chew-gum style of crisis management even as criticism of his administration mounts.

That includes a sit-down to talk hoops with Marv Albert, events touting the stimulus and Duke’s basketball team, a Memorial Day appearance in Illinois and a pair of fundraisers in California that roughly overlapped with a memorial service for 11 workers killed in the April 20 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon platform.

More than 4 years after his executive order was issued, Gitmo remains open for business. Unemployment is still at historical levels. More than 4 years later, the man who arrogantly upbraided outgoing President George W. Bush about "the false choice between our safety and our ideals" now openly boasts about personally approving presidential kill lists and conducts war by remote control. How must it look to poor, Third World nations when the world's largest superpower asserts the right to kill its own citizens without trial, waving away their Constitutional rights with a single sweep of the auto pen?

What became of the ideals this President claimed to hold so sacred a mere four years ago? What kind of leader, informed that one of his ambassadors has been murdered and two U.S. facilities abroad are under attack on the anniversary of 9/11, calmly reviews his options and decides that the appropriate action is to jump on a plane to Las Vegas for a fundraiser? What kind of leader breezily dismisses the sworn testimony of people - his people - who were on the ground during the attack as a politically motivated "sideshow"?

What kind of leader is not embarrassed to claim that he first learned of abuses of power in his administration from the newspaper?

At the start of Tuesday’s briefing, the AP’s Jim Kuhnhenn pointed out that in all the controversies of the moment — the Benghazi “talking points,” the IRS targeting and the journalists’ phone records — “you have placed the burden of responsibility someplace else. . . . But it is the president’s administration.”

President Passerby, however, was not joining the fray. Carney repeated Obama’s assertion that the IRS’s actions would be outrageous only “if” they are true. Never mind that the IRS has already admitted the violations and apologized.

The press secretary said repeatedly that “we have to wait” for a formal report by the agency’s inspector general before the most powerful man in the world could take action. By contrast, Carney didn’t think it necessary to wait to assert that nobody in the White House knew about the IRS activities until “a few weeks ago.” (They apparently didn’t tell the boss about the matter until Friday.) Tuesday night, Obama issued a statement saying he had seen the I.G. report and directed Treasury Secretary Jack Lew “to hold those responsible for these failures accountable.”

It's almost as though he doesn't understand that he's supposed to be paying attention to what happens in his own administration. That's what we hired him to do.

It's his job to know.

Posted by Cassandra at May 15, 2013 07:01 AM

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Quintessentially in the dark, Obama, the first of his type of executive in so many ways - black, mulatto, socialist, ponce – has added another first – the first 'know nothing' president.

The man is walking, talking, plausible deniability. His legacy will be he was a campaigner extrordinaire, fundraiser nonpareil, golfing duffer, and ingenuous executive. His motto: semper sine cura.

Posted by: George Pal at May 15, 2013 10:34 AM

My husband read to me from a thread a moment ago: "Apparently Seal Team Six is the only government agency that actually answers to Obama."

Posted by: Texan99 at May 15, 2013 12:01 PM

"Apparently Seal Team Six is the only government agency that actually answers to Obama."


Posted by: MikeD at May 15, 2013 01:33 PM

Dennis Miller says, "A few more days of this, and the President is going to admit he's from Kenya, just to take some of the heat off."

Posted by: Texan99 at May 15, 2013 06:09 PM

Hi Cass,
This is an outstanding rant, and an excellent example of your work. I'm quite surprised that you are not linked more at other blogs. I'd donate a tooth to hear a congresscritter read exhibit (2) verbatim to Hillary and ask for a response.

BTW, Im a 'Surberban' (Don Surbers' dearly departed blog) refugee, still suffering from withdrawl. and plagarizing my own words from that blog, this post should become a part of your forthcoming 'Best of' anthology.

BZ to the Texan . . .

Best Regards, and thank you!

Posted by: CAPT Mike at May 15, 2013 10:41 PM

Tex, you're killing me! :)

I told the spousal unit the Seal Team Six crack this morning. He loved it!

Posted by: Cassandra at May 16, 2013 06:49 AM

Don Surber was a great blogger. I didn't read him regularly (I read few blogs regularly, to tell the truth) but when I did, he was always worth reading.

I used to get a lot more traffic back in 2005-2007 when I wrote more often, but I don't know that I've ever been linked all that much. I wrote mostly longform essays about the global war on terriers, and that's sort of a niche thing.

At any rate, thanks for the kind words again :)

Posted by: Cassandra at May 16, 2013 06:53 AM

Every time you go on sabbatical, you can feel a disturbance in the Force, as if a million voices shouted out in pain and fear, and were silenced.

Posted by: Texan99 at May 16, 2013 09:35 AM

"...you can feel a disturbance in the Force..."

I know I feel disturbed.

Posted by: Evil Twin at May 16, 2013 03:23 PM