The Spectator President?

No, this is not Watergate or Iran-Contra. Nor is it like the sex scandal that got Bill Clinton impeached.

The AP, IRS and Benghazi matters represent a scandal not of presidential wrongdoing, but of presidential indolence, indifference and incompetence in discharging the duties of chief executive.

The Barack Obama revealed to us in recent days is something rare in our history: a spectator president, clueless about what is going on in his own household, who reacts to revelations like some stunned bystander.

Consider. Because of a grave national security leak, President Obama’s Department of Justice seized two months of records from 20 telephones used by The Associated Press. An unprecedented seizure.

Yet the president was left completely in the dark. And though he rushed to defend the seizure, he claims he was uninvolved.

While the AP issue does not appear to have legs — we know what was done and why — it has badly damaged this president. For his own Justice Department treated the press, which has an exalted opinion of itself and its role, with the same contempt as the IRS treated the Tea Party.

The episode has damaged a crucial presidential asset. For this Washington press corps had provided this president with a protective coverage of his follies and failings unseen since the White House press of half a century ago covered up the prowlings of JFK.

The Benghazi issue is of far greater gravity. Still, Obama’s sins here as well seem to be those of omission, not commission.

The president was apparently completely in the dark about the urgent requests from Benghazi for more security. Obama was also apparently completely out of the loop during the seven-hour crisis of Sept. 11-12, when Ambassador Stevens was assassinated, calls for help from Benghazi were denied and two heroic ex-Navy SEALs died fighting to defend U.S. personnel from the roof of that CIA installation.

No one seems to know where Obama was that night.

The following week, as the State Department, CIA and National Security Council all worked the “talking points” to make it appear that this preplanned terrorist atrocity was a spontaneous event triggered by an anti-Islamic video, Obama knew nothing of the discussions.

Thus, almost a week after the massacre, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice was put on six networks to move the line that we could not have better prepared for what would happen in Benghazi because it was all a spontaneous event triggered by a YouTube video.

Rice’s version was untrue, but consistent with Obama’s campaign message: “Bin Laden is dead, and al-Qaida is on the run.”

Yet if Rice’s credibility was crippled by what she was sent out to parrot, a week after she got the egg all over her face, Obama was himself peddling the same line at the United Nations. Obama, it seems, may have been the last man to know the cover story had collapsed.

As for the IRS’s targeting of Tea Party applications for tax-exempt status, this bureaucratic misconduct began as far back as 2010, when the Tea Party was a national sensation.

Yet, despite Tea Party protests to members of Congress, who made inquiries of the IRS, the discrimination against groups with “Tea Party” and “Patriot” in their names continued, and was extended to groups whose proclaimed mission was to defend the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.

Literally for years this went on. Investigations were begun by the IRS, and the results reported to the Treasury Department.

But nothing was made public before the election of 2012.

This weekend we learned that the White House counsel was told this April about the IRS misconduct and the investigations, but she did not inform President Obama. He learned about it from news reports.

What we have here, it appears, is a government out of control and a president clueless about what is going on in that government.

And that is the best case. For it is difficult to believe the IRS could conduct a full-court press on Obama’s opponents, that IRS higher-ups knew about it, years ago, and that Treasury knew about it before the election — but the White House was kept in the dark about a scandal that could have derailed the Obama campaign.

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Pat Buchanan


Patrick Buchanan is a conservative political commentator and syndicated columnist and author of several books, including Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?.

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  • Obama_Dogeater

    “No one seems to know where Obama was that night.”
    I’ll tell you where he was that night…packing for the next day’s trip to Vegas without a care in the world. Any Catholic who still supports this guy is a clueless fool.

  • Lee

    How many Catholics are we in America? How many of us did vote this president into the White House? Is it too late to right our wrong? We must have the power to cause change, because we are being attacked from all angles calling on us to stand up for the Truth and get something(s ) and someone(s) straightened out.The voting poles are going to be open again before this mess is pushed under the rug, so we need to get to work NOW to support new Americans who will step up and step in to clear the White House of disgust,distrust and immoral behavior towards United States of America citizens.

  • G Thurmond

    Perhaps he is just a figurehead, a mouthpiece, a front. Meanwhile the ‘machine’ is working diligently behind the scenes implementing a well thought out plan that has been years in the making. I’m sure they plan for mistakes, and they figure they can get away with anything because most liberals are cheering them on and don’t care what their tactics are, there are others who don’t know and don’t care what’s going on, and then there is the silent majority who believe they are powerless to do anything about it. They are the ones who allowed him passage.

  • QuoVadisAnima

    Is Buchanan being sarcastic? I think he must be as he is pointing out that the administration’s stance means either: Obama knew what was going on and was actively involved and is lying about his involvement OR Obama is a clueless dupe who is guilty by incompetent omission of leadership. That does sum things up painfully accurately – and either way it is the American people who are in trouble.

  • I think you misunderstand the problem with the AP investigation. It has been reported that the CIA was well aware of the AP story, before it was published. The CIA asked to AP to delay publishing the story on National Security grounds and they agreed to wait until release of the news would have no effect on the investigation. The AP delayed for a week. Then they were asked to delay for yet another day, not for National Security reasons but so the Whitehouse could get ahead of the story. In other words to delay for political reasons. They quite justifiably refused and the FBI then went after them.
    It is a blatant mis-use of power for political reasons.
    It also ignores the administrations actions against Fox’s senior State Department correspondent, which is a seizure of his records, for the crime of actually talking to State Department sources.
    Together these actions are an attempt to coerce a press that seems to be slipping out of their control.

  • pnyikos

    The title of this article reminds me that the media sang hosannahs of praise for Obama for being a spectator of the assassination of Osama bin Laden. “Obama got Osama” trumpeted the headline in TIME magazine, when it was the SEALS that did it all. If Obama had really been on top of the situation instead of watching it on TV, he might have tried to make sure bin Laden would be caught alive and brought to justice, the way Saddam Hussein was.

  • Richard III

    Yeah, and he recently took the time to call up and congratulate that basketball player who “came out”, but apparently could not or would not spare a quarter to call up Benghazi to enquire as to the situation, send help, or express sympathy and sorrow.

  • He was in the situation room the night the Seals got Bin Laden and made sure we saw pictures of it. Then he won’t tell us where he was the night of Bengazi? Can anyone give me a reasonable explanation for this?