Via the Standard, the obligatory reply to this morning’s news. For argument’s sake, assume it’s all true — Obama knows zip zero zilch about malfeasance in his administration apart from what he learns by watching TV. A conscientious exec who found himself in that position, being repeatedly blindsided by underlings, should probably be … pretty angry, right? Being caught flat-footed over and over again makes him look bad and makes his “company” look bad. Does O seem angry, though? Apart from booting out an acting IRS commissioner whose term was set to expire in a few weeks anyway, what gestures has he made to communicate his displeasure? No one in his inner circle has been fired. He reiterated his support for Eric Holder just a few days ago. If I didn’t know better, I’d think being kept blissfully unaware of his Justice Department snooping on reporters and his tax collector targeting his political enemies was something he did by design, to give himself ignorance as an excuse for when the news eventually broke. Obama’s “passivity” and “disengagement” aren’t bugs in his strategy of governance, they’re features.
Question for legal eagles: Is there some sort of ethics rule that would bar the White House counsel from informing Obama of an investigation for purely political purposes? What I mean is, assume Kathryn Ruemmler, his lawyer, makes a “judgment call” that there’s no legal reason to tell Obama about what the IRS has been doing. She decides, in other words, that he has no legal exposure, ergo there’s no need to fill him in. Could she further decide that he ought to know anyway because a political bomb about his opponents being targeted by the state’s revenue collectors is about to drop and he might appreciate advance notice? If I’m president and my lawyer didn’t give me a heads up on that, I’d want a very good explanation as to why not. Is there one here?
Update: Hang on. I didn’t watch the briefing but MSNBC did, and they claim Carney dropped quite the breadcrumb. Ruemmler did tell Obama’s inner circle:
But in Monday’s briefing, he revealed that after White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler was informed that the probe was coming to its conclusion, she told White House chief of staff Denis McDonough and other senior White House staff. Carney also said that Ruemmler was made aware of the report’s key finding: that IRS personnel had improperly targeted conservative groups for special scrutiny. And he added that the White House then held meetings with the Treasury Department to discuss strategy for responding to the report.
“There were conversations with White House chief of staff and with Treasury about the anticipated timing of the release of the report and the potential findings,” Carney said.
Carney didn’t tell reporters last week about any of that information.
So Ruemmler did think this was worthy of the president’s attention — but McDonough and other senior staff didn’t. Why not? What possible alternative conclusion is there except that, if they didn’t tell him, they withheld the info deliberately to shield him from culpability as much as possible? And if that was their M.O. here, why shouldn’t we assume it’s their M.O. generally? “Intentional ignorance — that’s the Hopenchange way.”
So, when’s McDonough getting fired?