In this blizzard of scandals, one thread connects all of them — the AP/Rosen scandal, political corruption at the IRS, and Benghazi, at least on the changes made to the talking points. Barack Obama knew nothing of all them, at least according to the White House’s own defenses. He had no idea what was happening in his own Treasury, State, and Justice Departments until the media notified him in the morning paper. Even his White House counsel gets better informed than the President in this administration, according to Jay Carney, which is more than a little disturbing.
Michael Ramirez skewers this defense in his latest editorial cartoon for Investors Business Daily:
Forbes’ Carl Schramm follows up with an essay on the lack of executive skills displayed by the President who had, er, no executive experience at all prior to winning the job:
Every CEO is a politician. Not every politician is a CEO. The current set of messes that President Obama faces makes the point. They are as much management failures as they are political/legal nightmares. There is a price for having no market-facing executive experience. Indeed, Mr. Obama’s first cabinet had almost no private sector management experience.
Most of our better presidents have had business or military leadership experience. This is of tremendous value when running the world’s largest organization. Those who haven’t, like Bill Clinton, himself tested by failure as a politician and familiar with the executive role governor’s play, knew that private sector executives have a different view of what successful management is and kept a few close at hand.
Be sure to read it all, as Schramm makes a number of good observations about how CEOs develop the skills necessary for leadership of large organizations through years of experience dealing with markets. Obama missed all of those lessons, a point that was not left unmade by many of us in the 2007-8 election cycle. Assuming that Obama could suddenly be imbued with all of that experience and wisdom, what would he do now in this crisis? Schramm speculates that a real executive would start firing people wholesale:
The CEO’s script: “I can’t believe federal servants didn’t protect diplomats, spied on the press, and singled out conservative groups using the tax code. It seems the apparatus of Washington forgets who has the ultimate authority – not aides, deputies, and not bureau chiefs. It’s mine; I’m President.”
Then, “I mean to run government in a way that inspires trust.” “I am firing the Attorney General, the head of the NSC, the Chief of the Joint Staff, and my White House counsel. I don’t know what the Attorney General did. It really doesn’t matter. Justice so abused the 1st Amendment I have no choice. NSC and Defense misjudged the potential in Benghazi badly and failed to save American personnel in ongoing danger — I can’t tolerate such bad management. My White House counsel knew of the IRS investigations for weeks without telling me.” He appoints some esteemed former judge of the Tax Court to clean up the IRS. Then the president preempts the Congress by saying that he wants them to reconsider Obamacare taking away any role for the IRS.
President Obama will have his mojo back instantly. Republicans will be flummoxed.
It may come down to that, but I don’t think it will happen. For instance, Obama had two perfect moments to fire Eric Holder already — one when Operation Fast and Furious surfaced, and the other at the second-term transition. Why is Holder still there? The secret is probably within the claim of executive privilege on Fast and Furious, which is that Obama is probably not as ill-informed on any of these scandals as the White House would lead people to believe. As any CEO knows, once people get fired and cut loose (in this case politically as well as financially), they have no particular reason to remain loyal, or to remain quiet. And even in those situations where Obama has the chance to clean house, who’s he proposing to hire? Benghazi-linked Susan Rice for NSA and Victoria Nuland for Assistant Secretary of State.
Also, Obama won’t back down on IRS enforcement of the ObamaCare mandate, because there is no other way to enforce it — not practically, and not legally either, thanks to the Supreme Court. The only reason the individual mandate survived was because John Roberts and the four liberal justices saw it as a tax. If the IRS doesn’t enforce it, is it still a tax? Or does the White House have to create a new Office of Mandate Enforcement to impose it in parallel? The point isn’t so much that a politically-corrupt IRS will be the agency to enforce the mandate, but that the IRS scandal shows that any bureaucracy with enough power and ambiguous oversight and leadership can become corrupt and partisan.
At this point, it’s too late to solve the problem by firing everyone. The corruption and scandal have already occurred. Firing people will be a consequence, but that’s not going to give Obama his mojo back — it will only put him on the defensive, and give a few people more incentive to talk about what happened from the inside. And at least in regard to firing White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler, it’s going to be difficult to sell the firing of the most well-informed person in the West Wing as a mojo-reclaiming move.