Sunday, May 19, 2013

Cameron Smith: For Obama the buck stops "There, there"

  When the Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz is confronted for breaking his promises and found to be a mere mortal, he utters one of the most memorable lines in cinema history: "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!"

  With the numerous "scandals" facing the Obama administration, Americans have little doubt that we, like Dorothy and Toto, are certainly no longer in Kansas. The State Department's response to the Benghazi attacks, the IRS's targeting of conservative groups, and the Department of Justice spying on Associated Press reporters have piled up at the front door of the White House.

  The relative silence of the political left has been deafening on virtually every account, leaving the administration alone to defend itself.

  Former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton sidestepped attacks that she paid little attention to a cable highlighting security concerns from U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens the day he died in Benghazi. Clinton flatly stated, "1.43 million cables a year come to the State Department. They are all addressed to me." As questions continue to persist about what happened in Benghazi, President Obama angrily stated that "There's no there, there" and dismissed further inquiry into the tragedy as a "political circus."

  In spite of Associated Press reports that the IRS inspector general found that senior IRS officials were aware of agents targeting conservative political groups as early as 2011, Obama told the press that he "first learned about [the IRS targeting] from the same news reports that most people learned about [it]." The President issued the rather bland condemnation that he "would not tolerate" such behavior.

  Attorney General Eric Holder noted that he recused himself from the decision to subpoena the phone records of Associated Press reporters in part because he had "frequent contact with the media" and had been interviewed by the FBI on the matter. White House press secretary Jay Carney said the White House had "no knowledge of any attempt by the Justice Department to seek phone records of the AP."

  So who exactly is accountable for the actions of the State Department, the IRS, and the Department of Justice? The Constitution leaves little doubt. Article II Section 1 pointedly states that the "executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America."

  Americans should be outraged that, at every turn, the Obama Administration and even the President himself has suggested they were simply not aware of or responsible for the actions of executive branch agents. Obama has gone so far as to attack the IRS, an agency that ultimately answers to him, as if it were a separate branch of government. Plausible deniability may be a useful tool in politics, but the executive branch buck must stop with the President.

  Contrast the Obama Administration's response to the three incidents mentioned above with Akio Toyoda's testimony before Congress, regarding Toyota's recall of millions of cars. Toyoda was not directly responsible for the design defects nor did he find out about the design defects from the press. Regardless, Toyoda repeatedly apologized and took personal responsibility for Toyota's failures.

  Instead of assuming responsibility; clearing the air on Benghazi, promptly dismissing IRS agents involved in political targeting; and assuring Americans that the freedom of the press will not be abridged, the President chose a different message.

  In his speech to the graduating class of The Ohio State University, President Obama called for graduates to reject the "voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity ... that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner."

  Unfortunately, those voices are gaining credibility and increasing in volume while the President, like the Great and Powerful Oz, continues to tell the rest of us to pay no attention to the man running our government.

  About the author: Cameron Smith is policy director and general counsel for the Alabama Policy Institute an independent, non-profit research and education organization dedicated to the preservation of free markets, limited government and strong families. He may be reached at camerons[at] or on Twitter @DCameronSmith.

This article was published by the Alabama Policy Institute.

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