THE BUCK STOPS (W)HERE?

Former President Harry Truman was famous for declaring “The Buck Stops Here.” Hyperbole aside, what he was conveying was the belief that, as President, he was ultimately responsible. He believed that it was irrelevant whether or not he or a member of his administration had made a mistake; the fact that it had been made at all meant that he was ultimately responsible. President Obama and his staff could and should take a page out of Mr. Truman’s book.

I have never understood how a leader, such as the President or any chief executive or, for that matter, any supervisor could absolve himself of blame by stating that he was not aware. “No one told me.” “I read about it in the newspaper.” That notion is patently absurd, and any President expecting to get away with that excuse is insulting the intelligence of the American people. I half expect Mr. Obama to tell us next that he has a bridge to sell.

Anyone with any experience running any enterprise knows that, as the boss it is your responsibility to be aware. Ignorance of the law is no excuse, nor should be ignorance of wrongdoing by a subordinate. In my former position as chief compliance officer of a financial services organization if I were to tell my boss or a regulator that a particular wrongdoing was not my responsibility because I was not cognizant of it, two things would likely happen. (1) I would be laughed out of the room, and (2) I would lose my job. As boss, it is your job to know; ignorance is simply unacceptable.

To be sure, other Presidents have used the ignorance excuse, e.g. Ronald Reagan and Iran-contra, but under this administration it seems to be occurring repeatedly. There has been a pattern of behavior that is undeniable. President Obama has taken the feigned ignorance excuse to a new level. Fast and Furious, Benghazi, the IRS’ politically-motivated audits, the NSA’s illegal snooping, and the Obamacare rollout come to mind. Moreover, following these revelations Mr. Obama’s stock answer has been “we will investigate;” “we will get to the bottom of it,” or words to that effect. Well, have we “gotten to the bottom” of any of the above mentioned scandals? Do we know who told the security people in Benghazi to “stand down?” Who pushed the video excuse? Who scripted Susan Rice’s talking points at the UN? Do we know who authorized the IRS audits? Has anyone at the IRS been held accountable? Why does Kathleen Sebelius still have a job? Why did no one know the finer points of the Affordable Care Act until after it had already been passed?

CONCLUSION AND PREDICTION

In view of the above, it is no wonder that Mr. Obama’s approval rating has been hovering at around 40%. Furthermore, Democratic senators who are running for re-election in 2014 are beginning to distance themselves from his policies; late night comedians are mocking him and his policies; and the mainstream press has begun to criticize him. Have the previously-inattentive, self-absorbed voters finally caught on to Mr. Obama’s act, or will he wriggle his way out of this yet again? Stay tuned. 2014 and the Obamacare implementation are just around the corner.

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