The Spectacle Blog

Our Isolated President

By on 7.10.14 | 10:59AM

The lines of communication running up and down the bloated federal bureaucracy don't exactly vibrate with the same clarity as a spider web. President Obama isn't a ruthless spider in the center of an ever-growing silken net, catching and consuming conservative causes, personally bending and breaking the laws in pursuit of executive power.

Instead we're told the phones sitting on the presidential desk sit still. What ought to be scandal after scandal rolls off of this administration with too few cries of shame from the public—though we can hope the IRS will stick. The president doesn’t seem to be making these calls. He never seems to know what's going on in his own administration. It's become increasingly apparent that Obama is not an eight-legged predator catching Americans in his bureaucratic web, wrapping them in a cocoon of red tape and inaction, but rather he himself is cocooned, cut off from the inexcusable activities of his administration.

That's because Democratic operatives are hardly dumb, however wrong they may be. When the still-unscathed and unashamed Eric Holder’s Fast and Furious fiasco broke in 2011, the administration and staff quickly took steps to shield the president from the worst of line-crossing and bureaucratic politicking. Plausible deniability is everything when bending—breaking—rules. The last few days have seen revelations of American espionage in Germany beyond those revealed by NSA leaker Edward Snowden, further straining the White House’s relations with Angela Merkel and the German government. Obama was initially kept ignorant of the American operation’s collapse, even reportedly having a phone conversation with Merkel unaware that the Germans had captured the agent. That communication gap seems to have come from bureaucratic bloat, as the CIA declined to pass information of the failure along in a timely manner.

Looking at the IRS targeting of conservative groups and now Lois Lerner’s missing emails, at the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi and its aftermath, at the gross injustice of Veterans Affairs inefficiency and incompetence, at the negligence and grandfathering exhibited in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, we see a scandal-ridden administration, but one more incompetent and less scandalous than Ulysses S. Grant’s, with a reactive president purportedly unaware of it all.

The level of incompetence displayed in the last four years lends credence to the president’s claims to ignorance. If one man called the shots, pulled the strings, sat in the center of the web, things would likely run more smoothly and rules would be broken unnoticed. Bureaucracy’s sprawl and efforts to ensure plausible deniability have crippled internal communication in the executive branch and let the dirty laundry hang airing from it. Even looking back to the president’s candidacy and election, the story of this administration seems not to be one of an ambitious man’s fight for power and an expanded executive, but of a swaddled man propelled to power and shielded from accountability by a bloating bureaucracy. A poor executive, sure, but portraying him as malevolent gives him too much credit.

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