May 29, 2013
President Obama. (AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE VIA GETTY IMAGES)
President Obama. (AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE VIA GETTY IMAGES)

There is an important but largely overlooked aspect of the Internal Revenue Service scandal that I think says something important about the Obama presidency.

The White House press secretary revealed that, at the very least, the White House’s counsel and chief of staff knew about the IRS scandal before the news broke and before the IRS inspector general had completed his audit. The official line from the White House is that no one told the president what was going on. It’s very convenient that the president was kept in the dark on this matter. A special prosecutor is the only person who can get to the bottom of this.

We are supposed to believe that after the news broke that the IRS targeted conservative organizations, White House staff members revealed to President Obama that they had been aware that the story was coming but they had chosen not to tell him. End of story.

But the public needs to know what the president did next and what he thought of his staff’s actions.

Was the president pleased that he had not been told? Did he say something like, “Thanks for not telling me. Continue to not tell me things in the future. Heck of a job. Keep up the great work.” Did he ask if there was anything else his senior staff was not telling him? Is it standard practice in the White House not to tell the president things? What is the criteria used to decide what the president is told and what he isn’t?

Further, did the president initiate the practice of insulating himself from information? What does he fear would happen if he knew more? What does his staff fear the president would do if they were more forthcoming with him? What is it about President Obama that makes him ineligible to receive certain types of information? Is the president content with his current level of staff-maintained ignorance or does he think he needs more? Or less?

There is no evidence that the president is dissatisfied with the spoon-feeding of information that he receives even though we have been told often how intellectually curious he is. Curious indeed!

I ask these questions only partially to make a point. I suspect that the White House hasn’t told the truth about what the president knew and when he knew it. I also ask these questions because the answers will tell us a lot about the president and his management of the White House. The answers would help us make a judgment about how this government is being run.

Unless a special prosecutor intervenes and finds the truth, the White House expects us to accept its story that the president was not told and that he was happy to remain in the dark. And that’s that. Presumably the president of the United States expects to continue to not be fully informed, and he thinks that makes him a more effective leader… What?