The White House creates new scandals before we can get our arms around the existing ones. It is still “investigating” whether the Veterans Affairs bureaucracy killed people when the outing of a CIA agent grabs headlines.
We know, as one report explains:
The official’s name, identified as “chief of station,” was included in the White House press office’s basic list of senior officials President Obama met with during his surprise visit to Afghanistan on Sunday. The list of 15 names apparently came first from the military, and was circulated by the White House press office.
The list then went to a much wider audience when it was included as part of what’s known as a “pool report,” which in this case was filed by The Washington Post’s Scott Wilson.
It was only after Wilson raised the issue with the White House, according to the Post, that officials sought to circulate a new list without the officer’s name. But by that point, the mistake already had been noted on Twitter.
“There’s simply no excuse for it,” John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told Fox News on Tuesday, saying the blunder left him “speechless.”
“In a White House that is filled with press flacks … was there no one who understood the significance of what they were doing?” he said. “Somebody’s head should roll for this. … This is utter incompetence.”
It sure seems that way.
This latest episode raises an interesting predicament. On one hand Republicans, citing the VA and preceding scandals, say the Obama debacles show the liberal welfare state is too unwieldy and vast. An honest and intellectually coherent response for Democrats (although I don’t agree with it) is that the liberal welfare state is fine; it is this administration that resembles a clown show. Really, has there been a less adept, less careful administration than this one?
The problem, however, is that few if any liberals are going to make that argument, because President Obama is their icon (still, amazing as that might seem to Republicans) and his former secretary of state is their likely next presidential nominee. So what is the explanation for all this – other than it is the Republicans’ fault or the fault of the 24/7 news environment (neither of which anyone outside the Obama-Clinton camps buys)?
It is hard to figure. Maybe, “Stuff happens”? Maybe the entire staff and Cabinet are incompetent? The latter is very likely be true, but it involves firing a whole lot of people and bringing in non-cronies, something Obama has been loath to do. No wonder Obama attacks so many people (Fox News, Republicans, Wall Street, etc.) — for mistakes this big and this frequent there can’t be only one culprit.
But Republicans might also do some reflecting. Let’s consider if what seems like clever plotting (a Benghazi cover-up, the “you can keep your doctor” story) might be evidence of mundane and endemic bumbling. If this group couldn’t sense the Obamacare rollout was a fiasco, maybe they got confused about the whole keep your doctor thing. If they can’t keep a CIA station chief’s identity from being e-mail blasted to the press corps, could it be that despite the CIA and State Department knowing full well it was a terrorist attack and multiple news reports spelling this out, the White House didn’t catch up for two weeks?
Don’t get me wrong: Intentional misrepresentation can certainly be part of the explanation for the VA, IRS, Benghazi, Fast & Furious, media spying, Obamacare rollout and CIA outing scandals. But maybe a junior senator with no prior executive experience, surrounded by liberal flunkies, makes for a president who is under-informed and in over his head. Certainly things wouldn’t be so bad if the government weren’t so ungainly — but then we shouldn’t have a government so large that only very good presidents (how many of those are there?) can run it.
The good news is that even if the next president is a Democrat (and too many more screw ups will make that difficult), he or she couldn’t be as error-prone and out-of-the-loop as this one, right? The irony is that the bigger and more frequent the Obama administration’s blunders are, the better a conservative reformer offering to clean up the messes will look. And the tougher will it be for any Democrat in 2014 or 2016 to defend the White House.