President Obama addresses nation from the White House. (Charles Dharapak/AP) At least we know what President Obama doesn’t know. (Charles Dharapak/Associated Press)

Another one of those press conferences full of deflections and professions of President Obama’s ignorance has sparked a column by Dana Milbank. No, Milbank is not flattered that Obama apparently only knows what he reads from news outlets about current events. He’s rather amusedly surprised at the transparent obfuscation by White House spokesman Jay Carney. According to Carney’s accounts, the president either studiously avoids briefings in favor of refreshing washingtonpost.com or nobody even attempts to brief him on the stuff people might ask Carney about later. Oy.

boblesch favors the latter theory. The president is kept ignorant.

Our ‘intelligence community’ is full of ‘need to know’ crap. It’s not unusual to PURPOSELY keep presidents in the dark on some issues.

adifferentpointofview is pretty sure the President DOES know these things, but has decided to play shocked:

This seems like standard politics: claim to know nothing. It is better to come across as ignorant than evil.

Is it, though?

valcol1 says, yup.

It is “studied” ignorance; not a “surprising” ignorance.

cy10 says that as far as the spying goes, it’s no big deal to be listening in on Angela Merkel’s calls, so nobody needed to tell the president about it:

This whole thing is a tempest in a teapot. Our allies spy on us, and we spy on them. We always have, and they always have. I’d be surprised if Germany wasn’ t spying on us. Read any in-depth intelligence and you’ll find that out. The worst thing we did in this case is get caught. And Obama had nothing to do with that.

Geezer4 assumes that Obama gets the big picture, but perhaps not the details of how we got to know the big picture. And he uses a lovely phrase to compare this situation to Milbank:

Even Mr Milbank is able to filter out what he wants to read or hear about. I cringe to think what his columns would be if he scribbled about everything that passed through the Washington Post newsrooms. I expect his pearls of wisdom would be diluted into saltwater long before he arrived at a coherent thought.
I don’t know the least bit about many laws I must obey, but certainly I accept responsibility for proper activities. So it must be with our executive officials. President Obama probably did not know about the extent of the NSA activity. He does have a few other things to attend to as well.

Pearls of wisdom diluted into saltwater. That’s very nice. As is the song “Everybody Knows” by Leonard Cohen, which alance quotes at length:

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded.
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed.
Everybody knows that the war is over.
Everybody knows the good guys lost.
Everybody knows the fight was fixed.
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich.
That’s how it goes,
Everybody knows.
Everybody knows that the boat is leaking.
Everybody knows that the captain lied.
Everybody got this broken feeling
Like their father or their dog just died.

PostScript would like to further quote a phrase from that song that seems to perfectly parallel the dance politicians and the media do over scandals like these. We’re shocked to learn we are kept in the dark about things. The pols are shocked to learn they knew about them all the time. As Leonard wrote, “Everybody knows that you’ve been discreet.” Ooh, shivers.