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Barack Obama's "I didn't know" problem

Our parents never put up with the "I-didn't-know" excuse. We learned as children (hopefully), when we got to a certain age, to not even try.

President Obama at Robert Gates' farewell
President Obama at Robert Gates' farewellPhoto by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Why, then, are we so willing to accept it from our favored politicians?

Especially in the case of the President of the United States, politicians have used it so frequently that it has its own political euphemism: "plausible deniability."

Why is this a problem for us? Well, besides the obvious moral and maturity failing it demonstrates, it costs us money. If a political leader doesn't know of waste in his/her organization, he/she is costing us money, with no accountability. In the case of a president, the waste could be in the trillions of dollars.

President Obama seems to have honed this time-honored child's excuse to the level of art form. But those of us who remember our own childhoods recognize the deflection when we see it. The most recent Obama Administration scandal of so-called "death lists" in multiple cities across the United States garnered the same response from Obama and his spokespeople: "He didn't know."

Here's a review of what Barack Obama's spokespeople (and in some cases, Obama himself) claim he didn't know:

  • VA Scandal: Veterans left to die because VA administrators put them on wait lists that ensured they would wait longer for life-preserving procedures than other veterans. Obama didn't know. He found out, according to his spokesperson Jay Carney, from the media. Former General Eric Shinseki, head of the Veterans Administration, is now fighting to preserve the battered VA brand.
  • NSA Scandal: The NSA was spying not only on American citizens, but also on foreign heads of state. Obama didn't know.
  • "Fast and Furious" Scandal: The scandal involving our own government selling arms to Mexican drug cartels, resulting in their being used to murder Americans. Obama didn't know. Again, per Jay Carney, Obama found out about this in the media.
  • The IRS Scandal: The Internal Revenue Service admitted to disproportionately targeting conservative organizations for harassment and delays during the 2012 presidential election campaign. Despite the fact that IRS commissioner Douglas Schulman scheduled a reported 118 visits (actually, by some reports, perhaps as many as 161 visits) to the White House during this time (more than all of Obama's cabinet secretaries combined), Obama didn't know. In his congressional testimony, Schulman, when questioned why he would go to the White House so many times, mused that he went for an Easter Egg roll.
  • Affordable-Care-Act Scandal (aka "You can keep your plan and your doctor. Period."): There are multiple "I didn't know" opportunities for President Obama in this one. Various sources have claimed that President Obama just didn't have any way to know that what PolitiFact called the "Lie of the Year" in 2013 was actually a lie. But for the sake of simplicity, we will acknowledge only that Obama didn't know that the Obamacare website would have so many failures. Despite having literally 3 years to prepare for its launch, and several billion dollars in resources, Obama didn't know that they weren't prepared for the October 1, 2013 launch date.

When an executive finds out about a significant problem occurring under a reporting manager, he or she expects two things:

  1. A report about why it happened
  2. A plan of action that the systemic problem allowing it to happen has been fixed

We certainly have heard multiple versions of President Obama telling the public, 'We will not rest until an investigation is taken, and those perpetrating these acts have been brought to justice." Problem is, in each of the cases in which Obama claims ignorance, his Justice Department does not thoroughly investigate. In the case of the IRS, a private organization had to win a court order against the Obama Administration just to force them to release emails that showed that, indeed, IRS officials in Washington DC knew of the selective harassment of organizations who disagreed politically with the Obama administration. They don't necessarily tie President Obama directly to it. But they clearly show that Obama's public claim of "not even a smidgen of corruption" was patently false.

So it seems that Obama doesn't know, and doesn't want to know.

Perhaps some day we can figure out how many billions, perhaps trillions, of American tax dollars have been wasted under the leadership of someone who apparently believes that the "I didn't know" excuse our parents would never accept is completely acceptable to American voters.

By then, unfortunately, the financial damage will be done. Barack Obama's "I didn't know" problem has become the American taxpayer's problem.