Skip to main content
Advertising

Originally published Monday, May 26, 2014 at 4:03 PM

  • Share:
           
  • Comments (0)
  • Print

All the news fit for a president

The deepest cut in the VA scandal is knowing that the president, who as a candidate promised that veterans’ care would be among his highest priorities, hasn’t burdened himself with keeping this promise, writes syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker.


Syndicated columnist

Reader Comments
Hide / Show comments
In defense of incompetent nobody Barack, there are two possibilities explaining his clueless, ignorant "promises"... MORE
@Latitudinarian You're a real wit aren't you! MORE
@gettingreal2 Try again. From 2000 to 2013, VA spending nearly tripled--a greater increase than Medicare, Medicaid,... MORE

advertising

Former President George W. Bush once said, rather proudly, that he didn’t read newspapers.

President Barack Obama, a confirmed newsie, has claimed to read the major papers, perhaps to learn what’s going on in his own administration.

Latest to the list of presidential discoveries thanks to the dailies is the horrific news that the Department of Veterans Affairs has kept secret lists of veterans waiting for treatment. Some have died during the wait.

In a world of faux outrage, finally we have something about which to be scandalized. It is hard to imagine leaving our veterans to wither and die after they’ve survived enemy fire and war. As we celebrate Memorial Day weekend, it must be particularly painful for the families of those who never reached the top of the list.

The deepest cut is knowing that the president, who as a candidate promised that veterans’ care would be among his highest priorities, hasn’t burdened himself with keeping this promise.

Instead, we learn that Obama knows more or less what every newspaper-reading American knows. Does he also do more or less what Americans do in response? Shake his head, cluck his tongue and then turn the page?

The president didn’t know, for instance, how badly things were going over at Health and Human Services preceding the dramatic non-rollout of the Affordable Care Act.

In other breaking news, Obama was surprised to learn that the Internal Revenue Service was paying special attention to conservative groups.

And, who, by the way, knew whatever was going on in Benghazi that horrific night? Not to pound the Republican drum, which too often sounds like a car alarm, but was the administration’s first impulse really to call YouTube?

So says Rep. Darrell Issa, Republican chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Issa recently noted a State Department email indicating that one of the White House’s first responses to the attack on Sept. 11, 2012, was to contact the video-sharing website to warn of the ramifications of posting the anti-Islam video initially blamed for the attack.

Issa has entered into the Congressional Record an excerpt from the email, which was sent at 9:11 p.m. Eastern Time that very night:

“White House is reaching out to U-Tube [sic] to advise ramifications of the posting of the Pastor Jon video,” the email reads, according to Issa.

No word yet on whether the president knew about this at the time, but his history suggests that this, too, may have been news. His communications team has managed, meanwhile, to detect a sliver of silver in the cloud of doubt hovering over Benghazi.

The fact that the White House was contacting YouTube as Americans were being attacked merely confirms that the administration really believed that the attack erupted during a video-induced riot.

What difference does it make at this point, one might ask? Does it matter that the president gets his news from the media rather than from his staff and Cabinet? Does it matter that time after time — add the NSA’s spying on our allied leaders and the Justice Department’s tapping into reporters’ communications — the president doesn’t know what’s going on in agencies his Cabinet oversees?

Yes, it all really matters. It matters because denial of knowledge tastes like chicken and smells like cover-up. At best it sounds like incompetence. It matters because this White House has failed to perform in a manner that justifies the public’s faith and trust in its leadership.

Being president is surely the least enviable job imaginable, second only to being a woman in most other places. Staying abreast of so many complex issues — not to mention foreign affairs — must be overwhelming at times. And, to be fair, sometimes agency leaders don’t like to share bad news with their commander in chief.

Finally, the problem of admitted ignorance may be less a matter of negligence than a symptom of an even bigger problem — the programs themselves. To admit that our government bureaucracies and our hulking programs are too big to succeed, however, is to admit to a failure of ideology. The president likely knows this in his heart, which may be why he prefers being surprised by news than collapsing under the burden of being wrong.

© , Washington Post Writers Group

Kathleen Parker's column appears regularly on editorial pages of The Times. Email: kathleenparker@washpost.com



Want unlimited access to seattletimes.com? Subscribe now!

Advertising
The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited seattletimes.com access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►