30 MINUTES IN THE OVAL OFFICE

November 1, 2013

Three days before William M. Daley left his position as President Obama's White House Chief of Staff, NBC's Chief White House Correspondent oft handedly commented that Daley told him "off the record" that the President averages less than 30 minutes a day in the Oval Office. Daley quickly went on to qualify that revelation by saying the President stays busy for the country outside the office.

I have often wondered in Daley was removed from his position for this comment being leaked to the media. Only NBC and its sister affiliate MSNBC reported this comment and then, only once. But by the end of the week, Daley was gone.

30 Minutes a day in the Oval. Let's see that averages out to 2 hours and 30 minutes a week. Wow! I'd love to make $400,000 a year for just doing 2 and 1/2 hours of work and spend the rest of the time flying around in a jumbo jet, going from city to city telling folks how I never make mistakes and other people are to blame for any woes being experienced.

Anyway, it is clear from his absence that Obama doesn't run the country. Some may argue that Obama's close confidant Valarie Jarrett is the de facto President. Others say Obama's big business cronies, union bosses, global bankers and certain lobbyists run the country. I often argue that George Soros is the power behind the throne.

Regardless of who pulls Obama's strings, the President doesn't stay at the office much. He loves to golf. He loves to campaign. He loves to hobnob with celebrities. In fact, President Obama loves all the trappings of the presidency except, it would seem, actually doing the job of being President.

As President, Barack Obama is every bit the bomb-thrower you’d expect from a progressive activist community organizer – all sizzle, no steak. He can campaign like a champion, present old, failed ideas as though they’d never been uttered before, and tell a lie with a straight face as well as anyone if Hollywood. But what he’s no good at is managing or paying attention, both kind of important traits for a president.

Presidents don’t need to micro-manage, nor should they. But they must care about the happenings on their watch, appoint the best, most trustworthy people they can, and set the tone and direction for their administration. Nothing about how President Obama has conducted himself while in office demonstrates he cares about any of these things.

The media has spun the Obama Presidency as the harmonic convergence between genius and innovation, yet not one aspect of it has been either. As a leader, the President of the United States has been an absentee landlord.

On Obamacare, routinely referred to his “signature legislation,” the President has been hopelessly disconnected, appearing disinterested, and negligent as a leader.

The launch of Obamacare was a disaster by any unit of measure. But the news that the President only found out about problems after the launch is the most troubling part. Think what you will about the law itself, that the man steering trillions of our tax dollars and wresting control of 1/6th of the economy wouldn’t bother to ask how things were going in the run up to launch shows a lack of seriousness and interest in his job.

But this lack of seriousness and disconnect from the job of being President is hardly being displayed for the first time this October. It’s the latest in a pattern of either disinterest in the duties of his office, a bit if willful ignorance for plausible deniability or simply a lie.

The President told CNN he’d found out about Fast and Furious, the gun running debacle his Justice Department created, from reports in the media. He claimed to have found out about the Internal Revenue Service targeting his political opponents through the media as well.

What else doesn’t the President know, and why doesn’t his staff want him to know it?

The President’s Chief of Staff knew about the IRS scandal before it was made public, as did the White House Council (essentially the President’s lawyer). We’re expected to believe neither thought to tell him? That’s what we’ve been told, so if it’s true they should’ve been fired immediately. If it’s not, we’ve been lied to for political cover. Neither option is acceptable.

That no one in the Justice Department, especially the Attorney General, would inform the President that they’d forced gun sales to Mexican drug cartels, never tracked them and they’ve been turning up at murder scenes across the southwest and Mexico, including at the murder scene of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, is an outrage. For the President to casually mention that he’d found out about it from the media is disgusting. And for no one to be fired for keeping such important and embarrassing information from him is inexcusable. Unless the official story isn’t true.

You fire incompetence. You can’t fire people doing what they’re told.

Actually, this administration doesn’t fire incompetence either.

National Journal’s Matthew Cooper wrote a piece entitled, “Why Obama Won’t Fire (Kathleen) Sebelius” about the failed Secretary of Health and Human Services who is overseeing the slow-motion train wreck of the Obamacare roll-out. He writes that Sebelius’s safety in her position can be attributed to things unrelated to her job performance. “Chalk part of it up to the hands-off approach Obama takes when it comes to his Cabinet and a self-preserving one favored by Sebelius's. Throw in a mutual affection that's just strong enough to keep them bound together, mix in their shared love of basketball, and it's a formula for survival.”

In other words, the President doesn’t care if someone is good at their job, he cares that he likes to be around them. The White House has become a clubhouse.

It’s not as though Sebelius was new to the job or thrust into an untenable situation, she oversaw the writing of the bill and has a free hand in writing the regulations for the law. This is as much her baby as it is the President’s. But he likes having her around, so millions of people losing their insurance and hundreds of millions wasted on a failed website later, they can talk hoops and it’s all good.

The President of the United States is not a symbolic position like the Queen of England, it’s not a tourist attraction. At least it didn’t used to be that way. Barack Obama travels the country giving pep-rally style speeches, attends fundraisers and golfs. He wholeheartedly embraces the trappings available to the Office of the President. What he doesn’t do is his job. Or this is him doing it and doing it the best he can, which is even worse.


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