Day after day, irrespective of the subject of the latest dust-up, we've heard a similar refrain from the West Wing: "The President was not aware. The White House was not involved."
From the targeting of conservative groups by the Internal Revenue Service to the Justice Department's subpoena of the Associated Press' telephone records to the terrorist nature of the attack in Benghazi and the State Department's editing of the talking points to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms' "Fast and Furious" gun-walking operation to the pre-planned Secret Service party with prostitutes in Colombia to Beyonce and Jay-Z's trip to Cuba, we've been told that the White House is clueless. Republican extremism is what's behind the appearance of a scandal. Bureaucratic overreach or administrative incompetence is the core problem.
Even when it came to the controversy involving the more than $500 million federal loan to the failing alternative energy company Solyndra, White House spokesman Jay Carney was able to push back on the suggestion that inappropriate politics were involved. He said, "[The White House e-mails on Solyndra] had nothing to – and there is no evidence to the contrary – nothing to do with anything besides the need to get an answer to make a scheduling decision."
Fine, I get it. Stuff happens. Neither the president nor his political appointees have much control over the career employees at Treasury, State, Justice, or Energy.
So, I'm supposed to be comforted by the fact that the president and his representatives are unable to manage our federal bureaucracy. And I'm not supposed to be skeptical of Obama's policy proposals calling for the government to be engaged in even more activities.
Well, I guess in the scheme of things, it's true that negligence beats corruption. Carter tops Nixon. Grant bests Harding.
But if that's the administration's calculation for every scandal that befalls this president, then they really aren't doing him any favors. Incompetence doesn't instill trust or generate support. Loyalty is tough to muster for a feckless leader.
And let's not kid ourselves. It's a low bar for a presidential legacy. Whatever Obama's second term becomes about, it seems highly doubtful that "governing" will be part of it.