Is Anyone Home in the White House?

One striking feature of the multiple scandals in which the Obama administration is now enmeshed is how little responsibility President Obama takes for any of them. None, actually. Not only that, he professes to be entirely in the dark, to know only what he reads in the newspapers, and to have no control over his own cabinet officers and their departments. This was a major theme of Jay Carney’s press briefing today, to the apparent disgust of the reporters present.

On the IRS targeting conservative groups:

Q If I could then go back to the IRS issue, the President did use the word “if” these activities had taken place, but there has been an acknowledgment on the part of the IRS leadership that these things did indeed occur, so I wondered why the President used that phrasing in claiming that it was an outrageous –

MR. CARNEY:  Well, those from the IRS who have spoken about this obviously have much greater insight into what took place than we do.  We have to — we have not seen the report.  We have not independently collected information about what transpired.  We need the independent Inspector General’s report to be released before we can make judgments.

Q Jay, it’s now clear that senior tax officials knew about this extra scrutiny of conservative groups since 2011, which means also during the election and that this was withheld until after the election.  Should the White House have been informed earlier?

MR. CARNEY:  My understanding is that when there is a review, as there was and is, by an Inspector General, that when the end of that process is nearing and a report is about to be released, a notification is appropriate and routine.  And that is what happened, and that happened several weeks ago.  Prior to that, there was no knowledge here at the White House.

On the Associated Press phone records:

Q When did the President find out about the Department of Justice’s subpoenas for the Associated Press?

MR. CARNEY:  Yesterday.  Let me just be clear.  We don’t have any independent knowledge of that.  He found out about the news reports yesterday on the road.
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Q Is he concerned at all about the precedent this is setting and that this is the legacy of his Attorney General?

MR. CARNEY:  “This” I think refers to this investigation, so I cannot comment on that.  What I can tell you is the President absolutely believes in the need for the press to be able to pursue unfettered investigative journalism.  And you saw that in — prior to his arrival in this office, when he was a senator and cosponsored legislation that would enhance protections for the media, and the principles that are behind that effort are ones that he holds to this day.

Q So you’ll comment on it after the case is decided?

MR. CARNEY:  Well –

Q I’m joking.

There was an extended colloquy about the president’s supposed support for a broader media shield law. As best I can gather, Carney’s point is that the president supported a law that, if it had been passed, would have made what DOJ did illegal. If that is the point, its significance is lost on me, but the exchange was entertaining:

Q Jay, you keep talking about that then-senator Obama supported a certain piece of legislation — that is a fact.  As President, he killed that piece of legislation in October of 2009 that made it so that the protections that he supported — having judicial review on this issue — there was an opportunity for this bill to be passed, Chuck Schumer was supportive of it, and he said it was the White House that had problems with it and killed it.

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I think, first of all, you’re talking about separate pieces of legislation and a legislative history that bears a little more looking into.  The President’s position on this is what it was as a senator.  But the fact is I cannot then appropriately apply his support for that measure –

Q If he supported this piece of legislation, we wouldn’t be having this conversation today, because there would be — he supported a judicial review when it came to some of this protecting of sources –

MR. CARNEY:  And what happened to it in 2007?

Q I’m asking you what happened to it in 2009, when he was President of the United States.

MR. CARNEY:  It was killed by Republicans.  Well, the legislative history here is a little more complicated than you present.

Q Democrats were in charge.  This is 2009.  Who cares about 2007?  We know what he said on the campaign trail in 2008 in front of the Associated Press when it came to this issue. He had a chance to support this and make this bill happen.  Why did he change his position?

MR. CARNEY:  The President’s position on this has not changed.

Q Yes, it has.

MR. CARNEY:  No, it hasn’t, Chuck.

Q The administration said that they — essentially, the President changed his position because of certain things on national security.  Can you explain why he changed his position?

MR. CARNEY:  Broadly speaking, the President does support the ability of journalists in an unfettered way to pursue investigative journalism.  He believes that we have to find a balance between that goal –

Q So the balance he believed in ’08 he didn’t believe in once he was President?

Carney said repeatedly that Obama had nothing to do with the AP matter because it wouldn’t be appropriate for him to become involved in a criminal investigation. That prompted this exchange:

Q Jay, three quick questions.  Can I just follow up — when you were saying that the President doesn’t involve himself in an ongoing criminal investigation, just to clarify, which ones are we talking about?  I’m thinking about Trayvon Martin, and I’m thinking about (inaudible) case.  Just could you explain and clarify what you mean?

MR. CARNEY:  Alexis, the President — the federal investigation that has been reported, again, based on news reports.  And we do not, appropriately so, have any insight into that investigation or communications about that investigation.  So we have no knowledge independently of any attempt by the Justice Department to subpoena phone records of the Associated Press beyond the press reports that we’ve read.

Many of those who supported Barack Obama’s presidential campaign did so because of the symbolic value of electing our first black president. Probably they failed to foresee that Obama would view his role in a similar light, and would believe, apparently, that his value as a symbol relieves him of any obligation to actually perform the duties of his office.

UPDATE: Via InstaPundit, the Boston Herald makes the same point:

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