Thursday, October 31, 2013
President Truman (D) had a sign on his desk that said “The Buck Stops Here.” According to his Presidential library the saying “derives from the slang expression 'pass the buck' which means passing the responsibility on to someone else. The latter expression is said to have originated with the game of poker, in which a marker or counter was used to indicate the person whose turn it was to deal. If the player did not wish to deal he could pass the responsibility by passing the "buck," as the counter came to be called, to the next player.” Truman often referred to the sign, so much so that in his final address to the nation he said: “The President--whoever he is--has to decide. He can't pass the buck to anybody. No one else can do the deciding for him. That's his job.” President George W. Bush (43) took that to the extreme dubbing himself “The Decider.” President Obama on the other hand is more likely to say: “What buck?”
The job of President has become gargantuan. The imperial Presidency of modern times has the Executive Branch involved in virtually every element of day-to-day life of Americans. The role of President is one that cuts to the core of “big" vs "small" government debates. With such a broad portfolio of issues, it’s not surprising that many details are not passed by the President.
Republicans are salivating this week at the idea that President Obama’s administration is crumbling. CNN’s homepage shrieked “Obama Under siege” – something even Fox News wasn’t claiming. The issues of the day were: the computer program to process healthcare applications was not working as advertised and the President told the American public he was unaware how bad the system was on his signature piece of legislation. Then the Edward Snowden leaks continue to embarrass the White House with the President stating the he only learned of his administrations surveillance of German Chancellor Angela Merkel from news reports.
It’s not surprising that Obama didn’t know about the condition of the sign-up process for insurance – it seems the bulk of the administration didn’t know how poorly the system worked. As it relates to the bugger-in-chief, though, it's a different story. Here's a man who keeps his own kill list and chooses which person to kill on his own. His claim that he didn’t know his government’s highly controversial spy program included foreign leaders just doesn't pass the smell test - let alone the walk-like-a-duck test.
The default response of having the President feigning ignorance may trace to Watergate and subsequent issues where the favorite question from media and opposition leaders seems to be: “What did the President know and when did he know it?” Everything is so partisan, so cantankerous, and so litigious in politics today that the safest course of action is to claim ineptness and stupidity rather than owning a decision.
George Bush (43) made 8 years of bad decisions, but at least he stood by them and was accountable for them. It’s time for President Obama to follow in the Truman tradition and realize that the buck stops at his desk and his alone. ("What desk?" he'd respond!)