Obama knows nothing

Apparently nobody tells him anything about anything

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President Barack Obama bears an uncanny resemblance to Sgt. Hans Schultz, the dim-witted guard at the Stalag 13 POW camp in the 1960s sitcom "Hogan's Heroes."

Not a physical resemblance, of course. Sgt. Schultz, played by John Banner, was a portly white guy. But the lines Sgt. Schultz uttered most frequently during the show's seven-year run were: "I know nothing. I hear nothing. I see nothing." The president and senior aides sound like that quite a lot recently.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was incensed to learn the National Security Agency had tapped her telephone, and that of 34 other world leaders, for years. The German government learned of the snooping from the newsmagazine Der Spiegel, which obtained a U.S. document that had Ms. Merkel's telephone number on it.

President Obama told Chancellor Merkel he would have stopped the surveillance had he known anything about it.

The German tabloid Bild am Sonntag, citing a "U.S. intelligence worker involved in the NSA operation against Merkel," reported that the NSA director had briefed the president on the Merkel wiretap in 2010. After the briefing, Mr. Obama ordered the NSA to gather more information on Ms. Merkel, according to Bild am Sonntag's source.

That isn't true, said NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander. But his word hasn't been very good. The NSA's collection of telephone metadata on American citizens (who we call, how long the calls last) was instrumental in thwarting 54 terror attacks, Gen. Alexander claimed in June. The actual number of actual plots is one or two, he admitted at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee last month.

Analysts left and right think Gen. Alexander is playing fast and loose with the truth again.

A primary reason for spying on the leader of an allied country is to gain insider information for deal making, said Jon Walker, a liberal who blogs at Firedoglake. But such spying "provides zero advantage unless this information is passed on to the president and his top people," he said, so there'd be no point in it if the president didn't know about it.

"Who would bug the head of government of a U.S. ally without the highest possible authorization?" asked Ed Morrissey, a conservative who blogs at Hot Air. "Who exactly would be the customer of this data, once collected? Here's a hint: It's not going to be the undersecretary of agricultural development at the USDA."

President Obama didn't learn there were problems with Healthcare.gov until a couple of days after the rollout began, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who was skeptical.

"Before it even launched, red flags went up about the Obamacare website," reported CNN. "Health insurance companies complained about it, and the site crashed during a test run."

The problems were an "open secret" among technology experts -- among them Clay Johnson of Blue State Digital, which developed Mr. Obama's 2008 campaign website -- The New York Times reported.

But the president didn't learn about the bugs in his "signature achievement" until everyone else did, his aides say. Nobody, apparently, ever tells him anything.

Mr. Obama claimed that he didn't know security was so lax at the consulate in Benghazi before four Americans were killed there.

"Other than press reports, we have no knowledge of any attempt by the Justice Department to seek phone records of the AP," said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.

Mr. Obama didn't learn about IRS harassment of conservative groups until he read about it in the newspapers, he implied at a news conference in May. "I can assure that I certainly did not know anything about the [inspector general] report before the IG report had been leaked through the press," he told reporters.

It seems odd this never came up during the hundreds of visits IRS officials made to the White House.

The president didn't learn the Justice Department was running guns to Mexican drug cartels "until he heard about it through the media," Mr. Carney said.

Nor did the attorney general tell him he was investigating then-CIA Director David Petraeus for a possible breach of national security, Mr. Obama said during a news conference last November. Gen. Petraeus was subsequently forced to resign.

A "tell" which suggests he's lying is that Mr. Obama never disciplines the aides he claims had kept him in the dark. But if this president really has no clue about what goes on in his administration, would that be any better?

Jack Kelly is a columnist for the Post-Gazette (jkelly@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1476).

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