The president didn’t know about widespread problems with the new health insurance website before it rolled out.
That’s what his secretary of Health and Human Services said as the administration struggles to implement the boss’s top legislative achievement.
The president also may not have known the extent of the National Security Agency’s eavesdropping on foreign leaders until briefed after controversy over surveillance arose this summer. That’s what administration officials told the Wall Street Journal as U.S. allies fumed.
Back in the spring, President Obama said he didn’t know the Internal Revenue Service was targeting conservative groups until he read it in the newspapers. When the Justice Department seized phone records of news reporters and editors, he didn’t know about that, either.
All of which raises troubling questions about management by the government’s chief executive: Who should know about such problems? Who does know? And why isn’t somebody telling the boss?
Obama’s defenders say government is too big for one individual to know all. There’s some truth to that. Still, the president has the responsibility and authority to lead. He cannot be a bystander.
The president likes Harry Truman’s “Buck Stops Here” slogan, so here’s some Truman advice: “A president either is constantly on top of events or, if he hesitates, events will soon be on top of him. I never felt that I could let up for a single moment.”