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Neither Charles Blow nor President Obama Knows How to Take Responsibility

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I have said for many years that there is literally nothing that Obama could do that would not earn either a defense or outright praise from New York Times Parody Columnist Charles Blow. The latest example of Blow’s inimitable lickspittlery purports to be an indignant response to John Boehner’s facially obvious assertion that Barack Obama refuses to take responsibility for anything. Blow claims, in his typical servile and fawning fashion, that

This president is a habitual blame-taker. This is the anti-George W. Bush. The fess-upper in chief. He is the antidote to the eight previous years of obfuscation, fault-dodging and flat-out denial.

The aptly named Blow backs up these ludicrous assertions by pointing out a number of instances in which Obama used the words “The Buck Stops Here” a la Harry Truman. What he conveniently omits is that in each and every one of these instances, these words only came following a lengthy explanation of how Obama really wasn’t at fault. This follows a pattern of Obama’s in which “Let me tell you all the reasons that it isn’t my fault, and then I’m going to close with a cliche so that it sounds like I’m taking responsibility” constitutes the actual taking of responsibility.

Observe, the first of these instances cited by blow came when AIG executives received bonuses in 2009 after the bailout. Yes, Obama said “The buck stops with me,” but only after he first said (as Blow himself notes), “Nobody here drafted those contracts. Nobody here was responsible for supervising A.I.G. and allowing themselves to put the economy at risk by some of the outrageous behavior that they were engaged in.”

The second instance concerns Obama’s statement about intelligence failures concerning the Christmas Day “underwear bomber” plot in 2009, in which Obama finally said in 2010 that “the buck stops with me.” However, the Politico article cited by Blow notes the following about Obama’s belated acceptance of responsibility:

While officials suggested Obama was taking ownership of the problem, his buck-stops-here message was something of a shift from earlier statements in which Obama and other officials repeatedly noted that the watch list system that failed to flag the suspect, Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, was put in place under the Bush administration.

Three days after the attempted attack, in his first public comments on the issue, the president said he had ordered an immediate review of what he called “our watch list system, which our government has had in place for many years.”

“It’s becoming clear that the system that has been in place for years now is not sufficiently up to date,” Obama said the next day.

The third instance Blow cites of Obama “taking responsibility” was in a 2011 CNN interview with Wolf Blitzer on the state of the economy, in which Obama mouthed platitudes about being responsible for the speed of the recovery (after three solid years of blaming everything under the sun on Bush), but even in that interview Obama could not resist avoiding blame: “Well, here’s what I remember, is that when I came into office, I knew I was going to have a big mess to clean up and, frankly, the mess has been bigger than I think a lot of people anticipated at the time. . . I think people understand that a lot of these problems were decades in the making. People understand that this financial crisis was the worst since the Great Depression.”

Blow next cites Obama’s alleged acceptance of responsibility for the state of Gridlock in Congress in 2013. True, Obama opened his response to a single question with a single-sentence statement that he was responsible. Omitted from Blow’s article is the fact that Obama immediately followed that up with five consecutive paragraphs blaming Republicans for that same gridlock.

Blow next cites Obama’s alleged acceptance of responsibility for the botched Healthcare.gov website. Again, it is true that Obama uttered the words “The buck stops with me,” but what does everyone remember from that particular exchange?

You know, Kathleen Sebelius doesn’t write [software] code. She wasn’t our [information technology] person. I think she would be the first to admit that if we had to do it all over again, that there would have been a whole lot more questions than were asked about how this thing was working,” he added.

Taking responsibility does not mean stuffing a platitude inside several sentences of blaming others. Never in the course of any of the examples cited by Blow does Obama ever explain why anything is his fault or show any understanding of what he or his administration specifically did wrong that merits blame. Rather, Obama’s entire attitude when it comes to accepting blame is to effectively say, “You know, all this that happened is really the fault of other people and is totally beyond my control, but I understand that people expect the President to have magical powers, I guess, so sorry I don’t have those.”

Only in the mind of Charles Blow and Barack Obama does this constitute “taking responsibility.” In the minds of ordinary Americans, Obama is perceived as exactly what he is – a person who habitually and pathologically blames his political opponents and mysterious forces beyond his control for everything he does wrong.

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