• When hands on leads to hands off.

    You know at the White House something's up.

    And the president is clearly trying to back away.

    It's a familiar theme during scandals.

    CEO's who bragged about how they loved to get their hands dirty, suddenly wipe them clean when things start looking dirty claim they never really got their hands that dirty, after all.

    Then, in what seems like an instant, they go from watching every facet of their operations to not having a facet clue.

    The president's own admission that he only found out about the IRS mess when we essentially did--

    Via the news might bend credulity, but it does follow a familiar pattern.

    Ken Lay did this masterfully. Remember him?

    The former Enron boss who used to argue he involved himself in every intricacy of his far-flung energy empire until that empire came under fire for doing things that were far-flung from the law.

    Then he was suddenly Professor Irwin Corey.

    Not only out of the loop, but to hear his lawyers tell it, darn near out of his mind.

    Richard Nixon famously did the same; arguing he was too focused on big things to soil himself in seedy cover-up things until tapes revealed otherwise, of course.

    Bosses--be they presidents or CEO's--always like to take hands-on credit when things are good and a hands-off distance when things are bad. But maybe they work too hard on being something they're not.

    Ronald Reagan was famously aloof, but it didn't seem to hurt his presidency.

    Jimmy Carter was incredibly detail-oriented, and it seemed to really hurt his presidency.

    And now there's Barrack Obama, a man who came into office seemingly bigger than the office and the petty sniping that went with that office.

    Until the sniping ensued, and the IRS investigations took off.

    And suddenly this president who promised a bigger presidency was and is engulfed in the small-mindedness he supposedly detested in other presidencies.

    His best defense now is that he didn't know.

    Which leaves us to conclude that hands-on in-charge leadership thing?

    Doesn't fly.