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Obama's learning afterward about sensitive issues raises question about approach, inner circle

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FILE: Oct. 30, 2013: President Obama walks with Col. David L. Almand, commander, 89th Airlift Wing, after getting off the Marine One helicopter at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. (AP)

A string of embarrassing episodes for the Obama administration that the president didn't seem to know about until the public did is raising questions about why he wasn’t in the loop and who should have told him.

Knowledge that the IRS was excessively targeting Tea Party groups and other conservative organizations during the 2012 election cycle arguably would not reach the president’s desk before the news media learned this spring.

But reports over the past week weeks that President Obama was not aware of the National Security Agency monitoring German Chancellor Angela Merkel's cell phone nor of the technical problems that plagued the ObamaCare website ahead of its Oct. 1 launch suggests he is taking too much of hands-off approach or perhaps not surrounding himself with people who can keep him informed, critics say.

Also this week, NBC reported first that the administration in 2010 that ObamaCare was written in such a way that the president’s promise about Americans being able to keep their health insurance plans could not be kept.

Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins, said the chamber’s Intelligence Committee of which she is a member was not aware of the NSA doing surveillance on foreign leaders but the REAL question is whether the president knew and if he didn’t she assumed he would ask for the resignation of whoever was responsible for not telling him.

That the president didn’t know about the United States monitoring the phone calls of allies also seems surprising considering the program started in the Bush administration after the 9-11 terror attacks.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney recently shrugged off a question about whether the president is out of the loop, suggesting it was just another partisan attack.

“It’s certainly true that you've conflated a bunch of very disparate issues,” he told a reporter. "Republican critics say a lot of things."

The Republican National Committee sees a pattern. The group has released a list of incidents -- under the titled “Bystander President” -- in which Obama appeared to caught unaware, such as the request for additional security at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, prior to the fatal Sept, 11, 2012 terror attacks and about the Justice Department's use of subpoenas against reporters.

Presidential historian Stephen Hess, of the Brookings Institution, says sometimes it's convenient for a commander in chief to be out of the loop, but his aides had better pick those times carefully.

Hess suggests in the long run, Mr. Obama might be able to weather the storm over the NSA's aggressive spying, especially since it seems to predate his administration. But the botched ObamaCare rollout may be more problematic.

“That's a loop he had better be in because that is the legacy of his whole administration,” Hess told Fox News this week. “That's a little different than whether Chancellor Merkel is upset today because somebody in the NSA was listening in on her cell phone."

Politico has called claims the president was unaware of the recent episodes his “in-the-dark defense.”

“The bottom line explanation in all these instances is the same: President Obama didn’t know any more about the scandal than the ordinary person on the street, and certainly wasn’t involved in decision-making processes — at least, not until long after potential problems arose.”

 

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