Is Doug Heffernan in the Oval Office?
I used to watch The King of Queens with my wife from time to time. Though it wasn't one of our favorite sitcoms, it was usually good for some laughs. The star of the show, Kevin James, did a great job of portraying loveable delivery driver Doug Heffernan.
Heffernan was a fun character because in many ways, he was an overgrown child. He was overly sensitive, he didn't take his responsibilities seriously, and he just didn't know how a lot of things in the real world worked. This often drove his wife Carrie nuts, and she suspected her husband was the way he was, in large part, because his mother used to coddle him as a child.
In a particularly memorable episode, Doug and Carrie went to visit Doug's parents for a few days. When they arrived at his mother and father's house, they were greeted at the door by a friendly dog named Rocky. Carrie thought the choice of names was interesting because "Rocky" was the name of the dog that Doug's family got when he was only 11 years old. Doug nonchalantly explained to her that it was the same dog.
This news obviously left Carrie aghast because Doug was in his 40's. That meant that the dog would have had to have been around the age of 30, which was impossible.
Carrie couldn't figure out what was more outrageous: The fact that Doug didn't recognize the absurdity of his childhood dog still being alive, or the fact that his parents were supporting the notion that it was indeed the same dog.
As it turned out, Doug's parents had replaced the original Rocky three times over the years with dogs of the same breed and color. Why? Doug's mother feared that her son just wouldn't be able to emotionally deal with the bad news of their family dog dying.
The word "coddled" apparently didn't even scratch the surface.
Of course, such a scenario could only play out in fictional comedy. Adults in the real world would never go to such ridiculous lengths to spare another adult bad news... Right?
Well, if you've listened to several White House press conferences over the past few years, you might be compelled to think otherwise.
We found out earlier this month, from White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, that President Obama didn't know that his Veterans Administration was denying care to veterans with off-the-books waiting lists, until it was reported in the national news. In other words, no one in the Obama administration bothered to give the President of the United States a heads up about the problems, and let him know that a major controversy was headed his way.
The national news was also the source that, 12 months ago, clued President Obama in on the fact that the IRS was targeting conservative groups with extra scrutiny and delays. We know this because that's what the president, himself, told the American public.
How did President Obama find out about Operation Fast and Furious? Here's what he told CNN's John King back in October of 2011: "I heard on the news about this story that - Fast and Furious, where allegedly guns were being run into Mexico, and ATF knew about it, but didn't apprehend those who had sent [the guns]."
Remember that incident, early in Barack Obama's presidency, when the White House approved an unannounced Air Force One flyover of New York City for a photo op? The stunt led to buildings being evacuated and emergency phone lines being jammed because New Yorkers worried it was part of a 9/11-style terrorist attack. Guess who first learned about that incident by watching the news? Yep, President Obama.
A little over a year ago, Jay Carney told reporters that the president had learned about his Department of Justice seizing Associated Press journalists' phone records not from his administration, but from news reports he heard while traveling.
One would have thought than when former Health and Human Services secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, realized that healthcare.gov and the roll-out of Obamacare were about to turn into a catastrophe, she would have let President Obama know that. That way, he wouldn't have looked foolish for telling the country at the time that things were coming along well. Media reports, however, were what sounded the alarm... again.
There are more examples, but I think you probably get the point.
Could it really be that people in President Obama's own administration view him as a Doug Heffernan? Do they believe that the president is so emotionally fragile that they just can't bring themselves to present him with the cold, hard, bad news?
Keep in mind that President Obama himself is making a far better case for this explanation than I am. He's the one who keeps admitting that no one is keeping him in the loop on this stuff.
And when you think about it, maybe those negligent staff members actually have a good reason to bite their tongues. After all, when President Obama eventually does learn about these things (from the press), he does tend to get a bit upset. And by upset, I really mean angry. If you don't believe me, just read his own words:
MAY 15, 2013: It's inexcusable, and Americans are right to be angry about it, and I am angry about it.
OCTOBER 21, 2013: Nobody's madder than me about the fact that the website isn't workin'.
OCTOBER 18, 2011: It's very upsetting to me that somebody showed such bad judgment, that they would allow something like that to happen.
APRIL 15, 2012: If it turns out some of the allegations that have been made in the press are confirmed, then of course I'll be angry.
MAY 13, 2013: I've got no patience with it, I will not tolerate it, and we'll make sure that, uh, we find out exactly what happened.
JUNE 3, 2010: I am furious at this entire situation. I would love to just spend a lot of my time venting and yellin' at people.
MAY 15, 2013: We're going to hold the responsible parties accountable.
MAY 16, 2013: The minute I found out about it, then my main focus is making sure that we get the thing fixed.
MARCH 18, 2009: I think people are right to be angry. I'm angry!
Could it be that President Obama has some serious anger issues, and that his staff is constantly walking on eggshells around him, petrified to tell him the truth? Again, no one's making a better case for this explanation than President Obama himself.
If that's what's really going on here, you've got to feel kind of sorry for the president. He just doesn't know any better. He's being duped left and right, and that's got to be pretty aggravating. It can't be easy to have to make the admission that it's ignorance and not incompetence that keeps letting bad things happen on his watch. Could it be that the poor fellow is just an innocent bystander in his own presidency?
It would seem unlikely, but I suppose it's better than the alternative explanation.
I mean, if the president did know about these problems before they were reported, and was disinterested in fixing them or even complicit in some of them, how awful would that be?
Luckily, that would only happen in fiction, right?