The cavalcade of incompetence from the Obama administration would be amusing, if the stakes were not so high. This week, it’s not amusing to the First Family, nor should it be to anyone else – but it follows a pattern that runs through Barack Obama’s presidency.
Two weeks ago, a lunatic jumped over the White House fence and ran across the lawn. While not a regular occurrence, the Secret Service protection detail at the White House (separate from the details for the President and his family) has to deal with the occasional fence jumper. This time, though, the jumper had a knife and ran all the way to the front door – which, for some reason, had been left unlocked – and into the building.
As bad as it was that the intruder carried a knife, it could have been much worse. The Department of Defense and Department of Justice have repeatedly warned of the danger from a handful of Americans who have traveled to Syria, Iraq, and Somalia to take part in Islamist terror groups, and who might return in order to conduct attacks in the US. Had it been a gun or a bomb, or had the intruder known enough to make a sharp left to get to the stairs to the residence, we may have been faced with an unthinkable outcome.
Congress was shocked, mainly because the Secret Service kept many of those details from Capitol Hill. They only came out because whistleblowers tipped off Rep. Jason Chaffetz, among others, who then revealed just how far the intruder got and why the door alarm never went off. Chaffetz told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that the situation should have been handled with lethal force.
On the heels of these revelations, The Washington Post published an explosive expose’ of a 2011 attack on the White House. A sniper shot nine rounds at the second-level residence, hitting the façade and windows at least seven times. Despite the initial reports of gunfire, the Secret Service’s supervisor concluded that no gunfire had come toward the White House itself. Days later, a housekeeper discovered the damage, forcing the Secret Service to open an investigation into the shooting and their own handling of the incident.
On Tuesday, Secret Service Director Julia Pierson testified in a House Oversight Committee hearing that the violation was “unacceptable,” and that she took “full responsibility” for the incident. Needless to say, that hardly impressed the panel members, starting with chair, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA). After Pierson tried laying the blame on budget woes, Issa asked, “How much would it take to lock the front door of the White House?”
Not long after Pierson’s testimony ended, Congress got another unpleasant surprise from a story published in the Washington Examiner. Two other whistleblowers revealed that the Secret Service had allowed an armed felon on an elevator with President Obama just three days prior to the fence-jumping incident.
A security guard at the CDC in Atlanta who should have been vetted by the Secret Service began behaving oddly, prompting an immediate interview. His supervisor demanded the weapon from the guard, which stunned the Secret Service, who was unaware that the man had been armed at all. Later, a records check showed that the guard had a criminal record.
Even before that story came out, though, members of Congress from both parties wondered whether Pierson could handle the job. Both Issa and ranking member Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) agreed that the Secret Service’s internal investigation had little credibility and planned to make a formal request for an independent probe of the agency’s failure in protecting the White House.
Cummings told the media “the jury is still out” on whether Pierson could continue effectively as Director, and Issa drily quipped, “This hearing did not add to my confidence.” Another Democrat, Rep. Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts, was more direct during the hearing. “I wish to God,” Lynch rebuked Pierson, “you had protected the White House like you are protecting your reputation.”
The combined failures at the CDC and the White House proved too much for Pierson. Under fire for the next twenty-four hours after her testimony, she tendered her resignation, and DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson accepted it. Ironically, Pierson owed her job to another Secret Service scandal, one of the few times Obama held a senior administration official accountable for failure. Her predecessor Mark Sullivan resigned in 2012, forced out by the Cartagena sex scandal and an abuse of resources for the benefit of a Sullivan aide in a neighborhood dispute. Pierson was picked to solve the problems within the culture of the Secret Service – and has clearly failed.
Otherwise, this President does not hold many people accountable for their failures, real or imagined. Obama didn’t fire Eric Holder after the ATF’s Operation Fast and Furious trafficked thousands of semiautomatic weapons to drug cartels in Mexico, resulting in the deaths of hundreds, including Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.
Neither did Obama demand the job of Kathleen Sebelius after she botched the rollout of Obamacare and the federal exchange, despite spending nearly a half-billion dollars and having three and a half years to accomplish the task. Obama forced Eric Shinseki to resign only after his incompetence at the VA threatened to expose Obama’s complete lack of interest in it during his presidency. The President kept James Clapper on the job as Director of National Intelligence even after deliberately misleading Congress on the scope of the NSA’s surveillance capabilities.
In fact, Obama still hasn’t fired Clapper even after blaming the intelligence community for the unpleasant surprise of ISIS’ sweep in Iraq and Syria, either. Speaking to 60 Minutes on Sunday, Obama told Steve Kroft that the intelligence community failed to foresee ISIS’ rise. “They underestimated” the threat, Obama said, referring back to a statement made by Clapper earlier in the week. However, that isn’t what Clapper said, nor did the intelligence community underestimate the threat.
As early as January of this year – when Obama called ISIS the “jayvees” of the terrorist world despite seizing Fallujah – the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency warned Congress that ISIS was poised to seize large swaths of territory in 2014. Former Vice Admiral and Democratic Congressman Joe Sestak put the blame squarely on the White House for not paying attention. “I think it was slow on the part of the entire administration,” Sestak told a visibly stunned Jose’ Diaz-Balart on MSNBC, “to assess that they — what they had to do in order address the threat.”
Let’s say, though, that Obama was justified in blaming the intelligence community for the failure. Why are the same people still in charge? Why would the incompetence and failure, which was repeated with Clapper, not prompt the boss to put someone in charge who can handle the job better? Why did Holder, Sebelius, Clapper, and other incompetents or scapegoats within the administration continue in those positions after demonstrable failure?
The answer is that the incompetence starts at the top. Pierson’s fall from grace may or may not solve the problem at the Secret Service, but the rest of the bureaucracy has already learned that there is usually no price to pay for incompetence in an organization run by Barack Obama.
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