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The Buck Stops Here

Bill Neinast


What a contrast.  Compare, “The buck stops here,” with, “The buck never gets here.”

Harry Truman will never be forgotten.  This failed haberdasher from Missouri rose to be the most powerful man in the world.  Most thought he was not man enough for the job.  But he wowed them.

Shortly after taking the reigns of government on the death of FDR, he made the momentous decision to unleash the atomic bomb on hundreds of thousands of civilians in Japan.

Just a few months later, he refused to dance with the love of the Democrat Party, the unions.  On May 24, 1946, after coal miners and railroad workers staged nationwide strikes, he personally announced, “As I stated last night, unless the railroads are manned by returning strikers, I shall immediately undertake to run them by the Army of the United States.  I assure you that I do not take this action lightly. But there is no alternative. This is no longer a dispute between labor and management. It has now become a strike against the Government of the United States itself.”

Then a few years later after winning the race against Tom Dewey that all the pundits were predicting he would lose, he publicly fired the most admired man in the country at the time, General Douglas MacArthur.

Truman was not only a President, he was a leader.  He did not waffle.  He called the shots as he saw them and unflinchingly took the blame or the credit for the actions of his administration.  The buck did stop in his office, and he was proud to take responsibility for stopping it there.

Compare that with the White House today.  Unless the press can show a solemn Obama surrounded with advisors making the easy decision to kill Osama bin Laden, a vicious killer of Americans, he is curiously absent when hard decisions that go awry are exposed. 

Where was he, for example, on September 11, 2012, when American property and lives were under attack by Muslim terrorists in Benghazi, Libya?  Instead of answering  for his administration’s actions or inactions on that night, he requires Jay Carney to explain his absence and take the heat from the press.

Watching Carney dance around the Benghazi questions in the White House press conference Friday brought to mind the scene of the Texas Governor singing and dancing on the mezzanine of the state capitol rotunda in the movie The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.  Remember that second verse:


“Ooh I love to dance a little sidestep,

now they see me now they don't-

I've come and gone and, ooh I love to sweep around the wide step,

cut a little swathe and lead the people on.”

Carney was ducking and weaving so much at that press conference that even Dick Cheney would have had a hard time hitting him with bird shot on a quail hunt.

The State Department whistle blowers who appeared before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee last week rekindled a number of unanswered questions about the Benghazi fiasco.  There are now serious questions about whether that tragedy was mishandled before the occurrence and covered up afterward. 

Until Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of Defense Leon Paneta, and other high ranking officials are willing to step forward  in the shoes of last week’s whistleblowers for an honest discussion, this cloud will continue to shadow the Obama legacy.

Members of the Obama Administration will also have to learn some new moves for the Texas sidestep.  As Carney was doing his version of that dance last week,  another tune was heard in the background. 

Refusing an offer to dance to that tune, Lois Lerner, the IRS director of exempt organizations, went on TV to preempt a report of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration that conservative organizations applying for tax exempt status were targeted for harassment. 

Lerner admitted that such targeting and harassment did occur, but blamed it on low level, non political appointees. This went a little further than IRS Commission Douglas Schulman’s testimony before the House Ways and Means subcommittee in March of last year. 

At that hearing, he gave explicit assurances that the IRS was not targeting Tea Party groups. "What's been happening has been the normal back-and-forth that happens with the IRS," he said. "And so, there's absolutely no targeting."

It is clear now, however, that the harassment was known quite high in the organization, maybe even by the Chairman of the agency.

In this case, at least, Obama has expressed some concern.  He says such targeting is unacceptable.  He has not, however, said that he will take responsibility and see that some heads must and will roll. 

So here’s the perspective.

President Obama could spare himself pain and embarrassment by walking in the shoes of Harry Truman.  He would look like a much better man if he would just take responsibility for both the good and the bad of his administration.

As for Hillary Clinton, if she wants to be the next President, she may have to go before Congress, acknowledge that what happened at Benghazi does matter, and take responsibility for her part in the disaster and cover up.