Conveniently Trumanesque

By Robert Wallace
America’s Right

President Harry Truman made the expression “The Buck Stops Here” famous by placing a sign with that phrase on his desk in the Oval Office. It was a great statement precisely because it was unqualified. Responsibility stops here — no exceptions, exclusions, or excuses.

With headlines like “Obama Takes Responsibility for AIG Bonus Fiasco”, President Barack Obama has received a lot of positive press for making similar, Trumanesque remarks at a town hall meeting in Costa Mesa, California yesterday. And, if you listen to all but the last eight or ten seconds of his remarks, you could indeed mistakenly think that he is taking a “buck stops here” position. You could come away with an impression of a man rising above political squabbling and partisanship to embrace the accountability that comes with our nation’s highest office. But if you do listen to the last sentence from this clip, everything changes.

When President Obama says “It’s my job to make sure that we fix these messes, even if I don’t make them,” (emphasis added) he transmutes mature acceptance of responsibility into petulance and hypocrisy. The buck stopped with President Truman because that was the nature of the office. The buck stops with President Obama at his discretion. If it’s responsibility he is talking about, it is responsibility without blame, accountability, or any negative consequence whatsoever. On the contrary, it is responsibility that enhances power and prestige.

The remarks are petulant because in the midst of assuming responsibility he feels the need to establish his own innocence. This turns the entire speech into a weirdly Messianic exercise: I, though blameless, will take upon myself these sins which are not mine for the good of the country. Such a statement may have the form of assuming blame, but in function it is little more than arrogant self-aggrandizement. This is why Obama cannot bear to actually use the word “blame” with regards to himself, stating: “So for everybody in Washington who is busy scrambling trying to figure out how to blame somebody else just go ahead and talk to me.” Don‘t blame Obama. Just talk to him.

More than merely petulant, however, the entire speech is an exercise in monumental hypocrisy. One does not have the option of deciding whether or not to assume responsibility for things that really are one’s own fault. You get those for free.

Right now, Democrats and Republicans are engaging in an unconstitutional orgy of mob politics and blame-slinging. The Republicans have abandoned principle in an attempt to convert the public’s anti-AIG sentiment into political opportunity. Democrats, on the other hand, feel the need to join in to disguise the fact that they enabled this problem.

It was Democrat Sen. Chris Dodd (the largest recipient of contributions from AIG executives) in particular who added language to the stimulus bill protecting the AIG bonuses. After initially lying about this, he finally caved and admitted the truth. In an attempt to save his own skin, he ratted out the Obama administration and claimed that they had pressured him into adding the language. It turns out that the request to protect the AIG bonuses came from the Treasury Department, which was afraid that removing the bonuses would cause a talent-flight from AIG at this critical time.

So, the AIG bonuses were protected at the request of Obama’s own administration. He is giving the impression of voluntarily assuming responsibility–kind of–when in fact he shares a very large portion of the blame pie whether he wants to or not.

To the extent that he gets away with it, this is a brilliant political move. Obama gets the benefit of appearing to issue a mea culpa–enhanced credibility and prestige–while simultaneously denying responsibility in fact for the actual mistakes of his own administration. The risk, of course, is that Americans are going to go ahead and assign the blame where it belongs whether Obama volunteers or not.

Robert Wallace has been writing for America’s Right since December 2008.



  1. Anonymous says:

    Robert, thank you for sharing more insight here at America’s Right. You know, even at my “low paying job”, if I lie or do something wrong and try to put the blame on others I would be fired! Why do we keep electing dishonest folks that are supposed to be working for We The People? From what I have seen so far I don’t think I could ever trust Obama/Soetoro and I certainly don’t ever expect him to take the blame because he isn’t man enough to do that.


  2. toto says:

    Its sort of interesting, I belong to an outdoors website, and there are plenty of liberals on this site. It surprising how they have gone pretty silent in the last few days. It got me thinking, what if a poll was taken from the people who profess to have voted for Obama, just to see how they feel about him now. I think it would be pretty interesting.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Actually Obama recieved more campaign money than Chris Dodd from AIG, political payoff is all it is, and using AIG as a smoke screen for the real problem, they should have listned to the American people in the first place, and not done any bailout, thats what bankruptcy courts are for…

  4. Gail B says:

    Obama/Soetoro has talked out of both sides of his mouth until I believe NOTHING he says. Instead, I think, “Now, what ELSE can this mean that isn’t good but which will fit into the words he’s just spewed?” He absolutely LIES. He’s not even good at it!

    Obama/Soetoro ranted about the bonuses, and wants them returned. Why does he not return the CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS that AIG gave him? Where is his outcry? Nowhere! He’s paying them back with tax money, which equates that Obama/Soetoro used tax dollars to finance his campaign.

    But I’m a girl–I don’t know nothing!

    Good writeup, Robert. Thanks.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Obama/ Soetoro’s comment about AIG…and people joked about President Bush making off the wall statements?

    “We had to step in, it was the right thing to do, even though it is infuriating,” Obama said, explaining why the government needed to bail out the troubled banks.

    “The same is true with AIG,” he said. “It was the right thing to do to step in. Here’s the problem. It’s almost like they’ve got — they’ve got a bomb strapped to them and they’ve got their hand on the trigger. You don’t want them to blow up. But you’ve got to kind of talk them, ease that finger off the trigger.”



    A littlfe off topic but HANG ON TO YOUR WALLET!

    Thanks, Ken

  7. Sharon says:

    Way to go Robert Wallace. Right on target.
    This guy (Nobama) is a joke. I have never felt like I do about any prez in all my years. It’s so bad, I can’t even bring myself to watch him on TV. I will just wait and get the gist of his message from here or somewhere else.
    I believe those AIG employees should get their bonus, after all, there is a contract involved. Don’t get me wrong, I am not happy about this, but if we don’t have to honor a contract, maybe we don’t have to honor the phony election we just went through.
    This man is a total disgrace to the American people, and I truly believe if we could do the election over, you would see different results IMHO.
    Just saying.
    Anyway, thanks for the great article.

  8. Dee says:

    Good article. BO takes the blame, which makes him a poor victim, for something he had nothing to do with. What a courageous man! He had everything to do with it. He will take credit for anything good that may happen, even if he had nothing to do with it. But, so far, he has not been involved in anything that has gone wrong. We will now be told that it is very important that his budget be passed asap or the world will end.

  9. Ian Thorpe says:

    If Obama is going to keep printing money there is no telling where the buck may stop.

    Parity with the Rupee? Lower than that?

    It might be wise to buy a wheelbarrow to carry your wages home.


    This president is ‘failing’, we American people need to ‘step in’.

    This grand experiment of a free nation is TOO BIG to fail.

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