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Obama didn't know MMS chief resigned?!

Let me get this straight. President Obama didn't know whether Elizabeth Birnbaum, the once invisible and now former head of the Minerals Management Service, was fired or whether she resigned? The news broke she was leaving an hour or so before he strode into the East Room of the White House. When a disaster such as the BP explosion happens and the subsequent catastrophe ensues, folks want to see heads roll and want to know the president wielded the ax. That's why Obama's admission that he was clueless on this question was shocking.

Perhaps he was being polite. Not wanting to draw attention to the sacking of an individual the American people didn't realize was even there. But by not proactively announcing Birnbaum's departure and then being caught flat-footed on what happened to her, Obama will fuel the narrative that he is a cool chief executive who is not only aloof but also unaware of the machinations of his own administration.

"The federal government is fully engaged," the president said at the conclusion of the press conference. "I am fully engaged." His ignorance of what happened to the MMS chief undercuts that assertion.  

By Jonathan Capehart  | May 27, 2010; 2:30 PM ET
Categories:  Capehart  | Tags:  Jonathan Capehart  
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Next: Obama accepts ownership of BP oil spill

Comments

It's called delegating. The ax-man in the administration given the job probably had instructions to give her a choice -- resign or be fired. The ax-man didn't informed President Obama of her decision in time for the press conference. Another desperate and useless media items that not even news.

Posted by: ccs53 | May 27, 2010 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Yes Johnathan,

Your previous report that our President fired her (check your facts rookie) and she was fired due to your advice to our President, undercuts the assertion that you are a journalist.

Posted by: mharris5k7 | May 27, 2010 3:07 PM | Report abuse

Do you know how much Obama has to do?!!!!!! He cannot possibly lead this country AND hire/fire personnel--that would be called micromanaging.

The MSM ALWAYS has to find something to carp about. All of you should try being president for one week AND endure MSM press conferences. You'd hate them as much as the American people do.

Snipe, snipe, snipe. RME.

Posted by: Seneca7 | May 27, 2010 3:09 PM | Report abuse

It generally good practice to not comment on people who have left; I presume you do know this. Applies in private and public organizations. So sorry no real story here

Posted by: chriskullar | May 27, 2010 3:10 PM | Report abuse

She offered Sestak a job if he didn't run against Specter.

Posted by: grunk | May 27, 2010 3:20 PM | Report abuse

For those of us that heard what the president said, it is my responsibility and his admitting to making mistakes was refreshing.

Posted by: jameschirico | May 27, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse

I find it refreshing for a president to say "I don't know" and "I made a mistake when..."

Posted by: mntarheel1 | May 27, 2010 3:26 PM | Report abuse

Wow. Jonathan... with all that is going on in the Gulf and around the world... THIS is what you are running with? So not "knowing" whether or not the MMS chief was fired or resigned equals Obama not being engaged with this crisis? If that's what you're asserting, I have to seriously question your level of intelligence. Seriously, this type of nitpicking is beyond pathetic.

Challenge the President on BP's blatant disregard of the EPA's order regarding dispersant. Question him in regard to local complaints about building barrier islands. Write a damn story that exposes the incestuous relationship between big oil and the federal government that has been going on for decades.

Leave the tripe reporting to Drudge or some hack reporter. You can do better than this second rate B.S. post.

Posted by: liquid | May 27, 2010 3:31 PM | Report abuse

Several hours after it is reported that the "top kill" is working to plug the leak Obama takes responsibility. What a fake. What a phony.
You can't believe a word out of his mouth.

Posted by: np2j | May 27, 2010 3:31 PM | Report abuse

Several hours after it is reported that the "top kill" is working to plug the leak Obama takes responsibility. What a fake. What a phony.
You can't believe a word out of his mouth.

Posted by: np2j | May 27, 2010 3:31 PM | Report abuse

What? How does this even make any sense? I guess I should say "36 hours after the press conference was announced, top kill began to work"

Posted by: JohnDinHouston | May 27, 2010 3:46 PM | Report abuse

Yes, Obama does own this but not simply because it happened while he was President. He owns it because since he became president he tolerated status-quo at MMS where status-quo included a structural conflict of interest and control by corporatist minions held over from the Bush Administration. That is his negligence.

Posted by: Adam_Smith | May 27, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse

"For those of us that heard what the president said, it is my responsibility and his admitting to making mistakes was refreshing."

I sure remember over the past month a lot of blaming Bush from his administration and from Democrats in general. Is he sincere in the above, or is he a puppet master pretending that "the buck stops here" while secretly directing a denegration campaign against the former President?

Posted by: wjc1va | May 27, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Yes, Obama does own this but not simply because it happened while he was President. He owns it because since he became President he tolerated status-quo at MMS where status-quo included a structural conflict of interest and control by corporatist minions held over from the Bush Administration. That is his negligence.

Posted by: Adam_Smith | May 27, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Seriously, would you buy a used car from President Obama, or Jonathan Capehart?

Posted by: VirginianforFreedom | May 27, 2010 3:49 PM | Report abuse

Is the Washington Post allergic to nuance? The chat following the presser says that he didn't know that she'd resigned, even though he had said he'd known since the morning (he didn't know the details is the nuance the chat leader had missed). And here, a perfectly plausible explanation--he couldn't ask Salazar for details since Salazar had been testifying on the Hill all morning--is ignored so that he can be called "flat-footed."

He's missed the mark on a couple of things, and even admitted to it a couple of times when asked, but being a couple hours off regarding resigning/firing decisions? It would have been up to Salazar to brief him on the details, and Salazar was not available for a few hours this morning for very good reason.

Posted by: dkp01 | May 27, 2010 4:07 PM | Report abuse

sorry but it's the United States not the WASHINGTON POST!!!!!

Posted by: djwinfield1 | May 27, 2010 4:23 PM | Report abuse

This is really an idiotic story.

If you want to criticize our President, criticize his action-- not his honesty in admitting he hadn't heard of a resignation which happened the hour before.

He's the President of the United States, idiot. Cut him some slack if he doesn't seem glued to his RSS feed.

Posted by: ascholl1 | May 27, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Obama is so clueless that he doesn't yet know that there has been an oil leak—the worst ecological disaster in our nation's history.

And Obama doesn’t yet realize that he caused this tragedy through incompetence and corruption that is at the core of his own personality disorder and his rotten administration.


Posted by: Jerzy | May 27, 2010 4:46 PM | Report abuse

Jerzy, to call you scum would be an insult to scum.

Posted by: koolkat_1960 | May 27, 2010 4:50 PM | Report abuse

This is such a non-story. If you want to write stuff like this, start reviewing TV, movies or theatre.

Posted by: TiminTakoma | May 27, 2010 4:56 PM | Report abuse

I don't know why the posters here are getting defensive. It is a legitimate criticism. Obama does look aloof and detached by contradicting himself on the subject of Birnbaum. He's asked by a reporter about her firing, retorts back that it's an "assumption that she's been fired," but then adds he doesn't now as he had just been informed that morning. So, what exactly was he informed? That she was just gone? It makes him look seriously aloof about what's going on. And what exactly is he doing right now? He can't simultaneously be on top of the oil spill, yet too busy with other things to know what's going on.

Posted by: motownlivs | May 27, 2010 5:10 PM | Report abuse

It's astonishing how some of the commenters here are so absurdly eager to give Obama a pass on this.

Look, the firing of this character MADE SIGNIFICANT NATIONAL NEWS -- as well it should.

How can such an event be important enough that it is reported far and wide in the national press, but somehow is so small a detail that the guy supposedly behind it isn't even aware of what went on? How could Obama NOT have been properly informed on this obviously significant issue before his press conference?

Of course, had Bush been similarly clueless, these same commenters would have been outraged beyond any possibility of condolence, wondering how far our dear nation has fallen, and despairing that we might ever recover.

In short, what tools these mortals be.

Posted by: frankly0 | May 27, 2010 5:26 PM | Report abuse

It isn''t the only thing that "he doesn't know"...

Posted by: SeniorVet | May 27, 2010 5:27 PM | Report abuse

The Obama apologists are defending "Sleepy II", W was "Sleepy I" by making up excuses for behavior that is in fact unacceptable for any chief executive or attacking and vilifying anyone who dares criticize our inexperienced, incompetent, anti-American President. Obama has been aloof his entire political career. Standing on the sidelines awaiting an appropriate time to position himself in the most self fulfilling position regardless of truths or consequences. David Axelrod has stated that our beloved savior needs to extract himself from the stress, rigors, and demands of the Oval Office by retiring to the family quarters at 5PM and a game of b ball. One must excuse the mistakes and multiple economic, political, diplomatic and strategic mistakes of Pres. Obamanation our silver tongued under achiever who coned, cheated or lied his way to the office he lusted for his entire life, due to pressures and demands of the office, rather then hold this Pres. accountable for his mis-Administration.
Let's all hope and pray his antidemocratic, anti human rights, pro Big Business, nomenclaturely neutralizing terror, destabilizing the Korean Peninsula, Latin America and the Middle East will not lead to war that may potentially involve the use of Nuclear Weapons. So he doesn't know whats happening within his Executive Branch, that is beyond anyone's ability. Well most anyone's ability.OK the ability of some people. So he's not really another JFK? ,

Posted by: djfeiger | May 27, 2010 5:32 PM | Report abuse

"""""Do you know how much Obama has to do?!!!!!!""""

(cough!)Golf(cough!)

Posted by: checkmate110 | May 27, 2010 5:48 PM | Report abuse

Present!

Posted by: zippyspeed | May 27, 2010 5:55 PM | Report abuse

I was driving and tuned in Rush. He made more sense than Obama--and I'm on the left.

Posted by: rusty3 | May 27, 2010 6:05 PM | Report abuse

The beautiful Gulf Coast will be covered with oil stains for 50 years and we have a Navy home at port and a Coast Guard, and a Merchant Marine who can be called to service. Does anyone doubt that we could have put 500 ships and thousands of Cutters and boats into the cleanup. We could have stopped the oil from reaching the coastline or at least mitigated much of it. The source of this malfeasence needs to be uncovered and punished.

Posted by: almorganiv | May 28, 2010 12:37 PM | Report abuse

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