After he had been issued one too many invitations to see the president as a powerless victim, CBS’s Bob Schieffer pushed back. “I don’t mean to be argumentative here,” he disclaimed for some reason, before becoming argumentative there:
But the president is in charge of the executive branch of the government . . . When the executive branch does things right, there doesn’t seem to be any hesitancy of the White House to take credit for that. When Osama bin Laden was killed, the president didn’t waste any time getting out there and telling people about it.
In response, Pfeiffer agreed that the president was indeed in charge and had reacted strongly.
But there is being in charge and then there is being “in charge,” and, as David Axelrod assured us last week, this president is firmly in the latter camp. What realistic chance does the president have, asked Axelrod, of controlling America’s “vast” government? In other words, those silly groups that argue that when government gets too big it inevitably becomes unmanageable weren’t targeted because they said that when government gets too big it inevitably becomes unmanageable. No, they were just victims of the fact that when government gets too big it inevitably becomes unmanageable.
On Benghazi, Pfeiffer showed signs of being stuck in the same time warp as Jay Carney and the more dogmatic members of the progressive Left. As his press conferences still demonstrate, Carney has yet to notice that saying “Republican invention,” snidely mentioning “Fox News,” or implying that “politicians” are making a “political issue” out of a political issue is no longer sufficient to get him into the Kingdom of Press Absolution. His colleagues fare no better. Pfeiffer tried manfully to pretend that this was Republicans “playing politics.” But it is not, and everybody knows that it is not.
Nor will it do to repeat that the government was waiting for “the facts” before ascribing a motive to the Benghazi attack. On Face the Nation, Bob Schieffer brushed aside Pfeiffer’s performance of this defense, assuring him that he wasn’t “here to get in an argument with you about who changed which word in the talking points and all that” and then — again — getting into an argument with him about the talking points. “The bottom line,” Schieffer said, “is what [Susan Rice] told the American people that day bore no resemblance to what had happened on the ground in an incident where four Americans were killed.” “With all of these things,” Schieffer continued, pushing in the knife, “when these things happen, you seem to send out officials many times who don’t even seem to know what has happened.”
“Is he referring to Susan Rice or to Dan Pfeiffer?” I wondered.
A few seconds later, Schieffer made himself clear: “I mean this as no disrespect to you, why are you here today? Why isn’t the White House chief of staff here to tell us what happened?”
Ouch. Amateur hour is over, Mr. President. It’s time to call the machine.
— Charles C. W. Cooke is a staff writer at National Review.