Thursday, June 14, 2012
This Just In: The Obama Administration Is Bizarre
The Barack Obama administration is also weird to the max.
On Monday morning, Washington awoke to learn that Commerce Secretary John Bryson had been involved in a series of auto accidents in southern California on Saturday evening, and cited with a felony hit-and-run by responding police. This news was of course shocking.
For several hours, the White House and the Commerce Department declined comment. In this vacuum, the rumors took a life of their own. Some speculated there was alcohol involved, despite initial police accounts that this was not the case. After official statements reported seizures were the cause of the accidents, the ire turned on that initial speculation, blaming the sardonic culture of Twitter...
Part of the blame surely lay at the feet of an inept White House communications operation, unable to provide the general public with any answers to the health and well-being of a cabinet secretary. This media stonewall continued in Press Secretary Jay Carney’s daily briefing.
In Carney’s first answer, we learned that President Obama had not spoken with Secretary Bryson. This seemed odd. A cabinet secretary is hospitalized following serious traffic incidents and a police citation and the president does not pick up the phone to check on his welfare?
Pressed for details, Carney continually directed questions to the Commerce Department. As if this matter had nothing to do with the White House…
Later that afternoon, the president did a series of local television interviews, in which he was asked about the situation. The president reiterated that he had still not spoken to Secretary Bryson and that he had “just found out about this today.”
Later that evening, at 10 pm, the White House issued a statement declaring that Secretary Bryson was taking a medical leave of absence and that Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank would serve as Acting Secretary. While White House statements at 10 pm are not absolutely abnormal, they are rare. This fit the mold of the bizarre events of the day.
Let’s be clear, everyone hopes Secretary Bryson is well, recovering and getting the medical attention he needs. Bryson is in the prayers of countless Americans. But the reaction of the White House to this news has made a strange set of circumstances seem odder than likely necessary.
President Obama certainly has an estranged relationship with his cabinet, preferring to govern mostly out of the White House. But according to White House Visitor Logs, John Bryson actually visited more often than many of his colleagues–a total of 31 times (barring multiple John Brysons). Energy Secretary Steven Chu had visited 17 times and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has only swung by 13 times. To put that in context, Democratic consultant Hilary Rosen has visited the White House 33 times and union boss Richard Trumka has visited 69 times…
(Rory Cooper, "The Bizarre White House Reaction to John Bryson News", The Foundry at the Heritage Foundation)