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Accepting Responsibility Would Blow Obama’s Circuits

Barack Obama, speaking to a crowd in Baltimore on Friday, said, “I know it can seem frustrating sometimes when it seems like Washington’s priorities aren’t the same as your priorities. I know it often seems like folks down there are more concerned with their jobs than with yours.”

Earlier in the week, when speaking about the IRS scandal, Obama said, “I’ve reviewed the Treasury Department watchdog’s report, and the misconduct that it uncovered is inexcusable. It’s inexcusable, and Americans are right to be angry about it, and I am angry about it. I will not tolerate this kind of behavior in any agency, but especially in the IRS, given the power that it has and the reach that it has into all of our lives.”

Cleaning up Washington’s various corruptions and insular, out-of-touch ways would make a powerful platform if he was preparing to run for president one day. The problem for Obama is that he is president and has been for four years and four months. In our modern-day system of government, he is first among equals when it comes to having responsibility for “Washington’s priorities.” And he certainly has responsibility for an agency which is part of the executive branch, which he after all oversees.

Mr. Obama has shown himself to be a chronic blame-shifter, whether he’s pointing fingers at his predecessor, ATMs, the Arab Spring, tsunamis and earthquakes, Europe, the GOP, Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, Super PACs, the Supreme Court, the Chamber of Commerce, and countless other people and organizations. He simply is unable to take responsibility for the problems that have occurred on his watch.

My guess is that the reasons are rooted in cognitive dissonance. Mr. Obama views himself as a transformational, world-historical figure. But as his failures mount one atop the other–from the Affordable Care Act and his stimulus package, to the worst economic recovery on record, to the collapse of his foreign policy, to mounting scandals–the president simply cannot process it. To accept responsibility would blow his circuits. And so he seems to have developed several coping mechanisms–including blaming others and pretending that what is happening in Washington has nothing at all to do with him.

But back here on Planet Earth, it does. Mr. Obama could be at the stage where he is simply unable to accept reality; it may be that the president now disassociates himself from his actions. This condition is not something you want to find in any individual; it’s one that’s particularly alarming to find in a chief executive.