- - Tuesday, January 13, 2015

It should be painfully clear by now that no one of authority is in charge at the White House, least of all President Obama.

His government is running itself, without any serious, detailed direction from the West Wing in the day-to-day issues and troubles America faces at home and abroad.

We saw that happen in the bungled, mistake-filled rollout of Obamacare, where the left hand did not know what the right hand was doing. Many other times since then in the deadly Benghazi consulate attacks, the incompetent Veterans Affairs scandal, the politicization of the Internal Revenue Service that targeted voter groups who didn’t support Mr. Obama, and a long list of other management disasters over the past six years.

We saw it again this week in the repeated apologies from the White House when the president didn’t even send a high-level official to Paris to demonstrate our solidarity with European leaders who marched in Paris to denounce the bloody terrorist attacks in the French capital.

What was Mr. Obama thinking as he watched heads of state from Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere march with millions of others in the largest demonstration in France’s history? He wasn’t thinking.

“I think it’s fair to say that we should have sent someone with a higher profile,” said Mr. Obama’s press secretary, Josh Earnest, instead of just our ambassador to France.

The White House press corps wasn’t content to accept his answer that the administration had simply made a little mistake, as they peppered him with questions, wanting to know why the president didn’t go himself or at least send a high-level delegation in his place.

Mr. Obama’s chief apologist wasn’t especially helpful on that question. He refused to say who was responsible for making that decision, but insisted it was “not a decision that was made by the president.”

But why not? This was one of the most brazen terrorist attacks in years in a major world capital — this time in the streets of Paris — that came with a message that the United States is the next target.

Didn’t it occur to Mr. Obama or his top advisers that his muted reaction to the brutal murders in Paris would be seen as a passive response to the war on terrorism? No. Instead, he felt it was enough for him to simply call a few European leaders, issue a brief statement — without really leading.

That led to a rare debate in the Washington press corps about “a bungled bureaucratic process” in the West Wing that had again exposed Mr. Obama’s uninvolved, aloof style in his interactions with our allies and adversaries in an era of global terrorist warfare.

Six years into this administration, the terrorists’ armies have rapidly spread throughout the Middle East, into North Africa and, now, in Europe, growing stronger, more lethal and far better financed than ever before.

That has ignited sharp criticism of the president’s failed national security policies here at home, led by two of his former defense secretaries who wrote tell-all books that attacked him for indecision and a failure to lead. This week, the criticism of his absent leadership now appears to be coming from within his own administration.

“He sees [foreign policy] as a giant puzzle,” one senior administration official told The Washington Post Tuesday, “an intellectual problem to be solved.”

But what could possibly be puzzling about the Islamic State? Its members want to kill as many Americans as they can, and we’ve got to make sure that won’t happen — ever. If Obama sees this as an intellectual exercise, we are in deep trouble.

Under a barrage of testy questions from the press corps, who have become increasingly adversarial lately, Mr. Earnest struggled to offer a satisfying reason why Mr. Obama didn’t go to Paris, or send a high-level official in his place — instead of our U.S. ambassador in Paris.

“I think the president himself would have liked to have had the opportunity to be there,” he said. But his lame excuse was that there was a short window to plan for the trip, and his presence would have disrupted the march.

Still, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was there, front and center, among a host of other European leaders, as was Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Harry Truman had a plaque on his desk that said, “The buck stops here.” Mr. Obama has replaced that ironclad rule with, “It is somebody’s else’s fault.”

Listen to what Jeremy Shapiro, a former senior State Department official, said about Mr. Obama’s decision to pass the buck: “These process mistakes happen when the top leader isn’t pushing the system. The fact that the president didn’t get on the phone [to his foreign policy advisers] and say, ‘I’ve got to go,’ makes it more likely the process will fail.”

We are talking here about something much more than a march to show global solidarity in a war to exterminate the evil monsters who gunned down French journalists, a policeman (who turned out to be a Muslim), and other civilians. This is an all-out war against a barbarian menace that is looking beyond Europe to the United States for its next terrorist target.

National security intelligence officials say that the threat of an attack is higher than it has been since the Sept. 11 World Trade Center air attacks. Indeed, the threat is worse as a result of new technology achieved by the terrorists that makes their bombing devices undetectable by most existing security surveillance systems.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who participated at an international security conference in Paris this week, said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday that the possibility of a “lone wolf” terrorist attack in the U.S. “frankly, keeps me up at night.”

This week, we saw Islamic State cyberterrorists seize control of the U.S. military’s Central Command social-media accounts, posting chilling messages, documents and videos threatening the United States.

“American soldiers, we are coming, watch your back,” one of their messages said.

When he was campaigning for a second term in 2012, Mr. Obama repeatedly said al Qaeda terrorists were “on the run,” their ranks had been “decimated,” and that his rapid military withdrawal policies were working.

Now we know none of that was true.

Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and contributor to The Washington Times.

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