Solomon said there’s nothing new under the sun – He had a point – abuse of power isn’t anything really new.

Americans are becoming outraged by the scandals surrounding the Obama administration, whether it’s the IRS targeting conservatives, the DOJ’s probe of AP reporters, or the Benghazi cover-up that left four Americans and our ambassador dead in its wake.

The Obama campaign was successful in delaying any leak of the scandals until after his reelection, but the floodgates have now been flung open.

Polls show that the American public has a less than 20% approval rating of Congress, don’t approve of the Obama administration’s policies, feel like America is overwhelmingly headed in the wrong direction, but Barack Obama’s personal approval ratings still hover around 50%.

Radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh thinks he has the phenomena figured out.  He calls it “The Limbaugh Serum.” His theory is that Barack Obama is constantly campaigning, never seen as a leader, quite unaware of any scandalous deed going on within his administration, always battling those mystical forces suppressing the masses that he’s always trying to conquer, when in reality it’s his leadership that’s initiating such plights.

To sports fans it’s the equivalent of the “Statue of Liberty” play in football or “An End Around.”  The opposing foe is unaware of what’s happening usually until it’s too late, but those initiating such deception can’t run the play successfully with repeated occurrence.

I’ve come up with a theory as well – I call it “Mastering the Art of Plausible Deniability.”

Plausible Deniability was a term coined by the CIA during the Kennedy administration to describe the withholding of information from senior officials in order to protect them from repercussions in the event that illegal or unpopular activities became public.

The term often refers to the denial of blame in formal or informal chains of command, where senior figures assign responsibility to the lower ranks, and records of instructions given do not exist or are inaccessible, meaning independent confirmation of responsibility for the action is nearly impossible. In the case that illegal or otherwise disreputable and unpopular activities become public, high-ranking officials may deny any awareness of such act or any connection to the agents used to carry out such acts. The lack of evidence to the contrary makes the denial plausible and credible.

In politics, deniability refers to the ability of a powerful player to avoid blowback by secretly arranging for an action to be taken on their behalf by a third party.

Arguably, the key concept of plausible deniability is plausibility.  It is fairly easy for a government official to issue a blanket denial of an action, and it’s possible to destroy or cover up evidence after the fact.  However, the public might well disbelieve the denial, particularly if there is strong circumstantial evidence, or if the action is believed to be so unlikely that the only possible explanation is that the denial is false.

Plausible denial involves the creation of power structures and chains of command loose and informal enough to be denied if necessary. The idea is that other bodies can be given controversial instructions by powerful figures – up to and including the President himself – but that the existence and true source of those instructions can be denied if necessary.

The practice is an open door for abuse of authority; it requires that the parties in question can be said to have acted independently, which in the end is tantamount to giving them license to act independently.

Using the technique is a shift of blame and if the claim fails, it seriously discredits the political figure.  However, if it succeeds it creates the impression the government isn’t in control.

A case in point is the British Monarch King Henry II who once made a statement about the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket, when he said: “Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?” Becket was later murdered, but the King denied that his plea was to be taken seriously.

I believe Barack Obama is either a “hands-off type” leader, disenfranchised with the responsibilities of the office, or he’s tried to cunningly “Master the art of plausible deniability” too often.

Greg Allen’s column, Thinkin’ Out Loud, was published bi-monthly from 2009 to 2017.  He’s an author, a former nationally syndicated columnist and the founder of Builder of the Spirit Ministries in Jamestown, Indiana.  He can be reached at    

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