[Note: Apologies for the chart that accompanies this post. I prepared a perfectly good one, but WordPress decided to move things around, probably to irritate you, the reader, and myself. I’ve fixed it as best I can.]

[Well, the beat goes on. Conservatives are incensed because President Obama isn’t taking enough interest in his Government. Can you believe it? So far, they can’t connect him with Benghazi; so he either left that crisis to underlings, or was involved and is hiding. The White House does say that he was “kept up to date” during the events, but won’t say where he was. [1] Disgraceful! Why doesn’t he disclose more of his private life? Conservatives want to know what he did that night.

And what about the talking points, the ones that blamed the Benghazi attack on Libyan outrage rather than terrorist plots? So far there’s no evidence he was involved. Why not? Why didn’t he write the talking points? Really, he’s indolent[2], inattentive to his duties. Of course, those points weren’t very effective; the real story, that the attack was organized by terrorists, was out in a couple of weeks. But the Conservatives don’t care about that; and they have more grievances.

Where was the President when people at the IRS decided to “target” Conservatives who were applying for a tax exemption? Where was he when the FBI subpoenaed telephone records of the Associated Press[3] and a Fox News[4] reporter? What a scandal! He should have been in the thick of it!

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’d be a little concerned if a President took a direct interest in day-to-day audits or investigations by the IRS and the FBI. That’s the kind of thing that got Richard Nixon in trouble.[5]But apparently Conservatives think he should have done just that. Only an indolent President would have stayed out.

Really, these criticisms don’t make a lot of sense, until you think about the subtext embedded with them. Conservatives seem to think that if the White House knows something, the President automatically knows as well.

So once a staffer is told about FBI subpoenas, for example, the President is informed. He should demand to review and approve them before they go out. Or if stupid talking points are prepared, he must have signed off on them. If there’s no evidence that the President did such things, then that is proof positive that he is indolent. Or, it could be proof that he was involved and there’s a cover-up at the White House.

None of this is realistic and, in fact, the idea that the President knows everything the staff knows or does is demonstrably ridiculous. Let me explain.]

The Executive Office of the President is composed of offices and agencies that “help develop and implement the policy and programs of the President.”[6] It was created in 1939 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and currently includes the Council of Economic Advisers; the Council on Environmental Quality; the National Security Staff; the Office of Management and Budget; the Office of National Drug Control Policy; the Office of Science and Technology Policy; and the Office of the United States Trade Representative.[7] The White House also includes staff for the Executive Residence, the Office of the Vice President, and an assortment of other lesser-known entities.[8]

That sounds like a lot of functions, but just how many people work there?[9] Well, that’s something you and I can actually know. It just so happens I have before me next year’s budget for the President’s Executive Office.[10] It shows projected staff levels, by component, as follows:

Executive Office of the President


FY 2012 Full Time Equivalent Positions

FY 2014 Full Time Equivalent Positions


The White House




Executive Residence




Office of Administration




National Security & Homeland Security Council




Council of Economic Advisors




Office of the Vice President




Office of Management & Budget




Office of National Drug Control Policy




Office of Science & Technology Policy




Office of the U.S. Trade Representative




Council on Environmental Quality





EOP Grand Total




Source:  EOP FY 2014 Budget Submission, see note 10, at p. EOP-9.

So, as you can see, today and in the next fiscal year the President has or will have about 1800 people working in the Executive Office. How can he possibly know and pass on everything that all of those people see and do?

Think about that. In any week there are 7 days of 24 hours each, with each hour including 60 minutes. So in a week the President has, like all of the rest of us, only 10,080 minutes available.[11] That amounts to at most about 5.6 minutes per staff person.[12]

Of course, I’m assuming that the President spends all of every week talking to staff, and obviously he doesn’t. So take out 8 hours a day to eat, sleep and talk to the family, and you reduce minutes available for work by one-third, to 6,720; which in turn reduces the time available to staff to 3.73 minutes each, more or less.

But the problem is even worse than that. Remember each staff member also has been accumulating life experience at the same rate, i.e., 10,080 minutes a week. How do they distill all that to fit in the 3.73 minutes they have available with the President? What if they leave something out?

So this is why information that goes to the President is filtered, analyzed and summarized before he gets it. It’s simply not possible for any single human being to review and assimilate all of the raw data that comes to the White House in a week. Staff does that, and sends the important things on up the chain of command. And if they miss something, no doubt they hear about it.

And what about the things that aren’t sent to the White House, you know, the IRS audits, DOJ subpoenas, and so forth? Well, he’s not supposed to meddle in that kind of stuff anyway. Why are Conservatives upset that he stayed out of the loop? Are they saying  if they were in charge, they’d be heavily involved in such matters? Is that supposed to make the rest of us feel better?


[1] See  http://commonsensewonder.blogspot.com/2013/05/obama-was-avoiding-responsibility-and.html

[2] See TribLive, Buchanan, Barrack Obama, the spectator president (May 21. 2013), at http://triblive.com/opinion/featuredcommentary/4057248-74/obama-president-irs#axzz2UGcOhzc9

[3] See Politico, Gerstein, Holder walks fine line on prosecuting journalists (5/20/13), at http://www.politico.com/blogs/under-the-radar/2013/05/holder-walks-fine-line-on-prosecuting-journalists-164367.html

[4] See Scribd., Case 1:10-mj-00291-AK Document 20 Filed 11/07/11, application and affidavit reproduced at  http://www.scribd.com/doc/142586637/FBI-s-Affidavit-For-Search-Warrant-Of-Fox-s-James-Rosen

[5] See the blog of 05/22/2013, Impeachment?, at https://opsrus.wordpress.com/2013/05/22/impeachment/

[6] See USA.gov, Executive Office of the President, at  http://www.usa.gov/Agencies/Federal/Executive/EOP.shtml

[7] See The White House, Executive Office of the President, at  http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop

[8] If you want an outside description of the White House, check Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Executive_Office_of_the_President_of_the_United_States

[9] Pope John XXIII famously said, “About half,” but he was talking about the Vatican. See First Things, Schmitz, How Many People Work in the Vatican, at http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2013/04/02/how-many-people-work-in-the-vatican/

[10] You too can have a copy. You can get it at Executive Office of The President, Fiscal Year 2014 Congressional Budget Submission (April 10, 2013) at http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop The Government’s FY 2014 starts on October 1 of 2013. The full 125 page document is available along with some prior year budget submissions.

[11] That’s 7 days x 24 hours x 60 minutes, or 10,080 minutes. If you get a different answer, check the battery in your calculator.

[12] Divide 10,080 minutes by 1800 staff and you get 5.6 minutes. (The result goes up a little bit if you divide total minutes by the staff authorized for FY 2012, and down a bit if you use the projection for FY 2014.)

[13] That’s short for Quod Erat Demonstrandum. Wikipedia is as good a source as any for a translation of the Latin. Go to Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Q.E.D