WASHINGTON (CNN) - Does President Obama know what's going on? That's the question swirling around Washington, DC.
It's a White House line that keeps coming up; the President was not in the know on the allegations that the National Security Agency conducted surveillance on foreign leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
CNN has confirmed a Wall Street Journal headline: "Obama Unaware as U.S. Spied on World Leaders."
On the problems with the Obamacare website, the answer was again that the President was not informed. "Well, I think it became clear fairly early on, uh, the first couple of days."
Even back in May, when it was discovered the IRS was targeting conservative groups, the President claimed he didn't know about it. “I first learned about it from the same news reports that I think most people learned about this."
So it was no surprise when the RNC blasted out an email dubbing Mr. Obama as "The Bystander President."
White House veteran David Gergen says the issue is competence. "This is an administration that has been very, very good at its politics, but has never been very good at execution of policies from day one. It's an administration which has a lot of smart people, a lot of young people, but it doesn't have very many heavy weights."
Administration officials point out the President only learned of the spying effort this summer, halting some of the program. However, dodged on whether Mr. Obama's being kept out of the loop.
Aides to the President say this statement back in September is accurate: "I can give assurances to the publics in Europe and around the world that we're not going around snooping at people's e-mails or listening to their phone calls."
CNN has also learned that the President was made aware of the broad parameters of the surveillance of U.S allies when he came into office. A spy program, the White House cautions, stops terrorist threats.
A former senior national security official in the Obama White House cautions it's unlikely the President would sign off on every surveillance program targeting every foreign leader because it just wouldn't be practical.
As this official said, that would drive the intelligence community crazy because there aren't enough hours in the day.