The Ongoing IRS Scandal … and Getting Comfortable with the “I” Word

“I may not have been the greatest president, but I’ve had the most fun eight years” – Bill Clinton

Indeed Mr. President … Indeed. Bill Clinton was the last Democratic president before Obama; and the last one to be impeached. While the record will show that he was impeached for perjury and obstruction of justice, quite a few folks will come to the conclusion that he was impeached for philandering with a subordinate. This, of course, would have been plenty to get me fired, but the country was split over whether the president should face the same standard. There is a legitimate question in here as to whether such behaviors rose to the level of “high crimes and misdemeanors”. (Yes, perjury and obstruction of justice probably do – but these crimes didn’t exist until there was an investigation into his philandering.)

A few days ago there was a break in the IRS scandal. The Obama administration has claimed that the whole “suppress the Tea Party” business was caused by a few rogue agents. Yet at every turn the agents are pointing to superiors, who point to their superiors, who point to their superiors. In the latest development, which Peggy Noonan calls a “bombshell,” IRS chief counsel William Wilkins has been implicated.

Wilkins is a political appointee. On 23 April 2012 he met with the president at the White House. On 24 April 2012 the IRS commissioner visited the Eisenhower office building (adjacent to the White House). Then, on 25 April 2012, Wilkins apparently sent out new guidance on scrutinizing Tea Party groups.

There are only a few steps “higher up” this can go. I suspect Wilkins will fall on his sword here, but I personally think it is time to start using the “I” word again. If the president was involved in using the tax collecting arm of the U.S. government to weaken political opponents ahead of an election, he should be removed from office.

I doubt that will happen, of course. Republicans don’t want to be the party that always impeaches the other guy (and rightly so). They’ll probably look to play it as a 2014 election issue and try to take back the Senate.

I will also note that the “where there’s smoke there’s probably fire” adage is fair here, but in Washington the firebrands are so closely linked that it’s not abundantly clear where the source of the smoke is. Some have pointed to Senate Democrats putting pressure on the IRS to investigate Tea Party groups. Others have claimed that Republican operatives were behind the push, hoping to scuttle the Tea Party that had struck up a veritable civil war within the ranks. You just never know in this town.

I maintain my original position though. If, and that’s a big if, the president was involved in targeting Tea Party groups, or if he even knew about it and failed to put an immediate stop to it, then he should be removed from office. (And, also in my original position, he probably won’t be. Nothing, or very little, will end up coming from this.)

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