We are in the midst of the worst Washington scandal since Watergate. The reputation of the Obama White House has, among conservatives, gone from sketchy to sinister, and, among liberals, from unsatisfying to dangerous. No one likes what they're seeing. The Justice Department assault on the Associated Press and the ugly politicization of the Internal Revenue Service have left the administration's credibility deeply, probably irretrievably damaged. They don't look jerky now, they look dirty. The patina of high-mindedness the president enjoyed is gone.
Something big has shifted. The standing of the administration has changed.
As always it comes down to trust. Do you trust the president's
answers when he's pressed on an uncomfortable story? Do you trust his
people to be sober and fair-minded as they go about their work? Do you
trust the IRS and the Justice Department? You do not.
The president, as usual, acts as if all of this is totally
unconnected to him. He's shocked, it's unacceptable, he'll get to the
bottom of it. He read about it in the papers, just like you.
But he is not unconnected, he is not a bystander. This is his
administration. Those are his executive agencies. He runs the IRS and
the Justice Department.
A president sets a mood, a tone. He establishes an atmosphere. If he
is arrogant, arrogance spreads. If he is to too partisan, too
disrespecting of political adversaries, that spreads too. Presidents
always undo themselves and then blame it on the third guy in the last
row in the sleepy agency across town.
The IRS scandal has two parts. The first is the obviously deliberate and
targeted abuse, harassment and attempted suppression of conservative
groups. The second is the auditing of the taxes of political activists.
The White House is reported to be shellshocked at public reaction to
the scandal. But why? Were they so high-handed, so essentially ignorant,
that they didn't understand what it would mean to the American people
when their IRS—the revenue-collecting arm of the U.S. government—is
revealed as a low, ugly and bullying tool of the reigning powers? If
they didn't know how Americans would react to that, what did they know? I
mean beyond Harvey Weinstein's cellphone number.
And why—in the matters of the Associated Press and Benghazi too—does
no one in this administration ever take responsibility? Attorney General
Eric Holder doesn't know what happened, exactly who did what. The
president speaks in the passive voice. He attempts to act out
indignation, but he always seems indignant at only one thing: that he's
being questioned at all. That he has to address this. That fate put it
on his plate. (Full Story)