President Obama on Monday called the alleged targeting of conservative nonprofits by the Internal Revenue Service "outrageous," and vowed to hold anyone found responsible fully accountable. The IRS has acknowledged that employees focused their scrutiny on applications for tax-exempt nonprofit status filed by groups with the words "Tea Party" or "patriot" in their names.
Obama said the IRS must be above petty politics, so he has "no patience" for any hint of politicization in the tax agency. "I will not tolerate it," he said. His stern words appeared aimed at limiting fallout from the controversy. Republicans, along with some Democrats, have demanded hearings and investigations on the budding scandal. Will Obama be able to satisfy the GOP demands that his administration get to the bottom of it, or does he have another Benghazi-grade problem on his hands?
Democratic strategists say that Obama has to follow through, fast, with his promise for a thorough investigation. "This is a serious problem that does nothing more than commit and verify what the crazy right-wing groups were saying that the IRS is evil and the government is bad," says Jimmy Williams, a Democratic operative. "This gives them the talking point they have always needed... The administration has to confront this head on because if they don't act, they let the House Republicans define the parameters of this debate."
Still, not everyone is convinced there's any way for Obama to avoid a prolonged backlash from the right. In a perfect world, finding and punishing those responsible would quiet the anger, says Jamelle Bouie at The Washington Post. Washington, however, is not that world. With evidence mounting that the IRS crackdown went beyond just Tea Partiers, and focused on any group that criticized the way the country was run, Obama should brace for GOP attempts to "Benghazify" what the IRS did, no matter how hard he tries to get to the bottom of it, says Bouie:
Everyone should want Congress to get to the bottom of why IRS employees decided to go this route in applying scrutiny. But given the rhetoric of Republicans, what's most likely to happen is yet another scandal circus, meant to generate a new round of conservative outrage at President Obama. [Washington Post]
Conservatives agree that Obama will be tainted by the IRS scandal no matter what he does now. But many on the right think that's exactly the way it should be. "Even if no one in the White House ordered the IRS to harass Tea Partiers," says Allahpundit at Hot Air, Team Obama certainly led the left in its effort to paint grassroots conservative groups as "some sort of proto-militia" that was out to get the government. Isn't it reasonable to assume, asks Allahpundit, that the left's tone was at least "partly to blame for inspiring the IRS to overzealousness?" If that sentiment is any indication, Obama's IRS troubles have only just begun.
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