This Scandal Looks Real
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
Until the news emerged at the end of last week about the IRS signaling out the applications of conservative leaning tax-exempt organization for special intense scrutiny, it had felt that indeed the Republican Party was grasping at straws just to make the President and the Democrats scream in angry frustration at the insanity of trying to govern in the era of dominating partisanship that has gripped Washington. It is now entirely likely that the growing revelations about the conduct of the IRS will totally tie Congress into knots undoubtedly for weeks and perhaps months to come. This is one looks like real juicy meat.
Until now most of the ugliness in Washington was pure scandal mongering on the part of many of the Republicans hoping to mobilize the American voters to oppose Obama and help the GOP gain control of the Senate in 2014 and the White House in 2016. These IRS revelations may well be serious enough to derail the Obama second term agenda and scare his Presidency, although it is a long way to go to 2016—at least.
Just when it appeared that there was a possibility to get Congress refocused on its business, this latest expose will make the Republican fixation on the Benghazi tragedy seem like child’s play. Without even considering any looming foreign policy issues, there are an array of domestic issues which will be put aside or finessed away while Congress makes political hay over IRSgate. Meanwhile, there are three Cabinet appointees whose confirmation processing were already on hold or in jeopardy; there are numerous federal judgeships waiting to be filled; there is a budget reconciliation package which continues to drag along unresolved; there are all the sequestration cuts which will grow more compelling in the months ahead; later this summer there will be a reprise over the debt ceiling fight; and all of this will be on Congress’ plate in before the FY 2014—certainly incomplete—begins on October 1.
Is the President worried? He is so concerned that he created a press conference opportunity to respond immediately to todays’ latest revelations as to the scope of the IRS activities and as the responsibility grew larger and went higher up. Presumably Obama himself had no knowledge (or had plausible deniability), but it appears reasonable that there will be some political operatives, partisan supporters, and Government bureaucrats whose heads will roll out of the investigation of this scandal. Obama also knows where the “buck” will stop and that it will not be pretty.