[Ezra] Klein is analyzing this in terms of ordinary political gamesmanship. But he has it backward. Suppose the IRS’s abuses were not ordered or explicitly encouraged by the White House. That would mean, as Commentary’s Jonathan Tobin puts it, that the agency “has so thoroughly absorbed the views of its political masters that it doesn’t even recognize when it has crossed the line into illegal activity.”
In other words, if this is the case, the left’s hateful and slanderous campaign against its political foes, especially the Tea Party—the demagoguery of Obama, his fellow Democrats and their supporters in the media, led by the New York Times editorial page—was sufficient to prompt the IRS agents to cast aside their professional obligations and embark on a campaign of political abuse whose effect was to ease Obama’s re-election.
In his testimony to the Senate Watergate Committee—whose hearings opened 40 years ago today—John Dean famously called that scandal “a cancer on the presidency.” If Obama, his campaign or his White House aides are directly implicated in the IRS’s abuses, this will be another cancer on the presidency, remediable by resignation or impeachment.
But if the IRS acted without direction from above—if it “went rogue” against the Constitution and in support of the party in power—then we are dealing with a cancer on the federal government. That, it seems to us, is a far direr diagnosis, one whose treatment is likely to be radical and risky.