The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The Insiders: The Obama IRS nightmare is just getting started

Your government, as currently administered by President Obama, doesn’t like the word “patriot.”  If you associate yourself with an organization using that word, you may be investigated and prosecuted. Under Obama, government employees think they are doing what their superiors want them to do when they harass and menace political organizations that might oppose the president.

Obama doesn’t need a traditional Nixonian enemies list. In the digital age, with the Obama machine’s much-celebrated technological capabilities, the president can sort his enemies by keywords. Incredible.

I wonder if “patriotic” was also on the list of enemy words. Well, we’ll find out soon. Investigations, leaks, whistleblowers, etc., will disclose the name of every group that the Obama IRS targeted for special harassment. We will eventually know who knew what and when they knew it. This is likely to be very corrosive for the president’s political standing both here and abroad.

Vladimir Putin is probably jealous of Obama. He and others like him will hardly be able to hide their smiles when they hear the United States preach about the need to let political organizations function freely. What lessons should the Muslim Brotherhood learn from what the Obama IRS has done?

To say the least, this story has legs. The scandal is already getting worse, and it hasn’t even officially started yet. The IRS inspector general’s report is only the beginning, and it was just leaked on Friday afternoon (the typical, amateurish time for leaking damaging news).  The formal release date hasn’t even been announced. Yet the jaw-droppers keep coming. This morning The Post reported that the Obama IRS targeted groups that want to “make America a better place to live.”  From the travesty of Obamacare’s implementation to the tragedy in Benghazi, it’s easy to see how an bureaucrat-enforcer sympathetic to Obama would consider that to be subversive.

There is already a huge appetite within the media to move this story. Many reporters feel they have been lied to by the White House on Benghazi, and they want to get this story right.  And if Benghazi is any guide, the Obama White House will have a problem with telling the truth, sticking to its story and containing the fallout.

As I like to say, in politics, good gets better and bad gets worse. For Obama — whose administration is devoid of any policy momentum, is struggling to get Benghazi out of the headlines and is dealing with a widespread belief that his second term is evaporating — the IRS scandal couldn’t come at a worse time. And given that conservatives and a lot of moderates think of the president as cool, arrogant and generally someone who looks down on people, this latest controversy plays to the president’s negative stereotype.

The Benghazi tragedy agitated superstitions within a core of the Republican Party.  The Obama IRS scandal will frighten any American who has to pay taxes, might want to contribute to a conservative political organization, or, heaven forbid, supports a group that opposes Obamacare, the president’s crusade against global warming or another of his left-wing assaults. And unlike Benghazi, the Obama IRS scandal has the ability to drive votes in November 2014. There’s too much about this scandal that confirms what people already think about Obama, his government and his political machine.

The Obama forces know they have to deal with this one fast.  I’m sure the president would prefer to wait until after the inspector general’s report is released, but that may be difficult.  However, what can they do that doesn’t make the situation worse?  That’s the real challenge the West Wing is dealing with this morning.  I’ll bet officials are scrambling to edit the final version of the report, but in this environment the “editing” could become the slippery slope that leads to someone crossing the line or telling a lie that breaks the law.  The next few days are high stakes and very dangerous for the Obama White House.