Steven Miller, former IRS Commissioner, casualty of scandal. (EPA/INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE) Steven Miller, former IRS Commissioner, casualty of scandal. (European Pressphoto Agency)

Our current, impressive batch of scandals, writes David Ignatius today, seems to be explainable not by huge, evil, competent conspiracies. Rather, it’s that our governments have become incompetent like a fox. Bureaucracy’s individual members work slyly, Ignatius says, as if their main job was not governance, but avoiding scandal. A natural byproduct of everyone keeping their heads down and avoiding responsibility for things is something that looks very similar to incompetence. But it isn’t about stupidity so much as cowardice.

It’s therefore plausible that the fear of scandal is at the root of all three current scandals.

No, really, as Ignatius describes, these were at heart issues of covering one’s rear end — but not with one’s big boy or big girl pants. With one’s hide-from-the-world blanket fort.

Commenters like RomeoHotel insist it’s in fact a problem of incompetence and too-high self esteem:

I worked in the federal bureaucracy in D.C. Two things I noted right away:

1. The people there are of only average intelligence.
2. The people there think they have super-intelligence.

Others lay the problem squarely at the feet of whatever political entity they oppose:


Dysfunction in DC follows the tea party-influenced right. There was no impotence before 2010. Republicans spent the nation into severe debt with their power. Democrats passed Obamacare with their majorities. A la Clinton era politics, things get done when both parties are working at governance–not the case with current Republicans. Despite the “change” rhetoric, they follow the original McConnell playbook to obstruct everything Obama.


“President Obama hasn’t begun to fix the big problem of Washington dysfunction….” Fix the problem? He IS the problem.

cbl55 wants to know where we go from here in moving toward a government that wants to accomplish things:

In the past few days, I’ve not read 10 words on WHY government appears to be as dysfunctional as it is. 99% of reporting from the media itself is an endless barrage of who’s up, who’s down, who benefits, who loses–a millimeter-deep, mile-wide approach to understanding government.

Anybody’s who’s worked in the federal bureaucracy can certainly testify to overwhelmingly poor management and judgment calls. The focus isn’t on problem-solving but in covering your rear end, sometimes to avoid real scrutiny, but just as often to get day-to-day work done in something other than a fishbowl environment and constant meetings.

The IRS scandals area don’t prove that Obama and Big Gummint are out to get you, they show a poorly-trained group of people dealing with obvious flaws in the law that incorrectly assign 501(c)(4) status to organizations whose purpose is primarily political. Does anybody think this inconsistency–caused by Congress’ own failures to enact smarter legislation–can be successfully navigated? Is there anybody who is generally interested in SOLVING this problem by re-vamping the 501(c)(4) code to avoid obvious organizational conflicts of interest?

Centsorsense thinks Congress is a good place to start:

The real problem is that instead of doing their jobs, Congress second guesses everyone else on the planet, grovels for money from the rich, and come[s] up with plot lines for reporters.

While ExGlen thinks ultimately it’s the voters who avoid responsibility by wanting to be told fairy tales:

I think the Congress and even elected officials generally are representing the will of the people rather well. “The people” are coming up short – far too many not expressing any consistent set of personal beliefs. “The people” have a pretty substantial consensus that they want to get at least 5 dollars worth of stuff, and pay no more than 4 dollars for it, and Congress adopts budgets that do just that. When sentiment demands the impossible and nothing else, our officials deliver political theater, and nothing else. They are all too responsive and are rewarded by the electorate more often than not.

But PostScript loved most of all IndyModerate‘s frustration that government isn’t getting any better at the art of being enmeshed in scandal:

This country has weathered a number of political scandals over the years and will no doubt sort these out and take the necessary corrective actions regarding this latest set.

Regardless of political party involved, it’s amazing how tone-deaf the offending administration was initially, then followed-up with stonewalling and, in so doing, lost all their credibility along the way.

So, I guess the good news here is that the current administration is following the same dismal blueprint for failure. Not so much of a learning curve here.