'The Unaccountable Executive'
A Wall Street Journal editorial socks it to the president and his hands-off management style.
Every day brings new revelations about who knew what about the IRS targeting conservative groups during President Obama's re-election campaign, but the overall impression is of a vast federal bureaucracy run amok. While the White House continues to peddle the story of a driverless train wreck, taxpayers are being treated to a demonstration of the dangers of an unwieldy and unaccountable administrative state. Look, Ma, no hands!
In his press events, Mr. Obama has said that while he learned about the Cincinnati rogues on the news, he plans to "hold accountable those who have taken these outrageous actions." But the White House began its response by pushing the line that the IRS is an "independent agency," and Mr. Obama has since given the impression that he sits atop a federal government which he does not, and could not possibly, control.
White House senior adviser Dan Pfieffer encouraged that fable on this Sunday's news shows, implying that the Treasury's internal process for handling the unfair treatment of political targets trumped the President's right to know. When CNN political correspondent Candy Crowley asked Mr. Pfieffer why the White House and top Treasury officials weren't notified, he explained that Treasury's investigation was ongoing and "Here's the cardinal rule: You do not interfere in an independent investigation."
Now there's a false choice. The Treasury Inspector General's report, for starters, was an audit, not an inviolable independent investigation. He lacked subpoena power and could bring no criminal charges. Having the President know of the IRS's mistakes so that he could act to correct the problem was not a bridge too far or even clouding the purity of the process. Those things could have been done simultaneously without compromising Treasury's investigation.
The Journal refers to the "infantilization" of the federal government:
There's a certain infantilization of the federal government here that should be especially alarming to taxpayers who have ever crossed paths with the IRS. The agency has the power to make citizens lives miserable, ruin their businesses and garnish their wages. Anyone facing an audit is unlikely to get away with the evasions now in display in the federal bureaucracy.
If the scandal is showing anything, it is that the White House has a bizarre notion of accountability in the federal government. President Obama's former senior adviser, David Axelrod, told MSNBC recently that his guy was off the hook on the IRS scandal because "part of being President is there's so much beneath you that you can't know because the government is so vast."
Axelrod unknowingly makes an excellent case for a smaller government. As the Journal asks in the tease to the editorial; "If the President doesn't run the government, then who does?"