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Scandals prompt comparisons between Nixon, Obama administrations

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In this split image, former U.S. President Richard M. Nixon gives his farewell speech to members of his cabinet and staff in the East Room of the White House, following his resignation Aug. 9, 1974. And President Barack Obama speaks on the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of conservative groups for extra tax scrutiny in the East Room of the White House in Washington, May 15, 2013 (Reuters/AP)

The chorus of comparisons between President Obama and the only president to resign in disgrace is growing by the day, as the administration’s scandals appear to pile up.

Whether the comparisons are fair or not, columnist George Will perhaps led the charge -- after citing the Article of Impeachment against President Nixon in an opinion piece this week.

Will recalled the line: "He has, acting personally and through his subordinates and agents, endeavored to cause, in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens, income tax audits or other income tax investigations to be initiated or conducted in a discriminatory manner."

Scores of websites and blogs have since invoked the Nixon comparison, as did Sen. Orrin Hatch, who speaking to reporters about the IRS scandal said Tuesday, "I've never seen anything quite like this, except in the past during the Nixon years."

The Boston Herald's front page on Tuesday was also emblazoned with the headline, "I Know Nothing," with a sub-headline reading: "(coincidentally, that's what Nixon said.)”   

The president is dealing with several scandals at once, including the fallout from the Benghazi terror attack, the Justice Department’s seizing of phone records from the Associated Press and the IRS’ program of singling out Tea Party and other groups for scrutiny.

While Obama has called the IRS targeting of conservatives "outrageous," and late Wednesday announced the resignation of acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller, investigations are just now getting under way.

There is no evidence, as of yet, that the scandal leads to the Oval Office. But the comparisons to Nixon are inevitable. While the disgraced Nixon did, indeed, use the IRS to target political enemies, he may have been seeking to avenge friends and supporters who, themselves, had been targeted by the IRS in earlier presidencies -- among them  Elvis Presley, Billy Graham and John Wayne.

Regardless of the motive, one thing separates today’s IRS from that of earlier administrations -- its technological capability.

The IRS's mainframe computer in Martinsburg, W.Va., is among the world’s most powerful. As of October 2010, the Internal Revenue Service had the capability to sift through emailing patterns associated with millions of individual Internet addresses.

Sources tell Fox News the IRS continues to collect tax data, but they also are now acquiring huge volumes of personal information on taxpayers’ digital activities, from eBay auctions, Facebook posts, and, for the first time ever, credit card and e-payment transaction records.

And unlike in the Nixon administration, the IRS is, under the Obama Administration, looking to expand its workforce to roughly 2,000 to collect health information in accordance with provisions of the president's Affordable Care Act by next year. 

Jennifer Stefano, a member of Americans for Prosperity -- who gave up her own quest to form a Tea Party group with friends in 2010 after the IRS threatened to examine her emails, Facebook and Twitter accounts -- voiced concern of a scenario that was perhaps more Orwellian than Nixonian.

“What my concern is, is that four years after the IRS has expanded to police the nation's health care law, how many stories of abuse are going to emerge from this and what will be the impact? It will be far greater than sidelining political voices. It will affect their lives and their health. This is wrong,” she said.

Doug McKelway joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in November 2010 and serves as a Washington-based correspondent. Click here for more information on Doug McKelway