-- The portion of registered voters in a Quinnipiac University poll who believe that a special prosecutor is needed to investigate the targeting of conservative groups by the IRS. Sixty three percent of Democrats agreed.
What in the heck was former IRS boss Douglas Shulman doing at the White House campus 157 times in less than 5 years?
Shulman told his congressional interrogators last week that the huge number related to policy discussions but also social events, citing the White House Easter Egg Roll as an example.
That’s a lot of Peeps – particularly for a guy whose predecessor says he only visited the White House one time during his tenure and especially for the head of an agency that is supposed to be quasi-independent so as to avoid, ahem, political entanglements.
The IRS is not a cabinet agency. It, like the FBI, is deemed so powerful and in need of protection from executive meddling that it is granted special status and a special director whose term outlasts the one of the president who appoints him or her. The job Shulman held is a law enforcement post. Just ask anyone who's ever done prison time for tax evasion.
Obama officials explain that since much of President Obama’s focus has been on taxes – raising them, reforming the tax code and putting the agency in charge of enforcing Obama’s health insurance law – it is logical that he and his staff would need lots of consultation with the nation’s top tax collector.
The assertion from Shulman and the White House is that this unprecedented degree of intimacy was innocent and not related to the targeting of the president’s political enemies by Shulman’s agency. If that’s true, it is a tragic coincidence.
In the latest Quinnipiac University poll, Americans overwhelming believe that an outside investigator is needed to find out about abuses at the IRS. Since each day brings some new revelation about the misdeeds of the agency, one supposes that the call for a special prosecutor will not lessen.
Obama’s solution – having his embattled Attorney General oversee the probe into the targeting of Obama’s own political rivals – was silly at the start. As Eric Holder sinks deeper into the slough surrounding his own agency’s targeting of news organizations, he has no spare credibility to lend to the IRS these days.
An attorney general accused of abusing his power can hardly investigate abuses of power at another agency. When the victims are individuals and groups opposed to the president and singled out for presidential denunciation, not even a widely respected attorney general could carry the weight.
Shulman’s peevish testimony combined with the Fifth Amendment flight of his former subordinate, Lois Lerner, have sharpened concerns in both parties that there is much more to learn about what happened at the IRS.
Given Shulman’s presidential proximity, one would think that Obama would be quick to shine some sunlight on the troubled agency – especially as it ramps up enforcement of Obama’s signature legislation. If the White House never nudged Shulman or anyone at the IRS to zap conservatives, one would think Team Obama would want to prove that quickly.
But so far, the president is trying to keep it all in the family.
Given the public outrage over IRS abuses, he will not be able to persist in this course. Every day Obama resists outside insights on the IRS is another day in which suspicions will grow over the extent and elevation of the wrongdoing.
If Obama is dragged into disclosure it will only make it worse.
And Now, A Word From Charles
“So, their defense [at the Department of Justice] is ‘We went around the law. We essentially violated the law by pretending [James Rosen] was a criminal co-conspirator when we knew at the beginning he wasn't.’ And that to me is damming as well.”
-- Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”
Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News, and his POWER PLAY column appears Monday-Friday on FoxNews.com. Catch Chris Live online daily at 11:30amET at http:live.foxnews.com.
Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily Fox News Halftime Report political news note and co-hosts the hit podcast, Perino & Stirewalt: I'll Tell You What. He also is the host of Power Play, a feature video series on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on network programs, including America’s Newsroom, Special Report with Bret Baier and Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. He also provides expert political analysis for FNC’s coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.