The White House is perpetrating the notion that it had no knowledge of the Internal Revenue Service scandal or the investigation thereof nor did it know its Justice Department was citing James Rosen as a criminal to grab his phone records. As to the IRS scandal, I find it hard to believe that the White House wasn’t aware of ongoing letters of complaint to conservatives and the news coverage thereof. We would have to believe no one in the White House until the last few months was reading or watching coverage, monitoring Congress, or talking to Treasury or the IRS itself. That is the job of the chief executive — to run the government and enforce the laws.
But let’s take the White House at its word (something virtually no one does anymore). In that case the IRS is a rogue agency that conducted an internal investigation a year ago, found wrongdoing, sat on it and conducted another investigation, all the while representing to Congress that there was no wrongdoing. The failure to supervise a large and powerful agency is not an excuse; it is an indictment of a president willing to turn a blind eye toward claims of abuse by his political opponents.
Moreover, by failing to instruct every employee to cooperate, he is as responsible as anyone for the pathetic performance of Lois Lerner yesterday. When employees understand that they cannot simultaneously take the Fifth for fear of being criminally prosecuted and continue working in the executive branch to enforce the law, Congress tends to get more cooperation, as it did in the Valerie Plame incident and other previous executive branch investigations.