Dennis Culloton, President and CEO
Since the Watergate Scandal, the media is quick to apply the tag of “Nixonian” to any and all scandals in government to emphasize their belief that the scandal goes “all the way to the top.”
In a post-Watergate, increasingly cynical world, it is easy to see how the public could connect the dots in order to trace IRS audits of politically conservative nonprofits back to President Obama in a massive conspiracy to strike down the conservative opposition. The White House denies having any part in the imbroglio and promises to create safeguards. The acting IRS commissioner, Steven Miller, has already walked the plank. In a move ordered by the White House, Miller’s departure was aimed to convey decisive action by the president.
But ultimately, in terms of perception, it matters very little if Obama ordered the audits or not. The funny thing about democracy and uneventful summers in Washington is if the public believes that the president was involved, he may as well have been involved. The two inescapable facts of life are death and taxes, and not because taxpayers are fond of either. There is no love loss for the IRS and culturally, Americans are prone to believe the conspiracy theory over any other.
New IRS commissioner Danny Werfel may wish he was the former University of Florida quarterback, with whom he is often confused, in order to throw the ball down-field and score points to regain the public trust. In the meantime, regardless of the quick firing and the outrage expressed by the president, expect Congressional Hearings and Sunday morning pundits to be the order of the day.