In case you haven't been following, the hot new right-wing narrative is that President Obama, despite not having any provable connection to the IRS's inappropriate targeting of conservative non-profit groups, is nonetheless culpable because he exerts subtle influence over low-level bureaucrats which leads them to act out against conservatives and the Tea Party. The chief proponent of this theory has been the Wall Street Journal editorial page -- specifically, Journal editorial board member Kimberley Strassel, who has devoted her last two weekly columns to Bureaucrat Whispering.
Her May 24 column can be viewed as Bureaucrat Whispering's apotheosis, as she argues that if the country really wants to “get to the bottom of the IRS scandal,” it must look to the White House, which was not involved in the actual scandal:
None of this proves that Mr. Obama was involved in the IRS targeting of conservative nonprofits. But it does help explain how we got an environment in which the IRS thought this was acceptable.
The rise of conservative organizations (to match liberal groups that had long played in politics), and their effectiveness in the 2004 election (derided broadly by liberals as “swift boating”), led to a new and organized campaign in 2008 to chill conservative donors and groups via the threat of government investigation and prosecution. The tone in any organization--a charity, a corporation, the U.S. government--is set at the top.
This history also casts light on White House claims that it was clueless about the IRS's targeting. As Huffington Post's Howard Fineman wrote this week: “With two winning presidential campaigns built on successful grassroots fundraising, with a former White House counsel (in 2010-11) who is one of the Democrats' leading experts on campaign law (Bob Bauer), with former top campaign officials having been ensconced as staffers in the White House . . . it's hard to imagine that the Obama inner circle was oblivious to the issue of what the IRS was doing in Cincinnati.” More like inconceivable.
And this history exposes the left's hollow claim that the IRS mess rests on Citizens United. The left was targeting conservative groups and donors well before the Supreme Court's 2010 ruling on independent political expenditures by corporations.
If the country wants to get to the bottom of the IRS scandal, it must first remember the context for this abuse. That context leads to this White House.