As opposed to what should be considered a bombshell?

I refer you to this column by Peggy Noonan entitled “A Bombshell in the IRS Scandal”:

The IRS scandal was connected this week not just to the Washington office—that had been established—but to the office of the chief counsel.

That is a bombshell—such a big one that it managed to emerge in spite of an unfocused, frequently off-point congressional hearing…What the IRS originally claimed was a rogue operation now reaches up not only to the Washington office, but into the office of the IRS chief counsel himself [one of only two Obama political appointees in the agency]…

This is the moment things go forward or stall. Republicans need to find out how high the scandal went and why, exactly, it went there. To do that they’ll have to up their game.

True, as far as it goes. The only problem is that, even if Republicans were to “up their game”—and it’s not immediately apparent they will be willing and/or able to do that—what is the available remedy? At this point, even were the investigation to discover a trail leading all the way to the president, and even if such involvement were considered an impeachable offense, does anyone honestly think that enough Democrats in the Senate would vote “guilty” to achieve the two-thirds majority required to remove Obama from office if the Republican House managed to impeach him?

Short of direct presidential involvement, although some lower-down officials may be sacrificed, it becomes a question of the response of the voting public to the “bombshell.” But Obama is not going to be running for re-election, and voters who might be outraged by these further revelations in the IRS scandal are probably plenty enraged already. Many of them have suspected White House involvement from the start, and so to them this is no bombshell; they never swallowed the “rogue workers in Cincinnati” explanation in the first place.

There is also a large segment of the population who are either unconcerned with the entire issue, or have applauded the IRS targeting of Tea Party groups rather than opposing it. The latter group appear to be ignorant of the general danger that could come from politicizing an agency such as the IRS. As long as that agency’s political shenanigans are in alignment with their own political persuasion, their attitude is “right on.” To this particular group, the basic principles that preserve our republic are not the point. Nor do they seem all that concerned with the practical implications of their stance, the prospect that if you support such malfeasance when your side does it, the same could be done to you someday when the other side comes to power. Perhaps they calculate that the right never will come to power again. Or perhaps they think that, if and when it does, the right will exhibit more devotion to the rules than the left has.

A month ago a CNN poll found the public fairly evenly split as to whether the White House was involved in the IRS imbroglio. In addition, only 51% of respondents considered the IRS controversy itself to be very important, a depressingly small number considering the crucial issues involved. The split tended to be along party lines, too; no surprise there.

Would a poll taken today be any different? Perhaps, although it’s not at all clear how many people are paying close attention even now. Of course, scandals (Watergate, Lewinsky) have historically tended to emerge rather slowly and build over time as evidence amasses. But the multiple messes the Obama administration is facing this term have had the paradoxical effect of causing a certain amount of outrage fatigue. The fear is that, for way too many people, what should ordinarily have been a “bombshell” has become business as usual.

[Neo-neocon is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at neo-neocon.]


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