In the Obama Administration, deploying the Incompetence Defense is no obstacle to receiving cash rewards and promotions. Even though the former commissioner of the tax exempt organizations division of the IRS, Sarah Hall Ingram, was – at best – shockingly ignorant of widespread abuse in her department, she’s been promoted to chief enforcer of ObamaCare, and this weekend the White House made it clear that she still has their full support. From the Washington Times:
A besieged White House dug in its heels Sunday and defended figures at the center of the unfolding Internal Revenue Service scandal while reiterating that President Obama knew nothing of the misdeeds inside the agency.
White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer, appearing on four Sunday morning political talk shows, offered strong support for Sarah Hall Ingram, who led the agency???s tax-exempt division as it admittedly targeted conservative groups. She recently was promoted to chief of the health care reform office, tasked with implementing ???Obamacare.
Critics of the administration expect many more heads to roll as the true scope and intent of the IRS actions come to light, but Mr. Pfeiffer on Sunday strongly defended Ms. Ingram.
???No one has suggested that she did anything wrong yet,??? Mr. Pfeiffer said on ???Fox News Sunday.???
???Before everyone in this town convicts this person in the court of public opinion with no evidence, let???s actually get the facts and make decisions after that. There???s nothing that suggests she did anything wrong,??? he said.
Oh, I think there have been lots of suggestions that Ingram did something wrong. What Pfeiffer really means is that we don’t have any evidence that she did anything illegal yet. But under the most charitable interpretation of her conduct, she was a remarkably disconnected manager who claims to have been out of the loop on a massive scandal that numerous other IRS officials were well aware of, including those above her. This is not a resume that would inspire public confidence in Ingram as head of the ObamaCare enforcement unit. How do we know there won’t be widespread abuse by “low level rogue employees” in that department, while she remains blissfully ignorant until a massive scandal explodes in 2015 or 2016?
No one in the chain of command that either coordinated, enabled, or ignored years of abuse has any business working for the IRS in any capacity, let alone a job where they would gain control over an even larger and more intrusive database. We can afford to let investigations run their full course before we accuse Ingram of willfully inappropriate or criminal activity, but we already know she cannot be trusted with oversight duties, and it is urgently necessary to separate her from them.
And it’s not just conservative pundits or Republican politicians calling for a thorough housecleaning. Democrat Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri declared herself on the warpath, as reported by CBS News in St. Louis:
???I???m mad. It is un-American, it is wrong, and we have to make sure that this gets fixed,??? Missouri???s senior senator said. ???There???s a reason Lady Justice wears a blindfold in America. That is because in America, we don???t apply the law based on who you are, who you know, or what you believe. We apply the law equally.???
McCaskill went on to say that the targeting of one group based on political beliefs ???infuriates??? her.
???We should not only fire the head of the IRS, which has occurred, but we???ve got to go down the line and find every single person who had anything to do with this and make sure that they are removed from the IRS and the word goes out that this is unacceptable,??? she said. ???It is un-American, it is wrong, and it cannot occur again.???
This is really just common sense. Some mixture of malfeasance and supervisory blindness was at work in the IRS. Neither can be tolerated, let alone rewarded.
As the Washington Times notes, the man who took over from Ingram only a couple of weeks ago, Joseph Grant, has already announced his “retirement” in the wake of the scandal. It’s risible to describe that as a “head rolling,” since there’s no explicit connection to the scandal or declaration of penitence in his announcement. (Grant was the deputy commissioner of the department during the time when abuses occurred.) But it’s obviously not normal for someone to “retire” just days after receiving a promotion, and at least he’s out of the management mix going forward.
When its past actions are questioned, this Administration always whines about “old news” and urges Americans to more “forward.” A thorough housecleaning at the IRS is a crucial first step forward; nothing less could begin the restoration of public confidence in the agency. Some of us think it will take more than management turnover to restore such confidence in full, but it’s an obvious beginning.
We need a new management team of impeccable character and ability, not scandal holdovers who claim they don’t read their email, don’t talk to their subordinates, or aren’t good at math (the memorable admission of IRS official Lois Lerner, who just earned a “bushel of Pinocchios” from the Washington Post fact-checker for her damage control efforts.) For the moment, the housecleaning can be accomplished without rancor or public humiliation, as long as it happens quickly. It’s time for everyone else in the chain of command to join Joseph Grant in “retirement.”