Those in the Internal Revenue Service who targeted conservative groups should be fired immediately, as their actions have tainted President Barack Obama's administration, says Times Magazine political columnist Joe Klein.
"Previous presidents, including great ones like Roosevelt, have used the IRS against their enemies," Klein said in Saturday’s Time column
. "But I don't think Barack Obama ever wanted to be on the same page as Richard Nixon. In this specific case, he now is."
On Friday, the IRS revealed that agents had targeted conservative groups that included the words "tea party" or "patriot" in their tax documents were targeting tea party groups as far back as 2011 to determine if their tax exempt status was valid. The federal agency apologized for targeting certain American taxpayers, but the IRS — and by extension, the Obama administration — is under fire for the admission.
"The president has been very proud of the absence of scandal in his administration, and rightly so," wrote Klein. "The inability of his opponents to find any significant corruption in the historic $800 billion stimulus package was a real achievement, given the speed of the payout. None of his top aides have been caught up in taking bribes while in office — although their race through the revolving door into lucrative private sector positions is well beyond nauseating."
But Klein noted that in the current administration, there are an "awful lot of political hacks" involved, as in most presidencies.
"These have shown an anachronistic, pre-Clinton liberal bias when it comes to the rules and regulations governing many of our safety net programs, like social security disability," said Klein. "They have violated one of the more sacred rules of our democracy: you do not use the tax code to punish your opponents."
IRS official Lois Lerner who oversees tax-exempt groups, said the targeting was "absolutely inappropriate" and was not driven by partisan motives, but Klein disagreed.
"This is just poisonous at a time of skepticism about the efficacy of government," said Klein. "The president should know this: the absence of scandal is not the presence of competence."
Klein noted that Obama needs to concentrate on making sure the government is functioning efficiently, as that will be "part of his legacy," once he's out of office.
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