Official White House records show that the embattled former IRS Commissioner, Douglas Shulman, visited the Obama White House at least 157 times. Most of those visits, interestingly enough, around the time the IRS was deciding to target conservatives. In contrast, not one Obama Cabinet Secretary came anywhere close to 157 White House visits. Not the Secretary of Defense, despite the wars in Iran and Afghanistan. Not the Secretary of State, despite the terrorist attacks at Benghazi and elsewhere and the generally unstable world situation. Not the Attorney General, despite the problems associated with Operation Fast and Furious, the administration’s desire to give terrorist’s trials in civilian courts, or the push to close Gitmo. Not the head of Homeland Security, despite the problems with border security or the debates surrounding immigration.
To many observers, 157 visits — about one visit every nine days — sounds excessive. In contrast, President George W. Bush had only one meeting in four years with the IRS Commissioner.
Even though it is unprecedented, it is not a crime for the White House to meet frequently with the IRS Commissioner. It is a crime, however, to conspire to abuse the power of the government to target political “enemies.”
When asked why he went to the White House so often, Shulman said he went with his kids to the White House Easter Egg Roll. That’s a lot of Easter Eggs and a lot of Easters. Shulman continued that he wasn’t sure what the meetings were about. But he opined that they may have discussed ObamaCare implementation. If that is true, why wasn’t the White House meeting with Obama’s Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius more often? She and the department she heads are the point person and agency for ObamaCare — yet she visited the White House only 48 times — less than one-third as many times as the IRS Commissioner.
When the IRS scandal first broke, Obama himself and his spokesmen went to great pains to say that the IRS is an independent agency and that it has little to do with the President. For a supposed constitutional scholar, the president has a funny idea about what constitutes “independent.” The head of the IRS answers to the Secretary of Treasury who is appointed by the President. The IRS is a part of the Obama Treasury Department and clearly under the president’s authority.
The Obama White House took special pains to emphasize that the IRS was “independent” and “separate” and even asserted that Shulman was a “Bush Appointee.” They neglected to mention that Shulman was a Democratic donor and that they’d invited him to the White House so often he practically had his own desk there — coming to the White House more than twice as often as even Obama’s top cabinet secretaries.
The numbers speak for themselves. The IRS Commissioner’s 157 White House visits are more than double the number of meetings that Obama’s own Attorney General Eric Holder had at the White House. Holder had 62 visits. The IRS head met at the White House more than three times as often as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – who had 43 visits. Obama’s Treasury Secretary — who is the IRS Commissioner’s boss — had 48 visits — less than one-third as many. The IRS head had almost four times more such meetings than the Secretary of Defense. And for every one White House meeting with the Secretary of Homeland Security (who had only 34), the IRS Commissioner had almost five meetings.
We don’t have all the answers yet, but there is a mountain of deception already piled up. Almost everything the Obama Administration has said about the IRS scandal has proven false. The IRS is not an independent agency. The IRS’s actions were not the result of two rogue employees in Ohio acting on their own initiative. The abuses occurred in IRS offices from coast to coast, including IRS headquarters in Washington. IRS officials at the highest levels knew about the illegal targeting for more than year while while lying to Congress about it. The illegal targeting did not end as soon as supervisors learned about it. IRS officials at the highest levels signed abusive, intrusive letters only a couple months ago. And now, an IRS official is “taking the fifth,” refusing to answer Congress’ questions because her answer may tend to incriminate her.
If this was all an honest mistake or simple ineptitude, why all the deception? When people are lying, they are trying to hide something. If the White House wasn’t coordinating the attack on Mr. Obama’s political enemies with Shulman, then what exactly was the IRS commissioner doing at the White House in all those meetings? And why can’t Shulman recall specifically what the meetings were about? This isn’t like it was just a couple meetings — it was 157 meetings — almost weekly.
It is extraordinarily unlikely that 157 White House meetings with the head of the IRS and the systematic targeting of conservatives are an unrelated coincidence. And given all the deceptions and outright lies, a coincidence becomes even more unlikely. Misleading, misdirecting, and hiding and obfuscating the truth is typically the behavior of someone who has something to hide — not someone who made an honest mistake.
Even all the admissions of ineptitude and idiocy while denying any bad motives appears to be little more than self-serving blather. It isn’t a crime to be stupid. But it is a crime to abuse the power of the IRS to harass your “enemies.” This may explain why all of a sudden, Obama — who reportedly believes he is the smartest man in every room and tells his staff that he knows more about their job than they do — is now willing to cop a plea to being as inept as Jimmy Carter. Obama is nothing if not an immensely proud man. If the White House is willing to plead guilty to being stupid, it is likely that the Administration is guilty of far worse.
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George Landrith is the president of Frontiers of Freedom, an organization founded by the late U.S. Sen. Malcolm Wallop, R-Wyo, and a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, where he was Business Editor of the Virginia Journal of Law and Politics.