Watergate! Really?

George Will in “Echoes of WatergateIRS cartoon,” compares the IRS scrutiny of tea party groups to Watergate, a nadir moment for Republicans. Watergate was President Nixon’s attempt to subvert the two-party system—or in essence, our democracy. Personally, it seems odd that Republicans bring up their worst scandal as a way of illustrating potential political wrongdoing in a Democratic administration.

Mr. Will should know from Politics 101 that the bureaucracy is a separate power center for government policy, like Congress, lobbyists, or the military. As part of the bureaucracy, IRS employees make decisions, sometimes bad ones. Yes, the IRS is part of the executive branch of government, but chances that the White House reached down several bureaucratic layers to an IRS office in distant Cincinnati seem far-fetched. Mr. Will offers no proof of a White House-IRS connection, so the echoes of Watergate would appear inaudible.

The tea party and conservative chorus make the echoes of Watergate seem stronger than they are in reality. Frankly, it is in their interest. A negative campaign based on IRS overreach may reward tea party “victims” in elections in 2013 (Virginia governor) and 2014 (House & Senate). We will see if this purported scandal has legs to go the distance. But even though the IRS is a favorite whipping boy and easy target, this negative campaign may not bring the success that Republicans seek.

Author: David Miller

Learned about the wonders of geography while working at National Geographic for some 25 years. Started teaching one class a semester at NOVA in the 1990s but became a dedicated instructor in 2010.

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