White House reaction to IRS scandal: Too little, too late?
President Barack Obama forced out the acting IRS commissioner on Wednesday in response to allegations the agency had inappropriately targeted conservative groups. Critics have said the IRS scandal is just one of a series of incidents where the Obama administration has avoided taking responsibility.
With no sign of an end to three mushrooming scandals, the White House acknowledged the rising political dangers on Wednesday by launching a concerted effort at damage control.Skip to next paragraph
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In a whirlwind few hours, the administration moved forcefully to counter criticism of its handling of the deadly attacks in Benghazi, Libya, the seizure of reporters' phone records in a Justice Department leak investigation, and the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of conservative groups for extra scrutiny.
In the most aggressive response, President Barack Obama ousted the acting IRS commissioner on Wednesday evening.
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It was the sort of concerted response that Obama's political allies had been waiting for, but Republicans' skeptical reaction shows that Obama has a long way to go to dig his way out of the scandals and build goodwill as he tries to salvage his second-term legislative agenda.
After a largely scandal-free first term, the administration had been slow to respond decisively to the growing criticism - mostly from Republican foes but in some cases from Democrats - in the three controversies.
Days of deflecting blame by administration officials had sparked criticism of Obama's willingness to accept responsibility. During a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday afternoon with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Republicans repeatedly attacked the administration for not being forthright on the emerging scandals.
"I believe there has been a pattern by this administration in not taking responsibility for failures, avoiding blame, pointing the fingers in somebody else's direction," said U.S. Representative Steve Chabot, a Republican from Ohio.
But Obama, known for his deliberative style and an aversion to overreacting, decided on Wednesday it was time to fight back.
Appearing at the White House, he said the administration had forced the resignation of acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller and he strongly condemned the agency's apparent targeting of conservative groups for extra scrutiny. He promised to cooperate with Congress in an investigation.