There is no evidence at this time that President Obama or any White House officials had any direct knowledge of the IRS targeting as it started or was actively ongoing. But just as with Watergate, there are so many loose ends and unanswered oddities that keep popping up, chief among them being why the former head of the IRS visited the White House so many times but could only provide the Easter egg event on the White House lawn as an example when asked in a recent congressional hearing.
And then there is the revelation of secret email accounts, and now news of huge requests for phone records have come to light. This is in no way a Watergate situation at present, but concepts like the "non-denial denial" seem to be back in favor, and one wonders when the tales of gathering information, disseminating it to political allies against political foes and targeting will end -- and where. Watergate, after all, was more a story of the cover-up of, it should be noted, illegal efforts to listen into phone calls, never authorized by the higher-ups it brought down later.
But here is a major warning for those who believe this current unclear puzzle will come together and become Watergate all over again: Handle with care.
The Republicans were making great legislative headway in Congress in the late 1990s, just as an investigation that began as an inquiry into a failed land deal in Arkansas developed into charges of perjury and obstruction of judgment over involvement with intern Monica Lewinsky and the impeachment of Bill Clinton.
The Clinton matter captured the nation's attention because of the story of the president's relations with an intern. But when Republicans decided to release a lengthy report from Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr, one which included lurid and explicit details disseminated over an emerging Internet, the GOP leaders in the House watched public sentiment boomerang against them.
Sympathy for Clinton and, more importantly, outrage over the release of such sexually explicit information to the public enraged independent voters. Clinton's approval ratings went up, not down, and his acquittal by a democratically controlled Senate was assured.
We aren't at the point at which the White House and certainly not President Obama can be accused of anything, beyond the usual failure to meet Harry Truman's "buck stops here" philosophy. And where this story goes, no one knows. But the mainstream media are already starting to repeat the mantra that the GOP is overplaying its hand. That requires much reflection, many more questions and many more facts before it reaches the true "Gate" level.
Matt Towery heads the polling and political information firm InsiderAdvantage. Follow him on Twitter @matttowery. To find out more about Matt Towery and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators website at www.creators.com.
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