- - Tuesday, May 14, 2013

When President Obama hands the keys to the Oval Office to his successor in 2017, he’ll leave behind more than $9.3 trillion in red ink. With difficulty, red ink can be washed out. A legacy of scandal is permanent.

First, it was “Fast and Furious,” the Department of Justice program that ran guns to drug cartels in Mexico to enable the White House to cite “gunrunning” as justification for imposing gun control in the United States. Once caught by this deceit, the administration went into full stonewall mode, sending hundreds of blacked-out pages as “responsive” to inquiries by congressional investigators. The media quickly moved on.

The pattern was repeated after the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya. Instead of coming clean about what went wrong, the White House spent two weeks blaming the deaths of four Americans on an irrelevant and mostly unwatched YouTube video. Rep. Darrell E. Issa, the California Republican leading the congressional investigation, complained on Sunday that he still hasn’t seen a list of those injured in the attack. The White House is eager for the media to move on.

A third major scandal followed, the Internal Revenue Service’s blockbuster admission that it targeted at least 75 conservative political groups for “inappropriate scrutiny” when they applied for tax-exempt status. IRS offices demanded that Tea Party groups turn over donor lists, identify volunteers, detail any relationships it had with political candidates, and even provide printed copies of their Facebook pages — unlawful requests that were not made of any liberal or left-wing organizations.

The American Center for Law and Justice and the Landmark Legal Foundation began documenting the misconduct, encouraging the House Ways and Means Committee to ask questions. “I can give you assurances,” IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman testified in a March 2012 hearing. “As you know, we pride ourselves on being a nonpolitical, nonpartisan organization … There is absolutely no targeting.”

Presidential apologists point out that Mr. Shulman was appointed by President George W. Bush as if to identify him as a loyal Republican. Federal Election Commission records show that Mr. Shulman contributed to the Democratic National Committee when Mr. Bush was a candidate for a second term.

Mr. Shulman, so far as we know, has not done anything wrong. What we do know is that the assurances he gave to Congress last year were false — a disturbing and common practice of this administration. We don’t know who gave the order to lie about Fast and Furious, nor about Benghazi, nor about the IRS audits. The answers to the questions have grave consequences, especially if the IRS campaign of intimidation was orchestrated from the very top. Nearly four decades ago, the House Judiciary Committee voted 28 to 10 to say that it is an impeachable offense for a president personally, or through his subordinates, to cause “income-tax audits or other income tax investigations to be initiated or conducted in a discriminatory manner.”

It’s critical for the president and the White House to do everything needed to clear the president of suspicion. If Mr. Obama has nothing to do with these scandals, he should say so, and release all related documents and emails to dispel doubt. The integrity of the presidency, important to everyone — liberal and conservative, Democrat and Republican — demands it.

The Washington Times