Barack Obama

President Obama addressed the IRS controversy Wednesday evening, announcing that the acting commissioner of the IRS has resigned. Obama reiterated that he “would not tolerate this kind of behavior.”

By Karen Tumulty
Published: May 15 E-mail the writer

The most corrosive political scandals are the ones that feed a pre­existing story line — which is why the White House could have difficulty putting the current ones behind it any time soon.

In the view of President Obama’s adversaries, recent revelations add evidence to arguments that they have been making about the president all along: that he would do or say whatever it took to get reelected; that his is a philosophy of rampant, invasive big government; that he has not acted within the constraints of the Constitution; that he regards those who oppose him with contempt.

At issue are three ostensibly unrelated sets of events: the killing of the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans in Ben­ghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11; the improper and overly aggressive Internal Revenue Service scrutiny of groups opposed to Obama’s agenda; and the Justice Department’s seizure of phone records of Associated Press journalists.

“He’s got a trifecta going,” said Don Goldberg, who worked in the Clinton White House’s damage-control operation. “When you add it all up, it’s going to be a rough few months going into the summer.”

On Wednesday, the administration was fighting back on all three fronts.

The White House released 100 pages of e-mails relating to the Benghazi attacks; Obama announced the resignation of the acting IRS director and pledged further action to correct the ­abuses; and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. appeared on Capitol Hill to defend his agency — at one point, going so far as to tell Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), a frequent antagonist, that his conduct was “unacceptable. It is shameful.”

Taken together, and seen through the eyes of critics, the three controversies that confront the White House look like a tea party fever dream.

“The news has, I think, awakened the public, beginning to raise questions in their minds as to the direction of this government. And really, to whom is this government accountable?” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said Wednesday.

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