President Obama condemned Internal Revenue Service employees Tuesday night for improperly targeting conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.
Obama's statement came after several days during which he was criticized for a tepid response to the IRS abuses. An IRS official had admitted the improper practices several days ago. But Obama initially resisted making a blunt statement of condemnation, saying he didn't have all the facts.
His new statement noted: "I have now had the opportunity to review the Treasury Department watchdog's report on its investigation of IRS personnel who improperly targeted conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status. And the report's findings are intolerable and inexcusable. The federal government must conduct itself in a way that's worthy of the public's trust, and that's especially true for the IRS. The IRS must apply the law in a fair and impartial way, and its employees must act with utmost integrity. This report shows that some of its employees failed that test."
Obama said he had directed Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to "hold those responsible for these failures accountable, and to make sure that each of the Inspector General's recommendations are implemented quickly, so that such conduct never happens again. But regardless of how this conduct was allowed to take place, the bottom line is, it was wrong."
Obama's declaration is not likely to reduce the anger and outrage that conservatives are expressing over the IRS issue. The episode is likely to motivate congressional conservatives to increase their scrutiny of the administration more than ever, with the goal of exposing abuses of power.
Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog "Ken Walsh's Washington" for usnews.com, and "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He is the author of the new book "Prisoners of the White House: The Isolation of America's Presidents and the Crisis of Leadership." Ken Walsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Facebook and Twitter.