Still. The IRS kerfuffle might not be as bad as some people are saying it is, but it’s definitely bad. It’s unacceptable for the agency to selectively enforce the law, intentionally or otherwise. The whole system’s integrity relies on it being applied fairly. And now it’s going to be even harder for the IRS to move forward with clarifying the vague rules for nonprofits that were a big part of the problem in the first place.
E. J. Dionne is right that these are very different situations; the political narrative of a “scandal week” for the Obama administration obscures more than it reveals. Some IRS staffers in Ohio made a bad judgment call as they tried to get through piles of applications. Back in Washington, Justice and the AP were at odds. Different actors, different issues at play, different consequences.
But the administration’s opponents smell blood now, so this is the narrative we’re stuck with: Can you believe all the Big Government overreach lately? Exhibit A! Exhibit B! And the fact that exhibits A and B are legitimate problems can lend the less legitimate exhibits C, D and so on a boost of credibility. It’s no way to have a national debate.