As could be expected, the folks in the [IRS] determinations unit on Main Street have had trouble concentrating this week. Number crunchers, whose work is nonpolitical, don’t necessarily enjoy the spotlight, especially when the media and the public assume they’re engaged in partisan villainy.

“We’re not political,’’ said one determinations staffer in khakis as he left work late Tuesday afternoon. “We people on the local level are doing what we are supposed to do. . . . That’s why there are so many people here who are flustered. Everything comes from the top. We don’t have any authority to make those decisions without someone signing off on them. There has to be a directive.”

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Pfeiffer denied that there was any influence from the White House.

“But don’t take my word for it,” he continued. “Take the word of the independent inspector general, who said that he found no evidence that there was any influence from anywhere outside of the IRS.”

Pfeiffer also said the White House had not seen the inspector general’s report last week detailing the IRS scandal until its release…

“We are going to work with Congress, as the president said, in legitimate oversight,” Pfeiffer said. “What we’re not going to participate in is partisan fishing expeditions designed to distract from the real issues at hand.”

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With the White House slashing its way through the recent brush of controversy, the president is putting out the message that he’s focused on the economy as the administration enters another week of hearings on Capitol Hill…

His chief of staff, Denis McDonough, is telling White House staff to devote no more than 10% of their time to the controversies involving the Internal Revenue Service, the Justice Department and the terror attack in Benghazi, Libya, a Democrat aware of McDonough’s instructions confirmed to CNN…

Clearly there are no time cards floating around but the message was conveyed that the White House needs to focus on its jobs agenda and not get knocked off course by the rest.

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Just four months after his second inauguration, the president is buffeted by gushing investigations, smug and deranged Republicans, and cat-who-ate-the-canary conspiracists. The man who promised in 2008 to make government cool again is instead batting away charges that he has made government “Nixonian” again…

It turns out that Treasury officials knew during the 2012 campaign that an investigation into the targeting was going on. But, enhancing his image as a stranger in a strange land, the president said he learned about it from news reports on May 10. Then he waited three days to descend from the mountain and express outrage…

The president should try candid; wistful and petulant aren’t getting him anywhere. The Republicans who are putting partisan gain above solving the country’s problems deserve a smackdown.

***

President Obama’s professed ignorance of the targeting of conservatives by one government agency and his support of tracking journalists’ sources by another highlight one of the great paradoxes of his presidency: Sometimes he uses his office as aggressively as anyone who’s held it; other times he seems unacquainted with the work of his own administration.

The controversies over the Internal Revenue Service’s scrutiny of tea party and other conservative groups and the Justice Department’s surveillance of Associated Press journalists are only the latest examples of Obama’s a la carte governing style…

Aides say it was an unfortunate coincidence that two controversies erupted simultaneously in areas that do not necessarily fall under Obama’s direct power. Yet that reality also may have effectively shielded Obama from learning about red flags that arise beyond the bubble of the Oval Office.

“It’s one thing for the president to make sure he doesn’t say or do anything that might undermine the independence of agencies like the Justice Department or the IRS,” Tribe said. “It’s quite another for the president to insulate himself to a degree that creates the false public impression of disinterest or indifference.”

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Some of his wounds are self-inflicted. For five years the Obama administration has displayed a destructive tendency to try to have it both ways. In a press conference Thursday, the president did so again.

In lawyerly responses, Obama said he supported journalists’ constitutional right to report but stood by the fact that his administration has carried out more criminal leak investigations than all previous administrations combined . He called for the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad but prevaricated on how the United States would respond to apparent Syrian government chemical weapons attacks.

Obama came into office promising openness – but from counter-terrorism to domestic policy, his White House has been secretive, insular and controlling.

***

Yes, the various scandals have been politicized this week. That’s the American we live in today, but even among Obama voters, there should be genuine disappointment. This not the President Obama we voted for, not even close…

[T]his week was one head-shaking moment too many for me, and it appears from the president’s sinking approval rating that others – including some who gave Obama a real chance – are with me. As a registered Republican, I thought long and hard about whether to vote for Obama, but I crossed party lines, as did many of my young peers. I wanted a more transparent and accountable government. I wanted America to make a very different statement after the Bush years.

Yet even setting aside Benghazi and the IRS conservative targeting ordeal, which is a big set aside considering reports now suggest that officials in Washington were very much involved, there’s still plenty that makes Obama’s presidency eerily reminiscent of the Bush administration, especially when it comes to these “trust us, this is in the name of national security” kind of statements…

This isn’t the president so many took to the streets to cheer on in 2008. And the blame for that can’t be placed solely on partisan politics or the media’s thirst for a good scandal.

***

The same goes for much, but not all, of what the federal government does today. Should a president be worrying about security at diplomatic posts in violent countries? Absolutely. National security is one of the federal government’s core functions.

Should a president be worrying about whether or not taxpayer dollars are properly invested in the right energy companies? Not so much.

The myriad scandals currently drowning the White House are not just an indictment of Obama’s leadership. They are, more importantly, an indictment of the liberal view of an expansive federal government.

The American people simply have too little control over the federal bureaucracy to trust that it will properly manage large sectors of the economy like health care, education or agriculture.

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GEORGE WILL: Big government. The best construction on the IRS scandal is big government is impossible to monitor. That’s the lesson of this.

RON FOURNIER: But any government has to be trusted.

WILL: Any government has to be trusted. But the bigger the government gets, the bigger the distrust ought to be and will be.

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“This is big-government cronyism.”

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While the Internal Revenue Service maintains it was not focusing on conservative groups out of political bias, Sen. Rand Paul claimed Sunday there was a “written policy” floating around the agency that said IRS officials were “targeting people who were opposed to the president.”

“And when that comes forward, we need to know who wrote the policy and who approved the policy,” the Republican senator from Kentucky said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Pressed for more precise details about the memo he was referring to, Paul said he hasn’t seen such a policy statement but has heard about it.

“Well, we keep hearing the reports and we have several specifically worded items saying who was being targeted. In fact, one of the bullet points says those who are critical of the president. So I don’t know if that comes from a policy, but that’s what’s being reported in the press and reported orally,” he told CNN’s chief political correspondent Candy Crowley. “I haven’t seen a policy statement, but I think we need to see that.”

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