The president is not, however, always so good at the little things. It’s why the scandal at the Internal Revenue Service has been so damaging: It’s as if big blunders by a second-tier agency aren’t something he should trouble his gray head about.
Like most Democrats, Obama wants Americans to trust government to do big things well. Therefore the president might try a kind of broken-windows theory of governing: Fix the small things first and the big things will follow.
By that measure, he would have been invested in making the IRS work. It is the federal agency that most resembles a state’s Department of Motor Vehicles, intersecting with the most citizens the most often. Shorten a few tax forms, and the president could instantly improve the reputation of an annual and feared irritant in the side of every citizen.
Because Obama is Too Big To Fret over the little things, they often get Too Big To Fix by the time he does. The current IRS scandal arose not because there was impermissible political interference, but because there wasn’t enough political oversight. Obama hadn’t appointed an IRS commissioner who would have his back and could have sniffed out a political problem.