The trade-offs aren’t impossible. Outside counsel can act expeditiously; in the 1980s, the legendary Washington lawyer Jake Stein took less than six months to investigate Attorney General-designate Ed Meese. If the misdeeds at the IRS are limited to relatively low-level bureaucrats, such an inquiry should take even less time.

As for the attorney general, his credibility on these hot issues is gone. As a replacement, Obama might have to search for a fair-minded, moderate Republican, and no White House wants an attorney general of the opposite party. That would be better than the status quo. And anything that adds fuel to the phony Benghazi clamor is a political and policy distraction…

This story is a conundrum. This is the most scandal-free administration in recent memory. The word scandal is a misnomer for each of these three distinctly different matters.

Yet Washington works as much on perception as reality. Together, these controversies — and especially the IRS uproar – – threaten to dominate all summer, which would politically imperil any second-term agenda. Last week, the president began to act more decisively. Democrats see that as a start.