GOP can't help overreaching on Obama scandals

Well, that didn't take long.

Just as several genuine scandals cast the Obama administration in an unfavorable light, Republicans in Congress are already overreaching — with hyperbolic comparisons to Watergate, calls for special prosecutors, outrageous claims about President Barack Obama's involvement, possible impeachment and assorted hyper-partisan rhetoric.


Just this weekend, there was Sen. Rand Paul on TV claiming there was a "written policy" at the Internal Revenue Service to target people opposed to President Obama. But when pressed by an interviewer, the Republican senator admitted he hadn't actually seen such a document and had only "heard about it."

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell accused the administration of fostering a "culture of intimidation," whatever that means. Rep. Michele Bachmann says the IRS scandal is "far worse than Watergate." And former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is already predicting that the president won't finish out his term.

They aren't alone. It's gotten bad enough (and predictable enough) that some wiser heads within the GOP are already counseling their peers to cool off with the wild accusations. That includes former House Speaker Newt Gingrich who said last week that it would be a mistake to appear too eager to dig into the scandals. He even admitted that he was wrong to take that approach with President Bill Clinton over Monica Lewinsky in 1998.

The message broadcast by some of the firebrands in the Republican Party is clear enough. They're already convinced that President Obama is at the center of every accusation out there. Now, it's just a matter of collecting enough evidence to prove it — or at least smear the White House and Democrats generally and win seats in 2014.

That may explain why a recent poll found that while Americans are concerned about the IRS giving extra scrutiny to groups with tea party affiliation in their applications for non-profit status, the Justice Department's secret collection of Associated Press phone records and the administration's handling of the Benghazi attack, they don't blame Mr. Obama. The president's popularity rating is little changed by any of it, according to the opinion survey by CNN and ORC International.

Surely, that's because what's come out so far is troubling but seems little connected to the nation's chief executive. The IRS scandal appears confined in scope and impact. The AP investigation seems not to have directly involved Attorney General Eric Holder let alone anyone higher up, and the Benghazi matter seems to have turned into a dispute over how one writes talking points.

Again, that's not to suggest there aren't matters worthy of scrutiny here, but the manner in which so many in the opposing party leap to conclusions on the slightest thread of hearsay and innuendo gives the public little confidence that any of what they are saying is true. In this, Republicans have become their own worst enemy; they can't even attempt to disguise their hatred of Mr. Obama.

Take Maryland's own Rep. Andy Harris. The Eastern Shore's Republican congressman, a physician, is making the claim that the fact some at the IRS gave tea party-affiliated groups a hard time with their non-profit applications is evidence that the agency is incapable of fairly enforcing the Obamacare insurance mandate. "If we've learned anything this week, it's that the IRS needs less power, not more," Mr. Harris said Saturday in the weekly Republican radio address.

That's the sort of claim one expects from some right-wing talk-radio pundit, but voters should expect a little more restraint from a member of Congress. But, of course, no Republican in Congress ever got in trouble with his political base for being too tough on Mr. Obama or devising yet another argument for overturning health care reform.

Here's an idea for the GOP: Why not show a little caution and at least pretend that you are genuinely interested in learning the facts regarding these irregularities and not just in developing "facts" to suit your political agenda? Not only is that what the majority of voters expect from their elected officials, but, should authentic investigations into these matters actually uncover damning evidence, the public might actually believe it. After all, it's not "oversight" if you're just out to put on a show and not really find out what's going on, good and bad.