Former White House Adviser Says Obama Didn't Know About IRS Targeting Because the Government Is Just Too Dang Big

credit: Talk Radio News Service / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SAcredit: Talk Radio News Service / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SAAsked about the administration’s response to the Internal Revenue Service’s admission, former senior presidential adviser David Axelrod tried to distance President Obama from the bureaucrats who targeted conservatives.

The targeting, Axelrod told MSNBC, was done by “folks down in the bureaucracy—you know we have a large government.” And that’s why the president didn’t know what was happening. “Part of being president is there’s so much beneath you that you can’t know because the government is so vast,” he said.

That’s right. The government is just so big that the president can’t possibly be involved in everything that’s happening, and can't know what multiple offices of tax bureaucrats across the country are doing. This is mostly just excuse-making from Axelrod, but fair enough, I suppose. Still, if the “vast” size of government makes oversight and management of the bureaucracy a problem, it seems like there’s a fairly obvious approach one might take to begin addressing it.

Watch the clip, via NRO, below. 

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • $park¥||

    Coming soon to an election near you, "The Government Is Too Damn Big" party.

  • UnCivilServant||

    At least he was entertaining... I'm just sad that that raving loon didn't win the NY Governership and we got stuck with the other raving loon.

    Fun fact, "The Rent is too damn high" is too long to be printed on the NY Ballot, so had to be cut down to "Rent". What would "The Government is too damn big" be cut down to? "Government"?

    "What'd you vote?" "I voted government." "What? I thought we hated those guys."

  • Almanian!||

    "Too Big" Party

    THAT'S WHAT SHE SAID!

  • Generic Stranger||

    You should have chosen a smaller strap-on.

  • RFID||

    I thought he cut it down to something like "rent2damhi"?

  • Hugh Akston||

    Still, if the “vast” size of government makes oversight and management of the bureaucracy a problem, it seems like there’s a fairly obvious approach one might take to begin addressing it.

    M...moar government?

  • Almanian!||

    ^^THIS

    Clearly, we need....five Vice Presidents. So the President has people to oversee this vast, Right Wing Conspiracy government.

    It's the right thing to do.

  • tarran||

    What we need to do is to divide the country into two halves and have two co-presidents.

  • SweatingGin||

    Time to get the Jesusland map out again?

  • tarran||

    The Mississippi river would do just fine, I think.

  • WTF||

    The western empire capital can be called Obamanople.

  • Monkey's Uncle||

    First it could be named Barastanbul . . .

  • LTC(ret) John||

    Its Barastanbul, not Obamanople
    Barastanbul, not Obamanople
    Been a long time gone, Obamanople
    Why did Obamanople get the works?
    That's nobody's business but the Jesuslander Bible thumping, bitterclinger cousin humpers

    /Prog lament

  • SweatingGin||

    Let's start small, with just a second consul. Maybe have one focused on the east, and the other on the west. Or one domestic, one foreign.

  • Zombie Jimbo||

    One east, one west? And leave the middle ungoverned! Sign me up!

  • tarran||

    Dude, I have bad news for you...

    They're working their way around toward Tax Farming.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    Great, next up Glebae adscripti!

  • $park¥||

    Still, if the “vast” size of government makes oversight and management of the bureaucracy a problem, it seems like there’s a fairly obvious approach one might take to begin addressing it.

    More middle management?

  • Smilin' Joe Fission||

    A few more administrators should clear this problem right up

  • LTC(ret) John||

    NEEDZ MOAR GS-15s!

  • robc||

    Its nice to know that I agree with the Obama administration on one thing.

  • Slammer||

  • Almanian!||

    Well - I should hope so. We don't want to scare the Chicagoans, so secure in their peaceful, warm, protective sanctuary.

  • ||

    I don't even get why they wouldn't be allowed to have it under current law, unless they just don't know who to register it to.

  • ||

    These rules are needed to keep guns out of the hands of escaped cryo-prisoners in the future.

  • Sevo||

    "Still, if the “vast” size of government makes oversight and management of the bureaucracy a problem, it seems like there’s a fairly obvious approach one might take to begin addressing it."

    All you guys are WRONG! What we need to do is turn over our medical care to it!

  • Pro Libertate||

    So the government is too damned big, is it? Well, I guess we'll have to reduce the size of government.

  • Almanian!||

    CRAZY TALK, RIGHT HERE ^^

  • Pro Libertate||

    Look, that's what the administration is saying, right? I'm glad we're all agreed.

  • Art Vandelay||

    THIS IS WHAT PRO LIB ACTUALLY BELIEVES!!1!1

  • Pro Libertate||

    Don't audit me, bro!

  • Almanian!||

    PS No, fuck you, cut spending.

  • SweatingGin||

    It's been cut to the bone! There's nothing left to cut!

    If it weren't for the sequestration, the IRS wouldn't have had to prioritize applications based on politics and hold up/audit the president's opponents.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    Which they had to do retroactively to 2010, even though the law wasn't passed until 2011.

  • DJF||

    Which is one of my big reason why the government needs to be downsized, its too big to be supervised

    Its also why I think the US needs to cut back on its overseas adventures, the don't know enough to run everything in the USA, they certainly don't know enough to run the world.

  • Eric Bana||

    Obviously the government is too small. Just look at the state of our public education system and our unemployment rates. (sarcasm--but scary to think people would genuinely advance this argument)

  • $park¥||

    Obviously. Just think of how great America would be if the obstructionist Republicans would stop holding up progress.

    /Krugman

  • Smilin' Joe Fission||

    blah blah.. fault of the obstructionist republicans.. blah blah.. stimulus wasn't big enough.. blah blah.. debt doesn't matter..blah etc. blah

    /Every Krugman piece ever

  • Leigh||

    More CZARS!!!

  • Monkey's Uncle||

    "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana

  • lap83||

    The government is too big for how small it is!

  • albo||

    I think David Axelrod was the inspiration for the joke, "why didn't the shark eat the lawyer? professional courtesy."

    I wouldn't cross the street to piss on him even if a naked Jessica Alba was standing beside me asking me to.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    "if a naked Jessica Alba was standing beside me asking me to"

    Well, I might.

    But I wouldn't piss in his ear if his brain was on fire.

  • Rasilio||

    Has anyone credible even implied that Obama knew about the IRS targeting of conservative groups?

    No what is 100x more likely is Obama said something along the lines of "I wish someone would do something about these pesky teabaggers" and someone in the administration placed a call to the regional IRS office and suggested the change in policy without ever running it through anyone else.

    No the real problem is that IRS officials (and almost certainly Turbo Tax Timmy) knew about this BEFORE the election but rather than do anything honest and transparent they sat on the info and allowed things to proceed until after the election was over.

  • ant1sthenes||

    Given the allegations that his campaign directly benefited by some IRS malfeasance (e.g., leaking info on Romney donors and I think even Romney himself, not to mention giving him the Koch bros tax info for the President himself to throw around at a press conference), it's hard to imagine they didn't.

  • Gadianton||

    No what is 100x more likely is Obama said something along the lines of "I wish someone would do something about these pesky teabaggers" and someone in the administration placed a call to the regional IRS office and suggested the change in policy without ever running it through anyone else.

    Obama as Henry II. I like it.

    Humor aside, this is more plausible to me than the idea that these mid-level bureaucrats implemented this on their own hook.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    Will no one rid me of these meddlesome Teabaggerz?!

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    That's been my theory on it too--Axelrod does have a point that the scale of the current government makes it pretty hard for Obama to directly order something like this, even if it is the Chicago way.

    It's a lot more likely that the local bureau chief told a bunch of GS-7s to do this, and they complied in the interest of keeping their jobs.

  • LarryA||

    Back in leadership school they told me that the indians tend to follow the example set by the chief. But we probably don't want to go there.

  • Unindicted Co-conspirator||

    The balls on these people.

  • Winded||

    I think I'm getting it...the government is too big to oversee these sorts of abuses, but when something goes well in the country, this administration absolutely was micromanaging that aspect?

  • G-dub||

    So the buck stops... at several regional offices across the country that all coincidentally came up with the same idea.

  • Tyler Durden||

    One of the biggest problems with modern democracies is that the concept of cabinet responsibility has been forgotten, as it conflicts with party loyalty. Particularly in Commonwealth countries, it was once considered binding precedent that a cabinet secretary/minister was responsible for anything and everything that went wrong in their department, and was bound by duty to resign if scandal brought dishonor to their department. If a Cabinet Minister claimed not to be aware of a scandal, that in itself was grounds for virtually automatic dismissal. Now, at this point, what does it matter where the buck stops? It doesn't stop with Clinton, it doesn't stop with Holder, and Obama himself apparently now gets his briefings from the news media, rather than his Cabinet or White House.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement