These defenses are of course totally inconsistent.
In his Monday remarks addressing the targeting of conservative groups for tax-exempt scrutiny, Mr. Obama declared that the IRS is "an independent agency."
In his press briefing after the story broke on Friday, White House press secretary Jay Carney hit the same note. "The IRS is an independent enforcement agency with only two political appointees," he said.
The IRS is many things, but "independent" isn't one of them. It is formally part of the Treasury Department and is headed by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, who is appointed by the President. The Commissioner is accountable to the President reporting through the Treasury Secretary.
The White House has also been at pains to stress that former Commissioner Douglas Shulman, who told Congress in 2012 that there had been no targeting of political groups, was appointed by George W. Bush. So the Commissioner is accountable to the President, as long as he's the former President? Or what?
Congress gave the President the power to hire and fire the IRS chief precisely to ensure that the tax authority is politically accountable. By claiming the IRS is "independent," Mr. Obama is trying to rewrite the lines of accountability to spare himself, even as he demands for public soundbite purposes that any culprits be held "fully accountable." In any case it's hardly reassuring if the politicized tax enforcement was done by career bureaucrats. This would mean such abuses are embedded in IRS enforcement culture.
The White House says Mr. Obama only learned of the IRS political abuses from news reports. Funny, that's also how they learned about the Justice Department seeking the phone records of the Associated Press. And who knows what the State Department or "the intelligence community" was up to on Benghazi. The Washington Examiner's David Freddoso joked on Twitter that "Seal Team 6 is the only govt agency that acts directly on Obama's behalf." All others are run by career officials who keep screwing up. Your "independent" government at work.