A new Fox News poll is out today which finds:
Two-thirds of American voters (66 percent) think the Internal Revenue Service targeted conservative groups as part of a high-level operation to punish political opponents. Far fewer — 23 percent — think it was a mistake by a handful of lower-level IRS employees…
Even Democrats, by a seven percentage-point margin, are more likely to think the targeting was a punitive measure ordered by higher-ups.
In addition, most voters continue to believe the Obama administration knew about (40 percent) or was directly involved in (28 percent) the IRS treating conservative groups unfairly.
Think about that. Sixty-eight percent of Americans believe that Obama either knew or ordered the IRS actions targeting conservative groups. Even more stunning, 48% of Democrats believe Obama either knew or directed the IRS action.
This poll points to a major problem: The IRS actions have eroded the basic compact of trust between the government and the people. And that is having reverberations beyond the IRS scandal.
It is having an impact on national security.
For the past week, I have been defending the Obama administration on the NSA surveillance leaks. In my Washington Post column and TV and radio interviews, I have tried to explain that Big Brother is not watching you, no one is listening to your phone calls or reading your emails.
Those are facts. But people don’t believe it. If this administration abused its power at the IRS, they ask, why should we trust them not to do the same at the NSA?
It’s a fair question.
The details of how we collect signals intelligence on our enemies — and the restrictions we place on the NSA to protect civil liberties — must, of necessity, remain secret. If we reveal them to the American people, we reveal them to al Qaeda — and that makes it easier for the terrorists to evade detection. That means these programs, which are vital to our national security, require a basic compact of trust between the government and its people.
That compact of trust has been gravely damaged. Many Americans simply are not willing to give the president the benefit of the doubt that his administration is not abusing its powers at the NSA — because his administration did abuse its powers at the IRS.
So the actions of the IRS have not only harmed the specific groups targeted, they have put our national security at risk.