America can handle the truth. Even if that truth could include a coverup at the powerful IRS.
The IRS mission statement pledges to "enforce the law with integrity and fairness to all."
But public scrutiny has revealed details indicating a level of politicization totally at odds with that.
Look at the two eye-opening developments that have happened at the IRS since May: An acting IRS commissioner resigned, and another powerful IRS official refused to answer questions before Congress, pleading the Fifth Amendment.
Whatever is going on, there is only one way to proceed, and that is a professional and thorough investigation.
For people who haven't been following a lot of this, let me quickly get you up to speed:
The IRS inspector general released a report on May 14 describing how the agency had inappropriately targeted tea party and conservative groups that had applied for tax-exempt status.
Then the IRS put these groups through extra reviews, substantial delays and burdensome requests for information.
The reaction was immediate. The next day, President Barack Obama announced that the acting IRS commissioner was resigning.
That doesn't exactly happen every day.
Obama went on to say, "I will not tolerate this kind of behavior in any agency, but especially in the IRS, given the power that it has and the reach that it has into all of our lives."
After that shocking disclosure, several things happened:
• Senate and House committees launched investigations into the scandal.
• The FBI began a criminal investigation.
• The IRS inspector general expanded its ongoing investigation.
• IRS official Lois Lerner exercised her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination by refusing to answer questions before Congress.
Some interesting developments emerged from all that.
For one, the original claim during IRS testimony -- that the scandal was the result of a couple of "rogue IRS agents" in the agency's Cincinnati field office -- didn't hold water.
It turned out that, according to frontline IRS agents in Cincinnati interviewed by House Oversight committee investigators, the Washington IRS office had played a key role in the handling of the tea party applications.
Retired IRS lawyer Carter Hull disclosed in testimony that IRS Counsel William Wilkins was one of his supervisors in the targeting of conservative groups. (The IRS has denied Wilkins' involvement in the targeting of specific groups.)
The inspector general's report found that Wilkins' office had sent the exempt organizations determination unit on April 24, 2012, "additional comments on the draft guidance" for considering applications of tea party groups for tax-exempt status (PDF).
The connections between Wilkins' office and the inappropriate profiling of conservative groups are especially noteworthy because there are only two appointees of the president at the IRS: the commissioner and the chief counsel.
Cynics may view this controversy as typical when the House is in the hands of a different party than the president, but guess what?
The Democrat-controlled Senate's Finance Committee has also weighed in.
That committee has called for three things: a hearing, an investigation and a request to the IRS for documents.