First of all, why is it so weird for the head of the IRS to go to the White House? Even if Doug Shulman did visit 157 times as some foaming-at-the-mouth media outlets are – apparently, incorrectly – reporting, who cares? He works right down the street. He's the guy in charge of getting our bills paid. Obamacare is a big deal for this administration and his agency is supposed to help enforce it, what were they supposed to do, hammer it all out via text message and Skype?
The latest twist in the conservative effort to tie the IRS tax-exempt targeting scandal to the president is to focus on public visitor records released by the White House, in which former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman's name appears 157 times between 2009 and 2012. Unfortunately, few of those pushing this line have bothered to read more than the topline of that public information. Bill O'Reilly on Thursday called them the "smoking gun" and demanded of Shulman, "You must explain under oath what you were doing at the White House on 157 separate occasions." His statement built on a Daily Caller story, "IRS's Shulman had more public White House visits than any Cabinet member." An Investors Business Daily story and slew of blog items repeated the charges.
"The alibi the White House has wedded itself to is that it had to work closely with the IRS to implement ObamaCare," the Investor's Business Daily has written — as if that were not true.
And yet the public meeting schedules available for review to any media outlet show that very thing: Shulman was cleared primarily to meet with administration staffers involved in implementation of the health-care reform bill. He was cleared 40 times to meet with Obama's director of the Office of Health Reform, and a further 80 times for the biweekly health reform deputies meetings and others set up by aides involved with the health-care law implementation efforts. That's 76 percent of his planned White House visits just there, before you even add in all the meetings with Office of Management and Budget personnel also involved in health reform.
The problem, according to the Atlantic, is that the White House visitor record log isn't exactly accurate either. But of Shulman's 157 approved visits, only 11 of them actually put Shulman in the White House. And they didn't even count the time he came for the Easter Egg Roll. Oh the scandal!
Indeed, of the 157 events Shulman was cleared to attend, White House records only provide time of arrival information — confirming that he actually went to them — for 11 events over the 2009-2012 period, and time of departure information for only six appointments. According to the White House records, Shulman signed in twice in 2009, five times in 2010, twice in 2011, and twice in 2012. That does not mean that he did not go to other meetings, only that the White House records do not show he went to the 157 meetings he was granted Secret Service clearance to attend.
This is about as much of a story as Colin riding his fixie around Denver in yoga pants. In other words, who cares?