(WASHINGTON) — Former White House senior adviser and Democratic strategist David Plouffe fought back against assertions from GOP strategist and George W. Bush’s former Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove that the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups was a political pursuit driven by Democrats.
“There’s been no suggestion — the Inspector General said there was no politics involved in this,” Plouffe said this morning on This Week. “This was not an effort driven by the White House. It would be the dumbest political effort of all time.”
Rove, who co-founded the GOP-affiliated outside spending group American Crossroads, argued that IRS workers in offices across the country may have taken direction, inadvertently, from top Democrats.
“I think people sitting in Cincinnati, Laguna Niguel, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. listen to people like Senator Max Baucus, Senator Chuck Schumer, President Obama,” Rove said. “When President Obama goes out in 2010 and calls these groups ‘a threat to democracy’ he’s blowing a dog whistle.”
Rove said that he believes further investigations into the situation will reveal a focus on conservative political groups, as well as a targeting of individuals.
“We’re going to find that the IRS targeted conservative political groups, not liberal groups, and that they targeted specific individuals,” he said. “This is just ridiculous.”
The two top strategists agreed however that the various controversies facing the administration right now should not eclipse Washington’s work on fixing the economy.
“All these things deserve thorough investigation,” Plouffe said. “The question is, is that all Congress is going to do? Are we just going to be obsessed with scandal and trying to score political points, or the American people could not be screaming any more loudly, ‘worry about us.’ ‘Work on the economy.’”
“This has to be a concern for the administration too,” Rove responded. “People don’t think the economy is good, and they don’t approve of the president’s handling of the economy, so I think it is important.”
Plouffe and Rove were joined on the This Week by editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post media group Arianna Huffington, Wall Street Journal Editorial Page Director Paul Gigot and PBS’ Washington Week Moderator and managing editor Gwen Ifill. The powerhouse round table debated all of the week’s politics, in addition to the IRS controversy, including the path ahead for immigration reform, and Tea Party star Michele Bachmann’s surprise announcement earlier this week that she would not be seeking re-election in 2014.
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