IRS Commissioner Miller Resigned or They Fired the Guy on Top

 Sometimes the solution to a problem seems to be to fire the guy on top. So despite the official story that Miller resigned, read between the lines.

In the aftermath of the IRS scandal, President Obama directed Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to seek the resignation of acting IRS Commissioner Steve Miller, which was of course speedily accomplished. Miller was replaced with another bureaucrat, acting Commissioner Daniel Werfel.

Presidents often terminate, or seek the resignations of, high government officials when things go wrong.

The reasons for such presidential actions may be due to bad luck, incompetence in office, criminal conduct, or merely boorish behavior.

For corruption in high office there are many candidates.  Attorney General Harry M. Daugherty resigned in 1931, during Calvin Coolidge’s administration, for accepting bribes from bootleggers.  He was tried and acquitted of corruption twice. In 1958, Sherman Adams, White House chief of staff to President Dwight D. Eisenhower, had to resign after it was revealed that he accepted a coat and an oriental rug from a businessman who had dealings with the federal government.  Office of Management and Budget Director Bert Lance, a close associate of Jimmy Carter, took his leave in 1977 when questions were raised about his management of a bank prior to his time in Washington.

In the category of vulgarity, there are two officials in recent history that come to mind.  Earl Butz, Secretary of Agriculture under President Gerald Ford, was fired in 1978 after he was

overheard telling an obscenely racist joke. And Ronald Regan’s interior secretary, James Watt, was pressured to resign after offending First Lady Nancy Reagan with criticism of the Beach Boys, and then a remark about blacks, Jews and people with disabilities,

The best example of dismissal for bad judgment occurred in 1951, when American forces were forced into retreat by North Korea, and President Truman dismissed his (albeit insubordinate) Commander-in-Chief, Douglas McArthur, basically because of McArthur’s military miscalculations about China’s response to the Korean conflict.

Sometimes, the dismissals are based on a proper political scandal.

 President Richard M. Nixon’s two closest confidants, Bob Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, as well as Attorney General Richard Kleindienst, had to step down amid the Watergate scandal. Prior to that, in 1968, Nixon had directed that A. Ernest Fitzgerald, Deputy for Management Systems for the US Air Force, be fired after he testified to Congress about cost overruns and technical problems. In contrast to Haldeman and Ehrlichman, Fitzgerald got his job back after winning his grievance.

As a result of the Iran Contra debacle in 1987, 14 administration officials were indicted, and President Ronald Reagan admitted that this original intention of gaining a strategic opening to Iran had deteriorated into trading arms for hostages. Some of the officials were later granted presidential pardons by George H. W. Bush.

 President George W. Bush secured the terminations of seven U.S. Attorneys in 2006 amid allegations of the use of their positions for political advantage, with approval by the White House, in targeting dismissals of attorneys that were either investigating Republicans or failing to investigate Democrats.

The best example of loss of employment due to political scandal was, of course, Richard Nixon’s decision to fire himself.

The difference in Miller’s case that he seemed to be sacrificed for the sins of his subordinates, including the targeting of conservative tax-exempt applicants. The maxim that the guy on top gets the blame may be an operative principle in this situation.

Written by:  Tom Ukinski

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