The Public Wants a Special Prosecutor to Investigate the IRS

| Thu May 30, 2013 9:37 AM EDT

A recent Quinnipiac poll suggests that the public isn't too concerned about either Benghazi or the subpoena of AP phone records. But they are concerned about the IRS scandal. Ed Kilgore highlights a disturbing piece of this:

The most startling finding from the Q-poll is that 76% of respondents—including 63% of Democrats and 88% of Republicans—favor the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the IRS allegations. This may simply reflect the fact that many people don't know who to trust as the "scandal" drags on, and/or that partisans assume the "other side" has too much control over the investigations. But these are some formidable numbers for a course of action that most liberal elites—and a growing number of conservative elites—deplore as threatening a nightmarish return to the 1990s at their worst.

My guess is that most people simply don't understand the implications. "Special prosecutor" sounds pretty benign, after all. They just aren't aware that, in practice, they mostly turn into obsessive, Ahab-like trawlers through every nook and cranny of the federal government.

It sure seems like there ought to be some way to keep them more focused, though. Obviously that didn't work with Ken Starr, but why can't a special prosecutor be appointed jointly by House, Senate, and president, with a limited mandate and a clear timeframe? Say, one year or so. And an agreement that the mandate can't be changed unless all three agree to it. It seems like that ought to be doable. So why isn't it?

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