In "The Princess Bride," there's one word that Vizzini uses repeatedly and inappropriately: "inconceivable." The problem, of course, that the circumstances that he describes as "inconceivable" are actually quite predictable, leading Inigo Montoya to eventually respond, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."
Likewise, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) may be equally confused.
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Wednesday said he believed it was "inconceivable" that President Obama did not learn sooner about the Internal Revenue Service's political targeting of Tea Party groups.
"It's pretty inconceivable to me that the president wouldn't know," Boehner told Fox News's Greta Van Susteren.... "[W]ith as many people that were involved in the audit, the number of people involved in the investigation, somebody -- and the number of people in the White House that knew -- it really is inconceivable that he wouldn't have known about it," he added.
He keeps using that word, but I do not think it means what he thinks it means.
It really isn't inconceivable at all. The president is the chief executive of a very large federal bureaucracy, filled with all kinds of departments and agencies. He's also the president during a time of war and economic crises, so it stands to reason that Obama doesn't have a lot of time to micromanage a division of an IRS office in Cincinnati.
But maybe he knew of allegations that the division of an IRS office in Cincinnati was accused of using ill-advised standards when scrutinizing organizations seeking tax-exempt status? Boehner thinks it's "inconceivable" Obama wasn't aware of this; I think it's "inconceivable" that the Speaker of the House could seriously believe something so deeply silly -- why inform the president and raise the prospect of undermining the Inspector General's investigation? What would be the point?
Boehner believes it's significant that some White House officials were made aware of the probe -- why this is important remains a mystery to me -- but even these GOP talking points keep pushing Obama's critics further from their original goal of connecting the president to the controversy itself. As Jeffrey Toobin explained, "White House officials seem to have engaged in the opposite of a cover-up. They let the investigation proceed, and let the Inspector General do his job. They let the process play out. They played by the rules, which is what lawyers are supposed to do."
Which then leads us to the latest missive from a certain former half-term Alaska governor.
In an op-ed for Breitbart, Palin argues that President Obama should be held responsible for political targeting at the Internal Revenue Service and the formulation of talking points that suggested the Benghazi terror attack had grown spontaneously from a political protest even though there is little to link the West Wing to either.
"For the president to deny any knowledge of what was brewing and to claim to know nothing about the Benghazi cover-up or anything about anything White House-related lately, he's either a liar or a hugely incompetent CEO. You decide," Palin wrote.
And with this, the goalposts move a little further. The right started by arguing, "Why did Obama intervene in the IRS's activities?" This shifted recently to, "Why didn't Obama intervene in the IRS's activities?" And Palin is shifting it again, effectively asking, "Why didn't Obama know more about the IRS's activities?"
This is a more effective line of attack when we're talking about a president's entire Defense apparatus selling weapons to Iran to finance an illegal war in Nicaragua -- if the president didn't know, he should have -- but it makes a lot less sense if we're talking about a president's understanding of a division of an IRS office in Cincinnati.
One might even say it's inconceivable.