The revelation that the computers of Internal Revenue Service workers, including Tea Party prober Lois Lerner, were erased of critical emails sought by lawmakers has elevated the affair to -- and maybe beyond -- an old familiar presidential scandal, Watergate.

“The IRS tea-party audit story isn't Watergate; it's worse than Watergate,” according to deputy Wall Street Journal editorial page editor Daniel Henninger.

“The Watergate break-in was the professionals of the party in power going after the party professionals of the party out of power. The IRS scandal is the party in power going after the most average Americans imaginable,” he added.

Some argue that it is certainly worse than when former President Bill Clinton was accused of using the IRS to punish huge conservative groups including the National Rifle Association, the Heritage Foundation and Judicial Watch.

The reason: Obama’s IRS went after the grassroots. Henninger suggested the order to do so came in Obama’s code language. “Mr. Obama himself in a March 2010 radio address spoke of ‘shadowy groups with harmless sounding names’ that threaten ‘our democracy,’ ” he wrote.

And like Richard Nixon, he added, Obama didn’t have to hound the Tea Party and conservative groups because he was in a good position to get reelected, especially with the GOP so divided.

“They didn't need to do this,” concluded Henninger. “The Obama campaign machine was a wonder, perfecting the uses of social media in 2008 and 2012. But the Democrats were so crazed in 2010 by Citizens United, so convinced that anyone's new political money might bust their hold on power, that they sicced the most feared agency in government on people who disagreed with them.”

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at