How To Think About The IRS Scandal

Before I begin a discussion on the newest scandal—the IRS targeting conservative groups for heightened scrutiny—that currently has Big Media engaged in an orgy of speculation, I want to remind everyone that whatever additional news that comes to light regarding the IRS’s indefensible actions, or, for that matter, whatever happens in the seemingly endless investigations over the Benghazi attacks, we should all remember that the greatest scandal of the last four years has gone mostly unreported by Big Media.

That great scandal, still ongoing, is the right-wing conspiracy—yep, there are real conspiracies—to destroy the presidency of Barack Obama by plotting against him and by trying to cripple the country’s economic recovery from the 2008 financial crisis, a crisis largely caused by right-wing philosophy and policies.  That’s the real scandal, but one that is so wide and encompassing—almost the entire leadership of the Republican Party is involved, along with nearly every GOP member of Congress—it lacks the simplicity of the much-hated IRS singling out “patriot” groups, or the death and destruction (complete with video that can be played again and again) surrounding the Benghazi tragedy.

That being said, what the IRS did, was, again, indefensible. In case you were celebrating Mother’s Day Weekend and not paying much attention to the news, the IRS apologized on Friday for inappropriately targeting conservative groups during the 2012 election, as part of its job of determining whether such groups were truly deserving of tax-exempt status. And every liberal, every Democrat, should be outraged at what the IRS revealed, and will further reveal, as the agency’s inspector general report is released in its final form.

Singling out this or that ideological group is completely contrary to the mission of the IRS, no matter who is ostensibly running the government at the time. At present, we don’t know enough about what happened to pin the blame, but we will find out. It’s important to remember, as just one point among many, that the IRS Commissioner in March of 2012, who told a House Committee that the IRS was not specifically targeting 501(c)3 or 501(c)4 organizations based on ideology, was Douglas Shulman—a George W. Bush appointee.

It’s also important to note that this scandal was first revealed on Friday by the IRS itself, in the person of Lois Lerner, who is the director of the agency’s Exempt Organizations Division—three levels below the IRS Commissioner. Asked about her agency’s handling of Tea Party applications for tax exemption, she said she learned in June of 2011 what was going on in a field office in Cincinnati—agents responsible for reviewing applications for tax-exempt status were over-scrutinizing groups with “tea party” or “patriot” or other favorite names used by conservative organizers—and she immediately put a stop to it.  Lerner also pointed out that not one of the scrutinized groups lost its tax-exempt status.

So, with all that in mind, and with more facts to unearth, let’s get to the Big Media hysteria over this issue. I will use only three examples of many available. This morning’s Morning Joe, the political show watched by most pols in D.C., featured this exchange:

WILLIE GEIST: There’s been many overblown claims of tyranny and abuse of power from the government of the last two years. We’ve heard those— “we’re coming for your guns,” that kind of thing—this is tyranny—

JOE SCARBOROUGH: This is.

WILLIE GEIST: —the government, a non-partisan agency coming after specific groups. This time its real. That’s tyranny.

Tyranny? Come on. Willie must have been huffing his wife’s nail polish remover over the weekend. That ridiculous claim is designed not to describe what the IRS did, but to win favor with those on the right who have, from the time the Scary Negro entered the White’s House, labeled him a tyrant. To seriously claim that giving extra scrutiny to right-wing groups seeking tax-exempt status from the IRS qualifies as tyranny, is, well, to not have the slightest idea what a real tyrannical government is like. Willie Geist should go here and see what genuine tyranny entails (warning: it is graphic).

In any case, there was more from Morning Joe’s host:

JOE SCARBOROUGH:  I can’t imagine much…worst than this. The Internal Revenue Service, the taxman, who, after all, we patriots, our forefathers and foremothers, did break away from the British government based on taxes, on the tax revolt. For the IRS to go after people because of their political beliefs…it’s unspeakable…

The British are coming! The British are coming! Oh,my. Unspeakable? Really? But speaking of unspeakable, Joe Klein, TIME’s political columnist, went there:

Yet again, we have an example of Democrats simply not managing the government properly and with discipline. This is just poisonous at a time of skepticism about the efficacy of government. And the President should know this: the absence of scandal is not the presence of competence. His unwillingness to concentrate — and I mean concentrate obsessively — on making sure that government is managed efficiently will be part of his legacy.

Previous Presidents, including great ones like Roosevelt, have used the IRS against their enemies. But I don’t think Obama ever wanted to be on the same page as Richard Nixon. In this specific case, he now is.

I wondered over the weekend which journalist would be the first to compare Obama to Nixon, and Joe Klein, as far as I can tell, wins the prize. The prize in this case, of course, is Most Embarrassing Example of Inference-Observation Confusion By A Respected Journalist In 2013. Congratulations, Joe.

To say that “Democrats” are not “managing the government properly” is to say that Democrats are in fact managing the government. Most of the government is managed by bureaucrats—there are only two political appointees running the IRS for instance—and some bureaucrats are Democrats and some are Republicans. Perhaps at least one of those mischievous IRS agents in Cincinnati was a moderate Republican who didn’t like what extremists were doing to the GOP. Who knows at this point?

And if Joe Klein is so damned worried about “skepticism about the efficacy of government,” why not point out in his hysterical Obama-is-on-the-same-page-as-Nixon piece that it has been the Republican Party that decided to poison the country with its anti-government, Obama-is-a-socialist-tyrant message that this latest malfeasance by IRS agents feeds?

Further, to hold Barack Obama accountable, in a Nixonian context, for what IRS agents in a field office in Cincinnati do, without the slightest evidence that the President even knows an IRS agent in a field office in Cincinnati, is, again, exactly what is wrong with Big Media.

My third and final example of Big Media hysteria is from the otherwise venerable Chris Cillizza, who runs “The Fix” for The Washington Post. He included the following delirious nonsense from the lips of a man who masquerades as a Democrat on Fox “News”:

“Politicizing the IRS was one of the articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon,” noted Doug Schoen, who handles polling for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “That being said, we are still a very long way from that point.” But, Schoen added: “The allegations are very, very serious and it is simply impossible to believe that it was just Lois Lerner and some low-level employees in Cincinnati who came up with this scheme to systematically focus on Tea Party and ‘patriot’ groups.”

Unbelievably, Cillizza led with that statement from Schoen. That should be a mini-scandal in itself. But impeachment talk, comparing Obama to the criminally disgraced Nixon, and suggesting that what some IRS agents did in Cincinnati amounts to tyranny, is how Big Media is handling this latest scandal.

Meanwhile, that other scandal, the one involving Republicans punishing the American people in order to punish the President, goes mostly unreported. And, quite ironically, the trouble the IRS has caused for itself and the President and those who believe government is mostly a force for good, will mean that those conservative “tax-exempt” groups that have been aiding and abetting the Republican conspiracy to destroy-the-Obama-presidency-even-if- it-wounds-the-country, will enjoy little or no scrutiny in the months and years to come.

Thus, if Obama is a tyrant, he’s not very damn good at it.

15 Comments

  1. ansonburlingame

     /  May 13, 2013

    My, my, Duane,

    A rather long ……. I am not sure exactly what “it” was, frankly. Was it a defense, in general of President Obama, some blame on the IRS at some level, a rant against the GOP, in general, or was Joe Klein your particularly target of interest. I can’t tell, for sure, but so what.

    If you want however to consider a far more general approach to consider as we all become more frustrated with government and politics, I offer http://ansonburlingame.wordpress.com/2013/05/13/responsibility/

    I tried to cut to the chase, in general and offer some fundamental thoughts about Benghazi, Boston, etc. I simply overlooked the ongoing IRS thing but could easily have added it to the list.

    Anson

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    • Perhaps I can simplify it for you, which is much less fun as a writer:

      1. The IRS screwed up by singling out right-wing groups.

      2. That screw-up, though, is not the end of America as we know it.

      3. Obama is not Richard Nixon in blackface, nor a dictator, nor should he be impeached.

      4. And journalists are missing the real scandal of how the Republican Party was, and still is, willing to ruin the economic recovery for purely—absolutely purely—political gain.

      There, that’s pretty much it.

       

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  2. King Beauregard

     /  May 13, 2013

    “Singling out this or that ideological group is completely contrary to the mission of the IRS, no matter who is ostensibly running the government at the time.”

    Which I could agree with, except that they were applying for 501(c)(4) status, which is for organizations primarily serving a non-political function. Show me an organization calling itself “Tea Party” whatever, and I’ll show you an organization that is all about politics. Just because they are in denial about their nature when it is convenient to be in denial, doesn’t mean the IRS shouldn’t be suspicious.

    And just a reminder: the Tea Partiers named themselves after an incident of trying to avoid paying taxes. These guys give the IRS every reason to be suspicious of them, and then cry foul when the IRS takes the hint. I have to side with the IRS on this one.

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    • I don’t disagree that the name “tea party” is meant to send a message about the nature of the organization applying for tax exempt status. And I don’t disagree that there ought to be much suspicion and scrutiny of their actions. The problem is that it appeared that the scrutiny was mostly directed toward right-leaning groups. The language-flagging was later changed to reflect an effort to catch both sides doing the cheating, even though I am positive that there was not a proportionate amount of cheating going on. It was mostly one-sided. But an agency has to scrupulously maintain the appearance of neutrality, just for the reasons we see today: it seems to confirm some of the complaints of the reactionaries, which is never a good thing. I will remind you of the exchange between Willie Geist and Joe Scarborough:

      WILLIE GEIST: There’s been many overblown claims of tyranny and abuse of power from the government of the last two years. We’ve heard those— “we’re coming for your guns,” that kind of thing—this is tyranny—

      JOE SCARBOROUGH: This is.

      WILLIE GEIST: —the government, a non-partisan agency coming after specific groups. This time its real. That’s tyranny.

      Now, is that a bunch of bullshit? Yep. But when it is widely accepted, by even more sane voices, on MSNBC morning programming that the IRS screwed up, and when the IRS itself admitted it screwed up, then we sort of have to admit that what those agents did in Cincinnati, while completely logical in one sense, was in another the exact wrong thing to do. Feeding paranoia-crazed individuals is, I suggest, not the mission of our tax-collecting agency and it is counter-productive in trying to engineer faith in good government.

      Duane

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  3. One thing I don’t get is if Obama’s worst critics want to more to call him lazy and incompetent, or an effective and dangerous tyrant. They seem often to want to do both, and I think you can’t do that. They have to pick one or the other.

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    • Nice point, Bruce. But the problem is that they don’t have to pick one or the other. Living with severe cognitive dissonance is part of the derangement syndrome from which they suffer. You see, Obama can be lazy and incompetent one day, but the next day he is overseeing this grand scheme to frustrate conservative groups and to engage in a world-wide effort to bring sharia law to the homeland. He is, obviously, an amazing fella.

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  4. The right wing complaining because the IRS is mostly going after their organizations in their search for specious C-4s is like cockroaches complaining that they’re being specifically targeted by household pest control services.

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    • Trouble is the cockroaches have a news network and talk radio and effective control of the legislative branch.

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  5. ansonburlingame

     /  May 14, 2013

    Good summary (for me) Duane, and thank you.

    We both agree for sure on #1. the IRS screwed up. So when an agency of the federal government screws up, who exactly is responsibile for the screw up? Apply that to the IRS issue, Benghazi (multiple agencies, maybe), a “small break in” in 1972, etc.

    I agree on #2 as well, but do think the issue is a big deal now and should be so, now or in the past. The IRS MUST NEVER be used as a political tool nor should there ever be a HINT of such malfeasance (screw up if you like). We really do need to know who did it, why and what action will be taken to prevent such malfeasance in the future, no matter which party is in power. Same applies to how DOJ decides to adjudicate ANY criminal or potential criminal matters as well. America, all Americans must TRUST those agencies and if some lack such trust, well we need to “look into the matter”, apolitically.

    Now for #3. I try to give the President the benefit of the doubt in most cases. I for sure see, for now, no malfeasance from the White House on the IRS issue. But who knows today what emails are yet to be revealed (like tape recordings of old). On Benghazi we are for sure in opposite camps. No doubt the WH tried hard to minimize Benghazi for strictly political purposes during a heated campaign. Was that just politics as normal or instead was it then (and now) something bordering on a cover up? I don’t know yet but sure do want the truth on the matter.

    #4, well you are being so partisan that you go beyond the pale, accussing the GOP of trying to destroy the economy for political purposes. Sure the GOP want Dems out of the WH just like Dems wanted GOP our of the Bush WH. But NEITHER tried to destroy the country or force us to lose a war for such political gains.

    DEMS hated GOP decisions regarding war. GOPers hate DEM decisions on how to grow the economy. But BOTH sides, I hope, wanted and want to win wars and grow the economy. It is who gets the credit for both is where the political anger comes into play!!

    As for the other commenters seemingly “siding with the IRS” on this matter, well that is simply crazy in my view and deserves no comment whatsoever. IRS (or DOJ) meddling in political matters is about as UNAMERICAN as can be, in my view.

    The ONLY way to counter that view is to try to say the IRS did NOT try to meddle in politics. You are going to have a damned hard time on that point, for sure, today. But more will be revealed as well, I’m sure.

    Anson

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    • King Beauregard

       /  May 14, 2013

      Making sure applicants meet the qualifications of 501(c)(4) status is not “meddling in politics”. When ANY clearly political group that runs candidates — Tea Party, Democratic Party, Republican Party, Green Party, Bull Moose Party, whatever — tries to land 501(c)(4), they do so at the disadvantage of disqualifying themselves by having a specifically political reason for even existing.

      I cannot find any record of the Democratic Party applying for 501(c)(4) status. If they did, I certainly hope the IRS would quickly reject their application, because they don’t qualify any more than the Tea Partiers do. But then again that’s probably why the Democrats haven’t even tried for 501(c)(4), because they know it’s a classification that doesn’t apply to them. The Tea Partiers, on the other hand, are dumb resentful beasts who feel that, if anyone anywhere can qualify for tax exempt status, they deserve to as well.

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  6. ansonburlingame

     /  May 14, 2013

    So KING, you agree the IRS should meddle but only if the applicant is a “dumb resentful beast” and demonstrate such characteristics by their political alligance, right?

    On the other hand you do seem to agree that the IRS meddled, right?

    Anson

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    • King Beauregard

       /  May 14, 2013

      No the IRS did not meddle. The Tea Partiers applied for tax exempt status, and the IRS was willing to grant it to them provided they could demonstrate they qualified for it. However, part of that qualification is that their organization be only minimally politically active — which is to say, Tea Partiers don’t qualify.

      Refusing to give the dumb resentful beasts something they want but don’t qualify for, or at least requiring enough information to justify what they want, isn’t meddling. That’s expecting them to behave like adults and grasp that choices have consequences.

      I remain perpetually astonished at how poorly you read; as I said in simple American words, I would fully expect the IRS to reject a 501(c)(4) application by the Democrats as well. So no, it’s not about political allegiance. I call the Tea Partiers dumb resentful beasts because that’s what they are. (I also call the Huffington Post a toilet because that’s what it is.) If the Tea Partiers don’t like being called dumb resentful beasts, they could try being less dumb or less resentful.

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  7. CBS News just did a segment on this very subject, interviewing the head of a watchdog group talking about the lack of scrutiny of the Super Pac C-4s. So the story is out there at least.

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  8. ansonburlingame

     /  May 14, 2013

    Just wait a minute King. You say the IRS did not meddle but Duane even called it a “screw up”, whatever they did. So if they, the IRS did not meddle then what, pray tell, did they screw up?

    So why not lambasting the sainted EC when #1 on his list above is the IRS screw up???

    But forget it, King. No sense you and me arguing. I doubt we will EVER agree on anything!! I sure don’t post herein for your sake.

    Anson

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    • King Beauregard

       /  May 14, 2013

      Meddling means interfering with someone from doing what they were going to do already. The IRS refusing to grant tax exempt status to Tea Partiers, or at least requiring a higher standard of proof from them, is not meddling. It’s just not giving the dumb resentful beasts something they assume they’re entitled to.

      Also, you may notice that I already took issue with Duane on this matter. I still disagree with him, but at least he made valid defensible points.

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