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.