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A Culture of Intimidation

If Barack Obama didn’t directly order the harassment of his political enemies, he certainly encouraged it.

Rand Simberg


May 17, 2013 - 3:19 pm

In the wake of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq during the Bush administration, the default assumption of the media was that it was a direct consequence of White House policies. Those who were particularly Bush/Cheney deranged imagined that the vice president himself probably spent his recreational time personally torturing Iraqi prisoners. But even more thoughtful people accused the administration of creating the environment in which the abuse could occur:

Defenders of the administration have argued, of course, that there is no “smoking gun”–no chain of orders leading directly from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to Pfc. Lynndie England and her co-conspirators. But that reasoning–now largely accepted within the Beltway–betrays a deliberate indifference to how large organizations such as the military actually work. In any war, civilian leaders set strategic aims, and it falls to commanders and planners at successively lower levels of command to refine that guidance into executable orders which can be handed down to subordinates. That process works whether the policy in question is a good one or a bad one. President Bush didn’t order the April 2003 “thunder run” into Baghdad; he ordered Tommy Franks to win the war and the Third Infantry Division’s leaders figured out how to make it happen. Likewise, no order was given to shove light sticks into the rectums of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Nevertheless, the road to the abuses began with flawed administration policies that exalted expediency and necessity over the rule of law, eviscerated the military’s institutional constraints on the treatment of prisoners, commenced combat with insufficient planning, preparation and troop strength, and thereby set the conditions for the abuses that would later take place.

Similarly, while we still don’t know what the White House knew and when it knew it (and the president’s non-responsive answer to a question that wasn’t asked on Thursday not only failed to clarify the issue, but increased cause for suspicion), the administration certainly created an environment in which IRS functionaries might have thought it was their job to go after his political enemies. If they weren’t doing literally to them what the Abu Ghraib rogue soldiers were doing to individual Iraqi’s fundaments, they were certainly doing it figuratively. This is particularly true because by the very nature of their job, and the ideology of the limited-government groups, many of the IRS employees probably viewed them as their own political adversaries.

After all, one of the political goals of the 501(c)4 groups whose names contained the words “Patriot” or “Tea Party” was to simplify the tax code, if not to abolish the income tax altogether, an outcome that threatened the size and power, if not very existence of the “service” for which the IRS employees worked. It would be natural (and even simply human) for them to be suspicious of the motives of such groups, and to wish to thwart them.

Moreover, while all employees except two are career civil service, and not appointed by or directly accountable to the White House, that doesn’t mean that they are apolitical. As Tim Carney points out:

…being a “career civil servant” doesn’t mean you’re making a career out of the job, or that you’re not political.

In the past three election cycles, the Center for Responsive Politics’ database shows about $474,000 in political donations by individuals listing “IRS” or “Internal Revenue Service” as their employer.

This money heavily favors Democrats: $247,000 to $145,000, with the rest going to political action committees. (Oddly, half of those GOP donations come from only two IRS employees, one in Houston and one in Annandale, Va.)

IRS employees also gave $67,000 to the PAC of the National Treasury Employees Union, which in turn gave more than 96 percent of its contributions to Democrats. Add the PAC cash to the individual donations and IRS employees favor Democrats 2-to-1.

The Cincinnati office where the political targeting took place is much more partisan, judging by FEC filings. More than 75 percent of the campaign contributions from that office in the past three elections went to Democrats. In 2012, every donation traceable to employees at that office went to either President Obama or liberal Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio. (emphasis by author)

Add to that the revolving door between top IRS officials and Democratic staff positions that Carney also notes, and there will be a natural bias within the bureaucracy against groups and individuals who appear to be opposed to Democratic policies and goals. Now consider the multiplication effect of the intense vilification and calumnies against the Tea Party as racist, bigoted, homophobic John Birchers by much of the media over that time period. It would make perfect sense for a typical IRS employee to view them as a threat not just to their own job, but to the nation itself — they are enemies of the state. So when they claim that they’re not being political in giving more scrutiny to such groups, they probably believe it, just as many in the media are blind to their own partisan bias, because they are fish who don’t even see the water in which they swim.

Now, even with all of this natural tendency to do exactly what they did, a responsible administration would take care to set a tone from the top that such behavior was unacceptable. But “responsible,” at least in that sense of the word, has never been an accurate adjective for the Obama White House, and in fact its tone has exacerbated the situation, from the very beginning. Four years ago (almost to the day), the president made an unfunny joke about auditing people who merited his displeasure. A year or so later, in a similar “Ha ha” moment, he joked about sending predator drones after a pop music group. These sorts of things were occurring about the same time as he was exhorting Latinos to “go out and punish” their mutual enemies, and making it clear to Republicans that he was “keeping score.”

After the Supreme Court ruled against the administration in Citizens United (the case that some defending the IRS are claiming was the cause of the new scrutiny, despite the fact that it started before the caseloads began to increase), President Civility lectured them, a captive audience at the State of the Union speech, lying about the ruling to their faces (well, all right, to be fair, he may not have been lying — President Constitutional Scholar may have just been ignorant on the nature of the ruling). This undoubtedly made many in his government think that it gave them license to fight the ruling in the trenches against the sudden growth in enemies of the state it had spurred, since their president had said it was wrong.

Let me (as the president would say) be clear. I will be in no way shocked if emails are discovered showing that the White House actively ordered IRS officials to go after Tea Party groups, while green lighting his political allies. My only point is that, sadly, it wouldn’t have been necessary for them to do so.

When the Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket was murdered in 1170, it wasn’t done at the direct order of King Henry II. It didn’t have to be. All it required was for the monarch to muse, aloud, “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?”

But sadly, while we have badly needed a better president for over four years, the real problem isn’t the men and women running the system, and it wasn’t a failure of the system — it is the system itself.

The Founders, in their wisdom, understood that the key to good government lay not in hoping that the governors would be angels, but to restrict its power, knowing that they would never be. We can fire employees, we can even jail them, but the problem won’t be solved until the power of the “service” is reined in vastly. Step one might be to re-ban government employee unions, including that of the IRS, because that’s part of the system we can fix, and this deserves that death penalty.

Ideally, of course, the income tax would be abolished entirely, but perhaps a simpler and (perhaps) more politically feasible solution would be to at least eliminate the corporate income tax, so that no one would have to justify their tax status to the bureaucrats. It’s not possible to prevent people, particularly people whose goal is power, from abusing it. All we can do is deprive them of it. Newtown didn’t justify any of the legislative attempts to disarm us that followed it, and even some who jumped on that bandwagon are now recognizing that we need control of government more than control of guns. But if this travesty of tyranny doesn’t lead to serious tax reform, and government reform, we will have missed a true opportunity.

Rand Simberg is a recovering aerospace engineer and a consultant in space commercialization, space tourism and Internet security. He offers occasionally biting commentary about infinity and beyond at his weblog, Transterrestrial Musings.

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Top Rated Comments   
In what I have now taken to calling Quantum Totalitarianism, you cannot separate particles ...they will spin in the same direction even when you do.

When they came for the First Amendment, we stood aghast and agape.

When they came for the Second Amendment, we stood and shouted.

When the came for the 4th, 5th and 8th Amendments, we wondered if they were constitutionally incompetent.

At some point, hopefully soon...we will awaken from our slumber and realize that they aren't making innocent mistakes and judgment errors.

The government of the people, by the people and for the people is being gang raped. Wondering whether all of them are wearing condoms is kind of beside the point, I would argue.

When you absorb the information stream into your den of apparatchiks, there are no guardians at the gate. You can molest and abuse anyone you like without consequence...or, often...timely discovery and intervention.

Quantum totalitarianism is not merely more malevolent than you imagine, it is more malevolent than you can imagine. The media apparatchiks who continue to find ways to argue for your gang raping to continue...are not "making an error in judgment". They are making a decision to not have a conscience.

Treason and traitorism should not be sparking debates about "impeachment". That reaction is too tame and muted.

For tearing this country to shreds along with its Constitutional protections...ALL guilty conspirators...should face the full force of a nation forced to defend itself from Quantum Totalitarianism...and annihilation.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
If you lazy idiots don't do something, you will get what you deserve. If you are not a lazy idiot and want to do something, join your local tea party.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
As in point made by infamous talk radio show host, Obama didn't need to order the harassment of his political enemies

He just needed to permeate government with like-minded individuals, people eager to get their hands on the levers of power and swing hard at the political opposition.

Andy Stern, former SEIU president, summed up the attitude perfectly:

"If we can't use the power of persuasion, we'll use the persuasion of power."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (30)
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Public Schools & Guns
From a friend.....

Today a recently retired public school teacher that I’d not seen in several years, visited. All I ever knew of her politics was she despised Bush. We got on the subject of the grammar school boy who chewed a pop tart in the form of a gun and was expelled. I mentioned that this silliness seems to be constantly in the news all around the country. Here’s a shocker.

The lady was a member of TEA & NEA. She said that the reason this is being done is to create a generation of future voters who consider guns evil and would be more inclined to amend and remove the 2d Amendment.

If you want to change a nation’s culture, control the education of their children. In my day all education was exclusively a state operation; no federal money, no federal control, and each state’s teachers’ union was more in keeping with the politics and views of the majority voters in their state.

The first compulsory public education was in Germany long before anyone heard of the Nazis. Once the structure is set in place at the central level, it will be used by those who “know best.” If we got back to a 50 independent states school system it would defeat the attempt to make everyone think alike.

Orwell was way to early with “1984.”
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I think he knew. I think it's incredibly naive to believe he didn't know.
(And Hillary didn't know what was happening at Benghazi either. Uh-huh.)
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy:

First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers and launch technicians and scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration.

Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc.

The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization.
What we are seeing is the progression of the iron law in our government. We can't even tell anymore if it comes from the top directly or if the bureaucrats just did it on their own. That's the trouble with statism.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I watched the O'Reilly factor last night where they interviewed a man whose personal and corporate reputation were smeared and slandered with false accusation after donating to Mitt Romney. The corporation was then audited three times in three months, and the company found so clean that the government owes the company a large refund which the IRS is still sitting on. But the damage was done - the company lost many customers, the man's good reputation tarnished, and the company forced to spend about $80K defending with attorney and CPAs.

To the best of my knowledge, the owner had never been charged with any criminality, much less convicted. The company books were clean for at least 30 years - they had been audited once in thirty years. All the owner did was make an Obama web list of major Romney donors, where the man's name and seven other personal names were advertised on the Reelect Obama website.

Let's apply the Keep It Simple Stupid concept. We don't need to parse words, misdirect or add levels of complexity to understand something plain as day.

Either 0bama is so dimwitted and incompetent that he can't read his own advertisements, so grossly incapable and immoral that he doesn't recognize slander and threat by government appointment, or so fascist and tyrannical that he's willing to in essence to seize the assets of a citizen for the sole reason of supporting a political opponent.

Which is it? Because 0bama clearly knew intimidation tactics were being used as he signed off on the Reelect Website.

If that doesn't send a chill down every American spine, you don't have one. We are trending dangerously close to tyrannical government.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Barky is a thug. The only surprising thing about his behavior was and still is the fact that some people act surprised (or pretend to) when he acts like what he is.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Let me (as the president would say) be clear. I will be in no way shocked if emails are discovered showing that the White House actively ordered IRS officials to go after Tea Party groups, while green lighting his political allies."

I would be. Dear Liar is well versed in the Chicago way - melding politics and the mob. The Don does not type up a letter ordering his hitman to take out someone. He simply mentions that so-and-so is a problem that needs to be taken care of.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment

As does the entire stinking rotten puking lying scheming socialist Obama administration. And now we're going to take it down and destroy the radical tax 'em to death big government utopian left.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You mean stinking rotten puking lying scheming socialist and islamic influenced Obama administration. There, fixed that for ya.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I must keep making the same point and that is this: this brand of totalitarianism began in the arts in the late '60s and early '70s. They perfected the current type of intimidation on artists who weren't willing to go along with the dictate that art was a function of politics - in particular, racial and gender politics. Those of us who wouldn't go along were ostracized, excluded and made an example of. This method of indoctrination was very successful and has come to full fruition in the Obama administration. All totalitarians co-opt the arts first. It works.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
This administration with its creepy brownshirts makes Dick Cheney look like Mr. Rogers.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
“The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense.” - Tom Clancy

All Obama needed to say was the IRS were doing their job; looking for tax dodgers

The blogosphere is a good example of chaos and the butterfly effect. I like the concept that small variations of the initial condition of a dynamical system may produce large variations in the long term behavior of the system
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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