Democrat lawmakers demanded Issa be censured. Ron Fournier called Issa “rude and bullying” and accused conservatives of “applauding Issa for shutting down a Democrat.” The New York Times‘ Jonathan Weisman argued that Issa’s actions may have given House Democrats “an opportunity to pivot from Republican accusations and paint him as an overzealous inquisitor,” and that the California congressman “has proved to be his own worst enemy.” Going well past Orwell and deep into what I at first thought must be satire, the Atlantic‘s Norman Ornstein claimed that “dark money’s backers” are “muzzling the IRS to maintain secrecy and avoid the disclosure.”
If the poor widdle IRS and its army of enforcers can’t take the heat from some issue-oriented political ads, that’s evidence enough of monkey business at the agency. As for Mr. Ornstein, I’ll remind him that nobody muzzled Ms. Lerner — she took the Fifth all by her lonesome.
The silence goes beyond just Lois Lerner however. Tax analyst Christopher Bergin, who says he is “not an IRS basher or hater,” nevertheless felt compelled to write of the ongoing scandal that
I don’t know if these apparent political decisions were made by Lerner or others either inside or outside the IRS, because trying to get information out of that agency is like trying to get sweat out of a rock. Over the years, it has fought the silliest things. I’m only half kidding when I say that if you asked the IRS to see the kind of staplers it’s using, it would tell you it doesn’t have staplers.
The IRS isn’t being “muzzled” by outside groups; the agency is in its typical fashion stonewalling an investigation into its lopsided targeting of conservative groups during an election year — and beyond.
The choicest bit of deflection, however, might have come from White House water boy WaPo’s Dana Milbank. Milbank admits that last week’s hearing was “technically a continuation of last year’s appearance by Lerner,” and so Issa was under no obligation to allow Cummings (or anyone else) an opening statement. But then there’s this:
Issa told Wallace on Sunday that Lerner’s “attorney indicates now that she will testify” after refusing to do so at a hearing last year. The lawyer denied this, and Lerner did not testify Wednesday — and that would have been the news, if not for Issa’s sound-system antics.
It would have been news? Who decides what is news? Milbank has an op-ed column in one of the nation’s most widely-read newspapers. So if a congressional spat is bigger news than the partisan weaponization of a powerful federal agency, then it’s because media players like Milbank chose to make it the bigger story.
And on that score, the silence is deafening.