That Nineties Show

And it turns out that they were not only holding up their tax-free status and asking improper questions about donors, but leaking the answers to damage their perceived political enemies:

“There is little question that one or more employees at the IRS stole our confidential tax return and leaked it to our political enemies, in violation of federal law,” said NOM’s president Brian Brow, in a prepared statement. “The only questions are who did it, and whether there was any knowledge or coordination between people in the White House, the Obama reelection campaign and the Human Rights Campaign. We and the American people deserve answers.”

This too, as Mr. Carney might say, is old news. Bill Clinton’s IRS not only audited his enemies, but his administration also leaked damaging information on people whom it considered to be potentially politically damaging. One of the more egregious examples is Linda Tripp who, after she ignored the president’s threats to her family (via Monica Lewinsky), saw that her juvenile arrest record from her Pentagon file was leaked to the press.

In fact, the Clinton administration did with FBI files what the Obama administration seems to have done with IRS data. The fact that they had an unqualified former bar bouncer as head of White House security, who had access to potentially embarrassing information on many high-level people in Washington, may be one of the reasons that the Clintons were so seemingly impervious to scandals that would have brought down less ruthless people.

Another recurring theme of the old series was the “exoneration” of the principals by official reports. The Clintons used to claim that they were “exonerated” by the Pillsbury report on Whitewater. Then, when Robert Ray released his final report on the entire investigation, their lawyer, David Kendall, claimed that they were “exonerated” by it, this time for sure, despite the fact that neither report did anything of the kind. In fact, Ray’s report said that:

Insufficient evidence exists to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that either Governor or Mrs. Clinton knowingly participated in the criminal financial transactions used by McDougal to benefit Whitewater.

…The report, released yesterday, also said prosecutors could not rule out the possibility that Hillary Rodham Clinton played a role in the disappearance and mysterious discovery of her law firm billing records.

“Insufficient evidence beyond reasonable doubt” != “Exoneration,” despite Kendall’s attempted spin. What Ray was saying was not that there was no evidence of wrongdoing, but that there wasn’t enough to ensure a conviction, particularly given the experience with Susan McDougal. He was almost guaranteed to get a hung jury in any trial of either Clinton, regardless of the state of the evidence.

Similarly, the Obama administration has declared that the Accountability Review Board report by Thomas Pickering and Mike Mullen had absolved them of any wrongdoing, despite the fact that they failed to interview key witnesses and to uncover key facts, and the “Accountability Review Board” is under an accountability review of its own.

Even many of the cast of characters remain the same for both the new and the old series. As noted, Eric Holder is a returning player, with a more prominent role. And of course, one of the stars of the old show, Hillary Clinton, continues to demonstrate and expand upon her previous knack for misdirection and mendacity, with the help of her husband’s impeachment attorney, Cheryl Mills. But there are a lot of new players as well, most notably the charismatic (at least to some) Barack Obama.

But it’s not enough to revive a concept that had grown stale within the first year the first time around. Time to pull the plug on this misguided repeat.