Ed Driscoll

Placing the Obama IRS Scandal Into Perspective

Americans, particularly those who aren’t as obsessed with politics as you and I are, tend to have very short memories when it comes to politics. But comparing the IRS and Eric Holder scandals with how the left acted towards the Bush administration in the immediate wake of 9/11 helps to place it into rather sharp perspective. Here are a couple of attempts from this past week.

First up, Jonah Goldberg, in the latest edition of Ricochet’s “GLoP” Podcast, named for its hosts, Goldberg, Rob Long, and John Podhoretz, had this to say:

It’s funny. On the IRS front, in some ways, the best thing that could happen from a conservative perspective, is if this doesn’t reach all the way to Obama. And I’m no long sure that it doesn’t; I think that it may in fact lead to Obama, in more than a sort of rhetorical, set the tone, kind of thing…

Regardless, it would certainly be better for us if it turns out that this is a sort of systemic scandal, a policy scandal, that lets us make arguments about the size of government, rather than arguments that are about Obama’s criminality, that are going to lead to impeachment nonsense, and all that. Better to sort of put the system on trial, as it were.

On the press thing, I’m torn…the analogy or the comparison that keeps coming to my mind isn’t necessarily the Valerie Plame thing; it is what Christopher Hitchens referred to as “Ari Fleischer’s Reign of Terror.” Remember when Ari Fleischer said, in response to an idiot congressman who said something bigoted about Sikhs in Louisiana who have turbans on their heads, or as he said, diapers on their heads, and something absolutely idiotic Bill Maher said about how the 9/11 terrorists were braver than Americans. And all Ari Fleischer said, off the cuff was: people should probably watch what they say these days.

You can go back and look in Nexus at the things that people like Frank Rich said about this. Frank Rich said that that comment will be remembered as culturally more significant than 9/11 itself. He would constantly refer back to it as if this was the day that changed America, when the government said people have to watch out for what they say.

Now, if your response to those kinds of claims is anything other than bald-faced laughter and ridicule, then the idea that somehow using the friggin’ Espionage Act against [Fox News’] James Rosen, which is basically saying that James Rosen is an enemy of the state – that’s what the Espionage Act is all about, right?  If you can’t get worked up about that, but you thought that Frank Rich and all those jackwads were completely right about Ari Fleischer, then you’re just an idiot.

And second, Brian Cates at Big Journalism recalls how another post-9/11-attempt at pushback from the left against President Bush helps to place the Obama administration’s IRS scandal into context:

The reason the IRS scandal is so awful is that the power of the Federal Government was used by political partisans to single out citizens for abuse based on their completely legitimate political views.

The AP/Fox News scandals are also important because abuse of Federal power threatens a free press, something that is vital to the survival of a democratic republic.

And it definitely puts a burr under the saddle of Liberals that they can’t use their usual tu quoque arguments to try to head off any consequences for what’s been done.

Their usual ‘Bush/Republicans Did It Too’ argument can’t be used.

When did Bush’s administration:

  • lie about a terrorist attack?
  • go after the Left with the IRS?
  • spy on reporters using the DOJ?
  • kill American citizens with no due process through drone strikes?

The things Progressives fear-mongered about, that Bush was going to have people thrown in jail for checking out the wrong library books, didn’t happen.

Now that the shoe is on the other foot, Liberals want to pretend the things that are coming to light only now, that went on  from 2009-2013 are nothing, a sideshow, a circus, just a political witch hunt. Well it was a witch hunt.

Federal bureaucrats used the power of their offices to suppress & single out citizens & groups based on their political views when they weren’t busy spying on reporters.  This is a subversion of the entire American governmental system.

Our electoral system has government power as the PRIZE of winning elections after arguments have been made on a level playing field. You cannot have a system in which one party is entrenched and using the power of Federal agencies to suppress all other political parties.  Whatever kind of governmental system that would be, it would not be an American or a Constitutional one.

* * * * * * *

What Progressives claim Conservative will do in abusing State power to thwart their Utopian aims, Progressives will THEMSELVES do to ADVANCE those same Utopian goals.

Liberals spent 8 long years claiming Bush wanted to target them & suppress their speech and their views by using State power. Then a Progressive administration turned around and *did* what they accused Bush of wanting to do.

Or as Jonah wrote back in 2006:

Liberals are geniuses at unleashing social panics because A) it never occurs to them that their motives are anything but pure and B) because they are almost exclusively focused on short term tactics. And yet they are invariably shocked when these moral frenzies come back to bite them. McCarthyism was a direct consequence of both the Red Scare and the Brown Scare. And when the tactics they mastered were turned on them, they acted as if they came from nowhere.

More after the page break.

Peggy Noonan, an Obama booster in the fall of 2008, wrote yesterday on the current IRS scandal, which began after Obama “joked” about siccing the IRS on his enemies in 2009:

The politicization of government employees wouldn’t have worried a lot of us 40, 30 or even 20 years ago. But since then, as a country, we have become, as individuals, less respectful of political differences and even of each other, as everything—all parts of American life—has become more political, more partisan, more divided and more aggressive.

There has got to be some way to break through this, to create new rules for the road in a situation like this.

Because people think the IRS has always, in various past cases, been used as a political tool, they think we’ll glide through this scandal too. We’ll muddle through, we’ll investigate, the IRS will right itself, no biggie.

But when a scandal is systemic, ideological and focused on political ends, it will not just magically end. Agencies such as the IRS are part of what Jonathan Turley this week called a “massive administrative state,” one built with many protections and much autonomy.

If it is not forced to change, it will not.

Which gets us to the part about imagination. What does it mean when half the country—literally half the country—understands that the revenue-gathering arm of its federal government is politically corrupt, sees them as targets, and will shoot at them if they try to raise their heads? That is the kind of thing that can kill a country, letting half its citizens believe that they no longer have full political rights.

As Noonan writes, “Those who think this is just business as usual are ahistorical, and those who think nothing can be done, or nothing serious should be done, are suffering from Cynicism Poisoning.”

In a follow-up blog post yesterday, Noonan writes of another difference between this IRS scandal, and the previous ones, involving Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon:

In previous IRS scandals it was the powerful abusing the powerful—a White House moving against prominent financial or journalistic figures who, because of their own particular status or the machineries at their disposal, could pretty much take care of themselves. A scandal erupts, there are headlines, and then people go on their way. The dreadful thing about this scandal, what makes it ominous, is that this is the elites versus regular citizens. It’s the mighty versus normal people. It’s the all-powerful directors of the administrative state training their eyes and moving on uppity and relatively undefended Americans.

That’s what makes this scandal different, and why if it’s not stopped now it will never stop. Because every four years you can get yourself a new president and a new White House, but you won’t easily get yourself a whole new administrative state. It’s there, it’s not going away, not anytime soon. If it isn’t forced back into its cage now, and definitively, it will prowl the land hungrily forever.

Nixon’s and Clinton’s enemies lists were studded with media figures whose ideologies were the opposite of each president. But today, as the late Andrew Breitbart liked to remind his readers, we are the media — everyone is a potential journalist; and anyone can start a local tea party chapter or conservative group. This is largely due to the democratizing power of the Internet, which puts powerful tools once reserved for the elite into anyone’s hands, often, as in the case of Blogger.com, for free.

Back in late April, Chuck Todd, another Obama booster, on the day after the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, and in retrospect, about five minutes before Obama’s scandals began to reach critical mass, had this to say, seemingly out of the blue, on NBC’s Meet the Press:

What I wonder how many people realized at the end [of Saturday’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner] when he did his, you know, there’s always this part at the end where they get serious for a minute. And it’s usually the part where presidents say, “You know, I think the press has a good job to do and I understand what they have to do.” He didn’t say that. He wasn’t very complimentary of the press. You know, we all can do better.

It did seem, I thought his pot shots joke wise and then the serious stuff about the internet, the rise of the internet media and social media and all that stuff — he hates it. Okay? He hates this part of the media. He really thinks that the sort of the buzzification — this isn’t just about Buzzfeed or Politico and all this stuff – he thinks that sort of coverage of political media has hurt political discourse. He hates it. And I think he was trying to make that clear last night.

Now we know how much our socialist president hates social media.

And us.