Placing the Obama IRS Scandal Into Perspective
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.