Over at the National Journal, pundit Charlie Cook has written that Republicans should just stop harping on scandals about Benghazi, IRS, and Associated Press (and Fox and CBS) — because the public doesn’t care. Is that true? Do you really not care that scandals are currently oozing out of the administration like body fluids out of a salted slug?
We here at Mr. Conservative believe that you care deeply. You care about the Benghazi scandal because four brave men died in the service of their country. You care because their deaths came about through a combination of denial (“Al Qaeda?! No, there’s no Al Qaeda here”) and negligence (“I’m Hillary Clinton and this Stevens guy is boring me with his requests for extra security.”). You care because, on the night they died, Obama issued stand-down orders and vanished from the scene, presumably to catch a good night’s rest before campaigning in Vegas. And you care because, after the attack, the administration lied to you repeatedly, not for national security reasons, but to cover its own failures.
You care about the fact that Obama’s Justice Department has been spying on reporters – including reporters who routinely carried water for his policies and peccadillos – because you believe in the First Amendment. The Founders understood that a government remains honest only if it knows it’s being watched. Obama’s administration understands that reality too, which is why it tried to stop anyone from watching it.
And lastly, you care about the burgeoning IRS scandal because you understand that this a scandal like no other: instead of the ordinary cover-ups or insider political attacks that have characterized political scandals since at least the American Civil War, this scandal reached outside of Washington, D.C. and aimed itself directly at you. It doesn’t matter whether the IRS acted under direction from above or if the employees, who are almost exclusively Democrats, decided on their own to engage in a little political jihad against conservatives. What matters is that Washington, D.C., from Democrat top to Democrat bottom, believes Washington that the federal government is untouchable, and can therefore use its power to stifle political speech and dissent.
You bet you care. This is serious stuff.
It’s also very confusing stuff, because an overwhelming cascade of stories has spilled out regarding IRS wrongdoing. This kind of data load can overwhelm people’s circuits and cause them to shut down – allowing National Journal pundits to sneer that ordinary Americans couldn’t care less that the current administration is a toxic combination of corruption and ineptitude. To make it a little easier for you, here’s a chronological run-down of what’s been going on, starting with the day that Lois Lerner broke the news:
May 10, 2013: Lois Lerner, the head of the IRS’s Tax Exempt division, speaks at an ABA conference. Out of the blue, in response to a seemingly innocent question from someone in the crowd, she admits that (and we’re paraphrasing here) “Oh, yes, by the way, we think that, maybe, you might want to know that the IRS has been targeting Tea Party and small government groups.” She then spins a series of lies — about the number of groups targeted, about the fact that the targeting was intentional, about the non-regional nature of the IRS’s attack on conservatives, and about the length of time the IRS and the administration knew what was going on.
May 15, 2013: A mere five days after Lerner first admitted to just a little, itty-bit of IRS wrongdoing, more and more stories bubble up about what had actually happened. Lerner’s lies were quickly exposed:
(1) The 75 targeted groups Lerner claimed were targeted was closer to 500;
(2) Beginning in 2011, no conservative groups got approved for tax-exempt status;
(3) The IRS was auditing individual conservatives (an act of malfeasance separate from harassing non-profit groups);
(6) The IRS was interfering with legitimate education activities; and
(7) The IRS was stealing millions of medical records, including the records for all California judges.
May 15-16, 2013: Steven Miller, the acting Commissioner of the IRS, announces that he is resigning. Whew! At last, someone is taking the fall. But it was not to be. It turns out that Miller was an interim head and was heading out the door anyway on June 1. His “resignation” simply saw him leave a little sooner.
May 17, 2013: Right on the heels of learning that the IRS was stealing medical records comes what seems like related news: the IRS official who directly oversaw the tax-exempt division is now in charge of all IRS ObamaCare enforcement. The IRS has already announced that it will spend billions of dollars and hire thousands of employees to make sure that you pay for free medical care one way or another. Perhaps the IRS was getting a little head-start on the project….
Also, is it even news that, on the same day, Barack Obama taps into his inner Sergeant Schultz (from Hogan’s Heroes) and announces that he knew nothing about anything?
On the same day, Rep. Mike Kelly, disgusted by Steven Miller’s pathetic attempts to defend what the IRS had done (along with his constant memory failures), launches into an epic, and completely enjoyable, tirade about the IRS’s tyrannical conduct. Even ABC, one of the administration’s water carriers, was moved to remark that Obama probably knew before the election that the IRS was stifling conservative dissent.
May 18, 2013: Christian Voices for Life of Fort Bend County, Texas, reveals that the IRS investigated it so aggressively that it demanded that it demanded them to detail and explain all of their prayers. The IRS did exactly the same to the Coalition of Life in Iowa.
Also on May 18, 2013, Jack Lew, whom Obama appointed as the Treasury Secretary for his second term, despite dodging and weaving, concedes that the scandal was becoming common knowledge in the Fall of 2012, and implies that this was known before the election.
Other newly revealed IRS wrongdoing comes out on May 18: The IRS was laundering money from veterans’ disability checks and it had targeted a prominent Romney donor with three audits, with a bonus audit coming from the Department of Labor. The audits revealed only that the government owed the Romney supporter money (which it still has not paid).
May 19, 2013: Senator Ted Cruz points out the obvious: the IRS is either irredeemably corrupt and incompetent, or structurally too flawed to function. No matter the problem, the best way to deal with the situation is to abolish the IRS and then to enact a simple tax code without loopholes and without the need for a potentially tyrannical government agency to peer into every aspect of people’s lives.
May 20, 2013: The call goes out that a Tea Party group is organizing protests on May 21, at IRS offices across the nation. The need for those protests becomes even more obvious when an IRS employee, tired of being scapegoated as one of the “rogue” low-level employees Lois Lerner had blamed, says that the orders for the IRS abuse from the top.
May 21, 2013: Tea Partiers gather at IRS offices around the nation, peacefully protesting IRS abuses. They do so despite stories about the IRS trying to intimidate reporters and employees by using armed guards as “escorts” when reporters tried to interview employees about the scandal.
Those people who attend the protests report that the Department of Homeland Security appears at many of these protests, including at protests in Missouri, Florida, Illinois, and Indiana. The federal government fails to explain why local police could not handle these protests or why a federal organization that’s institutionally hostile to conservatives is the enforcement agency of choice. Certainly, if past protest history is anything to go by, Tea Party protests have invariably been peaceful, and the Tea Partiers have cleaned up after themselves once the protest was over.
In Los Angeles, the DHS puts choppers in the air and blocks protesters from federal property. One California protester says that a woman claiming to be with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) tried to drive her away. ICE, incidentally, is charged with policing America’s borders. However, it has received orders from high-up in the administration to leave illegal immigrants alone. Apparently it didn’t get the same message about respecting American citizens exercising their constitutional right to free speech, assembly, and peaceful protest.
While the media ignores the protests, it can’t ignore the fact that Lois Lerner has announced that, when she appears before Congress, she will plead the Fifth. (Although the Los Angeles Times, which first breaks the story, does try damage control by burying it so deeply on its website that it practically takes a bloodhound to find it.) The implication is obvious: although she cannot be forced to incriminate herself, Lerner has effectively conceded that illegal conduct occurred on her watch.
Perhaps the most important information that comes out on May 21 is also the least noticed. It’s a quiet little tweet from Joseph Curl, a Drudge editor:
CIA source says Fox News scandal the “4th Shoe”; says it goes much deeper; says WH also sitting on “something” that has top aides terrified.
The mind boggles.
May 22, 2013: Which brings us to today’s events.
Lois Lerner made a statement on her own behalf that she was innocent – and then she pleaded the Fifth. Questions are already being raised about whether, having made a substantive statement, Lerner can then shut down questioning. Many legal scholars believe that her statement opened the door to cross-examination.
Is the National Journal correct? Do you think ordinary Americans can never be made to care about the toxic sludge oozing out of this scandal-ridden administration?