Friday, May 17, 2013

Scandals

It's tough to suss out all of the scandalous behavior that we're hearing about, but of the big three issues at play, the one that really matters the most is the behavior of the IRS. Peggy Noonan, apparently fully recovered from her 2008 swooning over the dreamboat candidate, zeros in:

All of these IRS actions took place in the years leading up to the 2012 election. They constitute the use of governmental power to intrude on the privacy and shackle the political freedom of American citizens. The purpose, obviously, was to overwhelm and intimidate—to kill the opposition, question by question and audit by audit.

It is not even remotely possible that all this was an accident, a mistake. Again, only conservative groups were targeted, not liberal. It is not even remotely possible that only one IRS office was involved. Lois Lerner, who oversees tax-exempt groups for the IRS, was the person who finally acknowledged, under pressure of a looming investigative report, some of what the IRS was doing. She told reporters the actions were the work of "frontline people" in Cincinnati. But other offices were involved, including Washington. It is not even remotely possible the actions were the work of just a few agents. This was more systemic. It was an operation. The word was out: Get the Democratic Party's foes. It is not remotely possible nobody in the IRS knew what was going on until very recently. The Washington Post reported efforts to target the conservative groups reached the highest levels of the agency by May 2012—far earlier than the agency had acknowledged. Reuters reported high-level IRS officials, including its chief counsel, knew in August 2011 about the targeting.
You just can't have this sort of thing going on. I'm not a Tea Party person, but I'm largely in agreement with the concerns that the various Tea Party organizations raised, especially when they were successful in changing the national conversation in 2010. I never did understand why it seemed that the Tea Partiers seemed to go silent after the 2010 election. It makes a lot more sense now. Noonan details some of the tactics:

In order to suppress conservative groups—at first those with words like "Tea Party" and "Patriot" in their names, then including those that opposed ObamaCare or advanced the second amendment—the IRS demanded donor rolls, membership lists, data on all contributions, names of volunteers, the contents of all speeches made by members, Facebook posts, minutes of all meetings, and copies of all materials handed out at gatherings. Among its questions: What are you thinking about? Did you ever think of running for office? Do you ever contact political figures? What are you reading? One group sent what it was reading: the U.S. Constitution.

The second part of the scandal is the auditing of political activists who have opposed the administration. The Journal's Kim Strassel reported an Idaho businessman named Frank VanderSloot, who'd donated more than a million dollars to groups supporting Mitt Romney. He found himself last June, for the first time in 30 years, the target of IRS auditors. His wife and his business were also soon audited. Hal Scherz, a Georgia physician, also came to the government's attention. He told ABC News: "It is odd that nothing changed on my tax return and I was never audited until I publicly criticized ObamaCare." Franklin Graham, son of Billy, told Politico he believes his father was targeted. A conservative Catholic academic who has written for these pages faced questions about her meager freelance writing income. Many of these stories will come out, but not as many as there are. People are not only afraid of being audited, they're afraid of saying they were audited.
All of this will come out over the summer. The demands to see names and even Facebook postings represent intimidation on a grand scale. As the details become public, it won't be possible to pretend that this was just the unfortunate result of some rogue operation in Cincinnati.

20 comments:

Brian said...

I certainly want to know how far this thing goes. But Noonan's first sentence makes it very difficult to take the rest of what she says seriously.

Mr. D said...

But Noonan's first sentence makes it very difficult to take the rest of what she says seriously.

Why is that, Brian?

Brian said...

Because "worst scandal since Watergate" is absurd.

Bike Bubba said...

I've also been one to quail at the rhetoric about "worst since Watergate" or "worst ever", because it almost seems to be a plea for attention. Use the big word and people will care, you know.

On the flip side, this scandal, as well as earlier credible allegations that the Clinton administration was doing the same, is the first/second major scandal since Watergate to involve clear attempts to jimmy the electoral system. And that is a biggie.

Mr. D said...

Because "worst scandal since Watergate" is absurd.

Widespread use of the the IRS to go after political enemies is pretty damned serious, I'd say. Is it worse than some other things? I suppose your mileage may vary, but it's a pretty huge abuse of power. It's worse, in my view, than anything Clinton was accused of doing.

And if things point back to the White House, the president would be in a whole lot of trouble.

I would say this -- I don't want to see Obama impeached, because it won't really change anything and President Joe Biden would be even worse. But if he's involved in any way with what the IRS did, or in covering it up, it's pretty much in Watergate territory.

Brian said...

If there is proof that there was "widespread use of the the IRS to go after political enemies" on the president's orders I'd agree it's in Watergate territory. To date we do not know that it was "widespread", and we certainly haven't seen anything implicating the president. Evidence, please, not Peggy Noonan's incessant need to be breathlessly relevant.

As to how it ranks/would rank among other presidential wrongdoing, I don't even think Watergate was the worst thing that Nixon did.

And all of it pales in comparison to launching wars on fabricated intel and torturing people.

Mr. D said...

Evidence, please, not Peggy Noonan's incessant need to be breathlessly relevant.

No argument there.

Anonymous said...

"It's tough to suss out all of the scandalous behavior that we're hearing about"

I can explain! That cognitive dissonance you are experiencing is caused by knowing that most of what is being reported as scandalous isn't , but wanting to believe it is. You will eventually get past this. But it might take a few more years.


Regards,
Rich

Mr. D said...

I can explain! That cognitive dissonance you are experiencing is caused by knowing that most of what is being reported as scandalous isn't , but wanting to believe it is. You will eventually get past this. But it might take a few more years.

Not a chance in hell.

Bike Bubba said...

It's not scandalous that a large number of conservatives are reporting being audited, or having their organizations getting the full body cavity exam, right after coming out against the policies of President Obama? Say what, Rich?

And yes, it hasn't been proven beyond all doubt that the White House was involved, but at this point, there are multiple IRS offices accused of wrongdoing, including at least one that has fessed up.

From my experience as a quality engineer, if you've got the same problem in multiple departments of an organization, you'll usually find the root of the problem where their chains of command meet. In this case, that's clearly at IRS headquarters in Washington, if not in the White House itself.

R.A. Crankbait said...

Hey, I found Rich being interviewed on another site:

http://www.theonion.com/articles/obama-supporter-has-perfectly-improbable-explanati,32462/

Chuckwagon Boy said...

Mr. D., I have been reading some of the columns recently, but have not been commenting. So in a another instance of something good coming to an end, I decided to vocalize my opinions.

In looking at the scandals, I have always thought Benghazi was a non-issue in regards to being a cover-up. I do think mistakes were made in some decision-making and the resulting deaths were horrific, but as the released e-mails appear to show, there does not seem to be a cover-up.

The IRS and the AP scandals really bother me as one is a government agency that had the power AND was using it to go after certain groups based on political leanings. To be fair to the IRS (that just sounds wrong!) they did audit some Dem. groups and rejected some of them while not rejecting any of the conservative ones. However, it still does nothing to alleviate the concern of IRS officers going after groups based on political persuasion.

What concerns me about the IRS is the whole "rogue low-level IRS employees" statement as the type of phrasing was used when the Watergate break-in occurred and that proved to be very incorrect. Is this one bigger than Watergate? Not sure yet, but it is on par with it. Is it the biggest scandal since Watergate? No, because you have the Iran-Contra Affair and I would argue the going to war in Iraq under false pretenses to be an even bigger one than Watergate, but that is another topic.

The AP story bothers me probably more than the IRS issue because it deals with violating the first amendment, hacking into a company and having it allowed by someone in the DOJ. I have a friend of mine that worked in the DOJ head office in DC for 2 years and things like the hacking do not "just happen" as the employees there do not move on things unless they are authorized to do so.

Oh, and one more thing: as Jon Stewart has mentioned, how is it Pres. Obama came to hear about the IRS and AP issues the same time we did? And through the paper? As J. Stew then showed it seems the President has used the statement of hearing it the same time we did on a number of surprises and probably found out about Osama being killed at the same time we did by watching himself on TV giving the announcement!

Mr. D said...

CB,

Thanks for weighing in. Always glad when you do.

Chuckwagon Boy said...

Thank you for the vote of confidence, Mr. D! Thank you for keeping up the first-class writing!

Anonymous said...

CB,
The Onion got it right here too:
http://www.theonion.com/articles/nation-supposes-its-outraged-by-white-house-scanda,32486/

If you don't watch Fox news, and your not senile (Peggy Noonan) this is the reaction the rest of the country to your alleged scandals.

Regards,
Rich

Anonymous said...

I think we can call it the "Boy who cried wolf" syndrome. When you want to pretend everything is a scandal, things that actually might be lose their bite.

Regards,
Rich

Mr. D said...

CB and yes, Rich:

FWIW, I'd offer you the following:

Woodward’s own main talking point was that he believed there are similarities between the process used to produce the Benghazi talking points and Nixon’s release of edited transcripts of the White House tapes.


Citing the lengthy e-mail chain detailing the production of the talking points, released by the Obama administration earlier this week, the Watergate press hero said that in the wake of the Libyan tragedy “everyone in the government is saying, ‘Oh, let’s not tell the public that terrorists were involved, people connected to Al Qaeda. Let’s not tell the public that there were warnings.’ ”

Forty years ago, Nixon went line by line through his tape transcripts and made his own edits.

“He personally went through them and said, ‘Let’s not tell this, let’s not show this,’ ” said Woodward on “Morning Joe."


The thing you have to remember is this -- what we have in hand now is incomplete. The email chain that's been offered does not include the first two days following the incident in Benghazi. This is why Woodward also said in the same interview "I would not dismiss Benghazi."

And again, as I've said before, there's another question that hasn't been answered, or even asked that much -- what the hell was going on in Benghazi and why was Stevens there in the first place? At some point that information will come out, too, and it will either (a) make the matter irrelevant, as Rich wishes it to be, or (b) potentially make it a whole lot worse. I've seen reports that the Benghazi annex was a CIA post; if that's true, it complicates the narrative in many ways. It would certainly explain why it was the subject of a coordinated attack.

Just a hunch -- David Petraeus will be called to testify at some point. And that's when things will get interesting.

W.B. Picklesworth said...

Shorter Rich: if we pretend nothing is a scandal, then nothing will be a scandal.

Y'all might just get away with it. But that says less about "the boy" and rather more about you.

Chuckwagon Boy said...

I do agree with Rich's comments regarding if people cry wolf too often then when something is real, people are not going to listen. That has been my problem with Fox News, Rush, Glenn Beck, etc. is that almost everything Obama does is wrong, socialist, evil, etc. so it gets to the point where even if something is serious we have become so desensitized that we do not listen and nothing is critically questioned.

Personally I like J. Stew's comments where he said if something truly has been done wrong in Benghazi then yes, the perpetrators should be punished. However, if nothing can be proven wrong then we need to move on and deal with the truly serious issues and leave political games behind. Hopefully the truth will show itself, but if it does not when will people let this issue go so more time can be spent on what maybe real scandals (IRS & the AP hacking) or for that matter real issues like the debt, education, sequester, etc. Or is that asking too much?!

Mr. D said...

Hopefully the truth will show itself, but if it does not when will people let this issue go so more time can be spent on what maybe real scandals (IRS & the AP hacking) or for that matter real issues like the debt, education, sequester, etc. Or is that asking too much?!

The point is that the truth will show itself, one way or another, CB. And that's why the process has to play out. I still want to know why Stevens was there in the first place.