Obama’s shills have settled in on a long-term talking point concerning the IRS scandal. They say something along the lines of “Obama didn’t tell the IRS to target anyone for political reasons. That’s just crazy. And, since you can’t pin anything on Obama, there’s no scandal here.”
There are two clear logical fallacies in this position.
First, it’s a strawman argument. I don’t know anyone anywhere on the political spectrum who is saying that Obama actually issued any directives to anyone to start the targeting. In one of my previous posts about it, I explicitly said
Even if Obama isn’t directly involved (and he would have to be sand-poundingly stupid to have issued actual directives that resulted in this) his rhetoric towards these groups was a contributing factor, so he bears some responsibility.
Along the same lines, one of our commenters (jpm100) wrote this morning:
…these orders didn’t necessarily have to come from the Whitehouse. The organization is corrupted by years democratic nepotism and recent leadership influenced by Team Obama and the tone of non-accountability set by the Whitehouse. Team Obama knew the kind of people they were appointing. These people knew what Team Obama wants. And they knew the worst consequence for them would be a job change to some Democrat Party position or some job with a Democrat benefactor. So they just did it.
The Whitehouse could be involved, but other than ensuring no serious consequences after the fact, it doesn’t have to be.
These comments also point up the second logical fallacy. Big-government fanciers really don’t want to face up to the possibility that the federal government is just as out of control as those on the right have been saying for years (or decades). They would very much like to pretend that there’s no scandal here.
So they use a complete non sequitur. “Obama didn’t give the directive” –> “There’s no scandal.”
This is stupid even by standards of leftist argument. Political targeting by the IRS is a serious and scandalous problem no matter how it started.
We know the political targeting is there. The attempted leftist misdirection that it wasn’t politically motivated and that “progressive groups were targeted too” failed just as badly as the “doctored emails” Benghazi talking point.
Two senior IRS bureaucrats have now taken the 5th. The FBI is stonewalling an investigation that Congress ordered. It’s possible, or even likely, that the targeting affected the outcome of the 2012 elections.
So we have a serious, serious scandal. I said in the earlier post that
The IRS scandal is bigger than Watergate, bigger than Benghazi, bigger than Fast and Furious, bigger than Iran-Contra, bigger than Monicagate – bigger than any other scandal for the federal government in my lifetime.
The reason I believe that is what the scandal says about the federal bureaucracy. The one agency that is supposed to be scrupulously non-partisan is revealed as having chosen sides in the partisan debate.
It doesn’t matter if Obama ordered it.* All he had to to was put forth enough “wink, wink, nudge, nudge” rhetoric for the IRS bureaucracy to know they likely would not be punished by him for doing it.**
It would only take one other essential ingredient – an IRS bureaucracy sympathetic to the Obama administration and hostile to his political opponents. That’s what the scandal shows us – that the supposedly non-partisan bureaucracy, the one we all have to deal with whether we like it or not, is now a de facto arm of political leftism.
We have additional evidence for this. We know that the IRS favors Obama in political contributions:
While IRS employees generally donated to Obama by a 4-to-1 ratio, the lawyers for that particular federal agency donated to Obama by an astounding 20-to-1 ratio, according to Robert Anderson, associate professor of law at Pepperdine University School of Law.
Lawyers are relevant because they are the ones taking the lead in writing regulations, litigating cases, and making delicate legal judgment calls in borderline cases.
The result is a solvent that is eating away at our civil society. Once half the country no longer trusts the government bureaucracy to even carry out it’s most basic functions in a non-partisan way, the seeds are sown for a terrible reckoning.
That’s what makes it even worse that the targeting probably was not ordered by Obama. Assuming he didn’t overtly order it, and the IRS bureaucrats came up with it on their own, means we are getting much closer to that reckoning that we thought.
* I’m not completely dismissing the possibility that someone in the White House did start the ball rolling. Probably not Obama, though – at most his role might have been some casual musing about how those Tea Party groups were getting pretty uppity, and someone should check into them. I’d be flabbergasted if any hard evidence turned up that he directly ordered the targeting.
** There is ample evidence that the Obama administration will cover for its allies reflexively. See the Black Panther voter intimidation case for an example.
"I have no reason to believe there is an investigation. It appears to me the Obama administration is only talking to itself," Mitchell stated in an e-mail.
The FBI announced the supposed investigation over six weeks ago. Three weeks later, FBI Director Robert Mueller said he didn’t know who the lead investigator is or how many agents are assigned.
Unlike most of the misdirection and obfuscation in the IRS scandal, I think he was telling the truth, and I think the reason is simple: at that point, and maybe even up to now, there may not be a lead investigator.
The FBI clearly doesn’t want to do this investigation. If the IRS targeting scandal is as bad as it appears so far, the investigation is going to be long and messy, and possibly end up sending some federal bureaucrats to jail. I doubt this outcome has much appeal to other federal bureaucrats.
I don’t know much about how the FBI operates. I don’t know how much influence investigators have over the work that is assigned to them. But if they have any influence at all, even informal influence, then it’s quite possible that assignments to the investigative team are being passed around inside the FBI like a hot potato.
Put yourself inside the head of someone at the FBI being assigned to investigate the IRS. Here are some of the thoughts I imagine you could have:
- “If I find something really bad, the Obama administration isn’t going to like it. Or me, for bringing it out. Will they torpedo me? Will I find myself being smeared?”
- “What if I find some real wrongdoing, and someone at the IRS decides to retaliate?”
- “Taking down the IRS could mean the FBI is next. We’ve had our own share of messes over the years.”
- “No matter how this thing turns out, my career is probably going to take a hit.”
Given the realities of the situation, if you worked at the FBI, would you want to be on the investigative team? And if you get stuck on it, are you more interested in getting to the bottom of the mess or mollifying the political class to minimize the impact on you personally?
The FBI has been cruising on a reputation of professionalism that I think vanished in fact long ago. From their incompetent labs to suppressing information to protect Obama, they are far more political and far less professional than they would like to pretend.
Given that problem, will the FBI be motivated and capable enough to get to the bottom of the scandal? I doubt it. Oh, we’ll have a pro-forma investigation at some point. But I’m betting we’ll find out a lot more through the lawsuits launched by Tea Party groups. We might find even more with a special prosecutor if the Democrats would allow one to be appointed, but in their own craven political interests, they probably won’t.
Somewhere on the federal side, a scapegoat will eventually be found, possibly two or three. They will be fired, and the propaganda arm of the Democratic Party will work overtime selling the “Nothing more to see, time to move along” narrative.
They have to. The left-leaning political class recognizes the possible damage if they can’t contain this scandal. It was bad enough when the media chose sides in the left-vs-right political battle. If those on the right also become convinced that the entire federal bureaucracy has similarly chosen sides, then they will likely conclude that our current political differences can’t possibly be decided through normal political means. They will feel, rightly, that the system is rigged against them.
Which would mean that they come to the same conclusion many of us came to a while back.
A growing number of Americans believe that senior White House officials ordered the Internal Revenue Service to target conservative political groups, according to a new national poll.
And a CNN/ORC International survey released Tuesday morning also indicates that a majority of the public says the controversy, which involves increased IRS scrutiny of tea party and other conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, is very important to the nation.
Look, Obama’s legacy is important to Democrats because it may mean victory or defeat for the next Democratic presidential candidate. And like it or not, a scandal plagued 2nd term isn’t going to help his legacy or the Democrat’s next chosen presidential candidate. In fact, one of the reasons Obama is in the White House now is the successful negative portrayal of the Bush years by the left and the press.
In the case of Obama, the press and done it’s best to dampen the reach of the scandals, but it is, for once, failing in it’s endeavor. The scandals are too wide ranging and hit too close to home to fears the citizenry has held concerning government’s abuse of power. And make no mistake, these scandals are all about abusing power.
Last month only 37% of the public thought that the IRS controversy led to the White House, with 55% saying that agency officials acted on their own without direct orders from Washington. Now the number who say the White House directed that IRS program has increased 10 points, to 47%, virtually the same as the 49% who believe the IRS agents acted on their own.
“Younger Americans are much less likely than older Americans to believe in White House involvement, and there is, not surprisingly, a partisan divide as well,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “But the Obama administration may be losing independents on this matter. In May, only 36% felt the White House ordered the IRS to target conservative groups; now that number has crossed the 50% threshold.”
Of course naive youngsters who really haven’t been around for or paid attention to scandals of the past, certainly might want to believe their idol, Barack Obama, is involved in this. But you can see as well as I can, as more and more info comes out, that minds are changing. This is a serious shot at the Obama legacy. Or at least that’s what 51% of Americans are saying:
Fifty-one percent of those questioned said the IRS controversy is a very important issue to the nation, compared to 55% who felt that way in May. In the past week and a half, the IRS story has been put a bit on the backburner, as the controversy over the federal government’s massive surveillance program has dominated the spotlight.
Ironic, no? The 4% drop I mean. It has dropped as a “very important issue to the nation” because another scandal has popped up.
So what’s the Obama playbook say you do when it goes from bad to worse?
Hello Syria ….
That’s the conclusion Insty comes too in his USA Today column:
The NSA spying scandal goes deep, and the Obama administration’s only upside is that the furor over its poking into Americans’ private business on a wholesale basis will distract people from the furor over the use of the IRS and other federal agencies to target political enemies — and even donors to Republican causes — and the furor over the Benghazi screwup and subsequent lies (scapegoated filmmaker Nakoula is still in jail), the furor over the “Fast And Furious” gunrunning scandal that left literally scores of Mexicans dead, the scandal over the DOJ’s poking into phone records of journalists (and their parents), HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ shakedown of companies she regulates for “donations” to pay for ObamaCare implementation that Congress has refused to fund, the Pigford scandal where the Treasury Department’s “Judgment Fund” appears to have been raided for political purposes — well, it’s getting to where you need a scorecard to keep up.
But, in fact, there’s a common theme in all of these scandals: Abuse of power. And, what’s more, that abuse-of-power theme is what makes the NSA snooping story bigger than it otherwise would be. It all comes down to trust.
Anyone who, in fact, trusts government these days is simply not paying attention or is a part of it. As Reynolds outlines above, each and every one of the scandals mentioned do, in some degree or another, involve an abuse of power. And an abuse of power is always an abuse of trust. This administration has been just about as abusive of both power and trust as any in our history.
What should bother you is they don’t seem to care. To me that points to a culture that has come to accept the fact – at least in their world – that government is all powerful and can do no real wrong. It’s “for the people”, after all, that they commit these abuses. It is also in the name of “security” – that all-purpose reason to grind away at the freedoms we enjoy and put us under more and more government control.
One of those old dead white men who helped found this country saw the possibility of the latter long ago. In fact, he’d seen it in his lifetime and had done all in his power to escape it and to build a system that wouldn’t tolerate the types of abuses of power we do today:
“The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home.” – James Madison
Bottom line, we’re saddled with an arrogant and abusive, totally out of control goverment that badly needs reigning in. The problem – we need statesmen who can do that. And we all know where we are in that particular case. Without, that’s where. We’re stuck with self-serving politicians.
By the way, are we really any safer since the draconian security measures have been implemented?
Anonymous government sources quoted in news reports say yes, but we know that all that snooping didn’t catch the Tsarnaev brothers before they bombed the Boston Marathon — even though they made extensive use of email and the Internet, and even though Russian security officials had warned us that they were a threat. The snooping didn’t catch Major Nidal Hasan before he perpetrated the Fort Hood Massacre, though he should have been spotted easily enough. It didn’t, apparently, warn us of the Benghazi attacks — though perhaps it explains how administration flacks were able to find and scapegoat a YouTube filmmaker so quickly . But in terms of keeping us safe, the snooping doesn’t look so great.
And it remains “snooping” regardless whether it great or not.
Is this the the type of country in which we really want to live? Where we’re afraid of our own shadow and our government to boot?
Since the Clinton era, we’ve seen the left retreat from reality into a dependence on post-modern narrative. They don’t even bother to hide it; they talk about narrative all the time, and they’ve reached the point where “the fact is” has become a public speaking tic for Democrats that really means “what I prefer you to believe is” or “the accepted leftist narrative is”.*
Narrative isn’t about reality; the post-modern leftists don’t even think there is such a thing as objective reality. Narrative is about what you can get people to believe.
When the left is really having trouble finding a narrative that will stick, they like to use misdirection. For example, they will pull out a single aspect of an issue, even if the aspect was made up or planted just for the purpose, and try to push the meme that “because of this one thing, the rest doesn’t matter”.
We saw the attempt with Benghazi, and the supposedly “doctored” emails. One of our own leftist commenters pushed and pushed on the idea that, because the Republicans doctored emails, the whole Benghazi controversy was obviously ginned up by the Republicans to embarrass Obama, and therefore wasn’t a “real scandal”.
Again, reality doesn’t matter. The Republicans didn’t even get those emails. They got summaries. The summaries came from ABC News, and the Republicans presented what they received. But to a committed leftist and Obama apologist, so what? They’re Republicans! Stop paying attention to stuff like dead ambassadors, bad decisions, and the earlier, failed misdirection about the video. Just dismiss the whole thing because (I claim) Republicans doctored emails.**
The latest attempt of that type in the IRS scandal is to put forth some schmoe in the Cincinnati office who says there’s no evidence Obama is involved, and is (gasp!) a conservative Republican.
This is simple misdirection. First, the guy just describes himself as a conservative Republican. Doesn’t mean he really is. We’ve seen plenty of cases in the past where these supposedly conservative or independent people involved in a situation turned out to be anything but.
Second, the person who put this out, the consistently idiotic Congressman Elijah Cummings, refused to release the full transcript. He released the parts that created the impression he wanted.
So there’s plenty of full story still to come out. That, of course, didn’t stop Joan Walsh at Salon from crowing “Elijah Cummings outplays Darrell Issa”, as if this were some kind of tennis match instead of a deadly serious problem that threatens the very legitimacy of the federal government.
Even if he turns out to have voted straight ticket Republican back to the beginning of time, it doesn’t change some of the basic facts:
– Groups were targeted because of political ideology
– People in Washington signed the letters demanding that were part of the targeting effort
– No one anywhere along the line, no matter what the philosophy, raised a flag about the targeting
This bespeaks a partisan, authoritarian culture in the IRS as an institution. As Dale is fond of pointing out, it’s hard to see how that can possibly be fixed without changing the tax system in such a way that we eliminate the IRS.
That will not stop desperate Obama apologists from seizing on this narrative the way a starving coyote seizes a squirrel. They will state the “established fact” that a conservative Republican says Obama wasn’t involved, and use that as an excuse to hand wave away everything else that anyone says about the IRS scandal. Here is Cummings himself:
“Based upon everything I’ve seen, the case is solved,” he said. “If it were me, I would wrap this case up and move on.”
This is ridiculous. The IRS scandal is bigger than Watergate, bigger than Benghazi, bigger than Fast and Furious, bigger than Iran-Contra, bigger than Monicagate – bigger than any other scandal for the federal government in my lifetime. Teapot Dome isn’t close to this. Even if Obama isn’t directly involved (and he would have to be sand-poundingly stupid to have issued actual directives that resulted in this) his rhetoric towards these groups was a contributing factor, so he bears some responsibility.
None of that is going to change because the leftists have found a new piece of misdirection. Which won’t stop them from bleating about it for while to avoid any real argument, of course.
* Even some Republicans have picked up this tic. Just goes to show that if you lie down with Demos, you get up with tics….
** Have you noticed that the doctored email narrative excuse is mostly gone now? It didn’t stick as a narrative, because it was obviously false-to-fact from the outset. That didn’t stop leftists from pushing it as a narrative, of course, because they don’t have a connection with reality. They just realized it didn’t work after a while, and moved on to something else. I will be shocked the first time one of them says “Yeah, that was wrong. The Republicans didn’t really doctor emails.” The narrative may be out of the limelight, but the leftists still believe it because it feels so good to believe it.
Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel says the taxpayers don’t trust the IRS, and he intends to conduct “a thorough review of what went wrong and how to fix it.”
Just a suggestion, Danny, but why don’t you start by telling these folks to either tell us the full story or hit the road? Treasury IG: No IRS employee interviewed by us would acknowledge who ordered the targeting of conservatives
In the book In Denial: Historians, Communism, and Espionage, a great story is told about historian Robert Conquest. He wrote a book in the 1980s about the abuses of Stalinism, and got the usual roasting from Soviet apologists in academia. They accused him of cherry-picking data, failing to see Stalin’s supposed good points – the usual blather of Marxist-friendly social science academics.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, opened archives showed that Conquest not only had it right, but was actually a bit conservative is his assertions. His publisher suggested an updated edition of the book incorporating that information, and asked Conquest if he wanted to change the title.
Conquest responded “How about ‘I told you so, you f*cking fools’”? *
I’m feeling that same impulse after reviewing the cascade of scandals over the last few weeks.** Anyone who wasn’t mesmerized by Obama and actually paying attention already knew that:
1. Benghazi was not just a tragedy. It was one of the most massive screw-ups ever perpetrated by the State Department, and there was clearly a cover-up to keep the rest of us from finding out the what, where, when, how, and why.
Various folks on the right could see all this, yet our supposed smart media pundits at major organizations are still expressing surprise at every new revelation. In other words, we told you so, you f*cking fools. And we were ignored, or even ridiculed as paranoid and obsessive.
I learned a valuable lesson in my first job out of graduate school. The software company I worked for was acquired by a giant corporation. The executives from that giant corporation came down for meetings after the acquisition. After listening to them for a day, I concluded that they were incompetent fools.
But I had some doubt. How could they have reached such a position of authority and still be such fools?
Yet, in the ensuing years, under their leadership, the giant corporation lost tens of millions of dollars running that small software company into the ground. They ended up selling it after five years for about five percent of what they paid for it. So yeah, those guys really were the incompetent fools I thought they were.
I now assume that if I have good reasons to believe something, the assertions of powerful or influential people don’t change my mind. I assume they are simply ignorant, willfully blind, or actively deceptive. This round of scandalous outrages by the Obama administration is just another confirmation of that assumption. If media types and establishment politicians didn’t realize these problems existed before last month, then they are f*cking fools, no matter how high they have risen in the political class.
On the other hand, if they knew the problems existed and did nothing, they are despicable villains and not fit to be in the job they hold. Not in their own eyes, of course. As Robert Conquest found out, to those on the left, even Josef Stalin isn’t really a villain.
* I first saw the anecdote about Conquest in a review of the book in Reason Magazine, Fools for Communism. I got the book, which is a concise, good read. If you want examples of willful blindness by lefties, In Denial is a great source.
** Many writers predicted Obama scandals early in his term. I’m pretty sure they feel the same lack of surprise, even if they don’t express it in such a vulgar way.
I mean really, did you honestly believe that a couple of rogue agents in Cincinnati did this on their own … for over two years? Yeah, about as much as you believed the YouTube video caused Benghazi, huh?
Additional scrutiny of conservative organizations’ activities by the IRS did not solely originate in the agency’s Cincinnati office, with requests for information coming from other offices and often bearing the signatures of higher-ups at the agency, according to attorneys representing some of the targeted groups. At least one letter requesting information about one of the groups bears the signature of Lois Lerner, the suspended director of the IRS Exempt Organizations department in Washington.
Lois Lerner … the IRS official who “knows nothing” and refuses to talk about any of it?
Among the letters were several that bore return IRS addresses other than Cincinnati, including “Department of the Treasury / Internal Revenue Service / Washington, D.C.,” and the signatures of IRS officials higher up the chain. Two letters with “Department of the Treasury / Internal Revenue Service / Washington, D.C.” letterhead were signed by “Tax Law Specialist(s)” from Exempt Organizations Technical Group 1 and Technical Group 2. Lerner’s signature, which appeared to be a stamp rather than an actual signature, appeared on a letter requesting additional information from the Ohio Liberty Council Corp.
Imagine that. We have an administration full of “Sgt. Shultz’s” (see Hogan’s Heroes if you’re too young to know what that references). They see nothing. They know nothing.
But apparently, they’ll sign anything.
And, as it always seems to happen now days, nothing was done:
In late March 2012, IRS deputy commissioner Steven Miller–who resigned his post as acting commissioner last week at President Obama’s request–directed senior technical advisor Nancy J. Marks to investigate allegations of political targeting of groups seeking tax exempt status, agency officials told congressional aides. Holly Paz, acting director of ruling and agreements, worked with Marks on the probe, and both traveled to Cincinnati to conduct interviews.
Sounds serious, right? Eh, not so much:
On May 3, 2012. Marks gave what IRS officials described as a “presentation” to Miller describing her findings. According to the House aide, Marks said the investigation had found significant problems in the review process and a substantial bias against conservative group. No written findings were produced as a result, the aide said, and it does not appear the internal review led to any disciplinary actions against IRS employees.
Now, I don’t know about you, but if, in fact, “a substantial bias against conservative groups” was found, and it was important enough, at least initially to send Paz and Marks to check it out, then by doing nothing, it would seem to me that IRS management at least tacitly endorsed the action.
Which may be why certain IRS official has decided has decided to plead the Fifth:
A top IRS official in the division that reviews nonprofit groups will invoke the Fifth Amendment and refuse to answer questions before a House committee investigating the agency’s improper screening of conservative nonprofit groups.
Lois Lerner, the head of the exempt organizations division of the IRS, won’t answer questions about what she knew about the improper screening – or why she didn’t reveal it to Congress, according to a letter from her defense lawyer, William W. Taylor 3rd.
And yes, you’re right … this stinks to high heaven and it absolutely begs to be prosecuted.
Of course, if you had any faith in government, you’d expect it too.
That exempts me, however. I expect a few low level IRS employees to get to take one “for the team” and those that actually made it happen will, as usual, escape scott free.
That’s how it works today in this land where everyone is “equal” under the law.
Peggy Noonan makes this statement today:
What happened at the IRS is the government’s essential business. The IRS case deserves and calls out for an independent counsel, fully armed with all that position’s powers. Only then will stables that badly need to be cleaned, be cleaned. Everyone involved in this abuse of power should pay a price, because if they don’t, the politicization of the IRS will continue—forever. If it is not stopped now, it will never stop. And if it isn’t stopped, no one will ever respect or have even minimal faith in the revenue-gathering arm of the U.S. government again.
And it would be shameful and shallow for any Republican operative or operator to make this scandal into a commercial and turn it into a mere partisan arguing point and part of the game. It’s not part of the game. This is not about the usual partisan slugfest. This is about the integrity of our system of government and our ability to trust, which is to say our ability to function.
First paragraph … agree, for the most part. Where I don’t agree is that there is a “minimal faith” in the revenue gathering arm of the US government. There’s been little faith in it since it’s inception. Most people understand that the gun is pointed at them and the prison cell is open and waiting. They don’t pay taxes because of any “faith” or respect for the IRS or government. They do it out of fear.
As for the second paragraph, that’s total horse hockey. Total.
The entire point of the scandal was it targeted “political” organizations. How does one not politicize it? It took place under a Democratic administration and the opponents of that party were the target of the IRS.
And what do we get from Noonan? “Hey, let’s take a knife to a gun fight”.
Noonan’s advice is, by far, the stupidest advice one could give.
Yes, this is about the integrity of the system. And, like it or not, that is directly linked to those who administer and govern.
Ms. Noonan, who is that right now? And how, if they were doing an effective job, would this have been going on for two years. Oh, and speaking of trust, how are you with the whole AP scandal? My guess is you’re wanting some heads over that.
Well, I want some heads of this. And Benghazi. And Fast and Furious.
Instead we get shrinking violets like you advising everyone to back off and not make this “political”.