This began as an Ethics Dunce post, but designating Congressional Democrats as ethics dunces for their current, apparently agreed upon and coordinated response to the disgraceful I.R.S. scandal—and it is a scandal—appears far more sinister than that. This appears to be a cover-up, and a particularly blatant, clumsy and desperate one, as well as a sickening display of a major political party abandoning its principals and constituency—meaning the American people and not donors, sycophants or “the base”—to impede an effort to get to the truth.
Here’s Post columnist Michael Gerson’s fair summary of the I.R.S. affair to date:
“To review: After President Obama blamed “two Dilberts in Cincinnati,” an inspector general’s report found that high-level IRS officials in Washington were involved in directing additional scrutiny toward tea party groups seeking tax exemptions. [I.R.S. official Lois]Lerner admitted as much, before taking the Fifth Amendment to avoid testifying before the House oversight committee. The House of Representatives held her in contempt. And now the evidence of possible communications between Lerner and other agencies (including the White House) has gone missing under suspicious circumstances. It could be a regrettable series of rogue operations, IRS management failures and technical glitches. Or they could be taking us for fools. If there was any political motivation for this abuse of power, it is a form of corruption — the kind of thing Americans like to criticize in countries they regard as less developed. And the circumstantial evidence is strong. This wave of heightened IRS scrutiny came after Democratic senators, warning of possible abuses spawned by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, demanded additional IRS scrutiny of nonprofit political groups. Because evidence of political influence is both plausible and circumstantial, a special counsel is needed to sort out the truth.”
The summary, in an accurate article titled “An arrogant and lawless I.R.S..” doesn’t include the fact that nobody has been disciplined or held accountable in any way for what occurred, including any of the imaginary scapegoats in the Cincinnati office. It doesn’t note that I.R.S. Commissioner Koskinen delayed informing Congress of the lost e-mails for months, after assuring members, under oath, that they would be provided. Yesterday, Koskinen stooped to Bill Clinton levels of deceitful parsing, arguing that when he swore to Congress that he would deliver all e-mails, he meant only all the e-mails that existed, since he couldn’t deliver those that no longer existed. Why didn’t he mention that those key Lerner e-mails had vanished? He wasn’t asked! Meanwhile, a government archivist testified yesterday that not informing Congress that the e-mails had been lost indeed violated a federal statute. Also yesterday, the I.R.S. admitted that it illegally played politics in 2012, leaking confidential tax information from an anti-gay marriage group to the pro-marriage Human Rights Campaign.
None of this was deemed newsworthy by most of the television news networks, though a politicized I.R.S. using its vast power to further the political ends of the party in power threatens democracy, a proposition that was generally accepted during the Richard Nixon Watergate-related scandals but has apparently been stuffed in a memory hole, by order of the Obama administration.
And how did our elected representatives from the Democratic side of the aisle choose to do their duty to ensure the integrity of our Constitutional government and protect U.S. citizens from lawlessness and abuse of power? Essentially, they chose to act like Michael Corleone’s consiglieri in “Godfather II,” running out the clock with gratuitous praise for these fine public servants in the Internal Revenue Service who have displayed nothing but defiance, incompetence, and arrogance as Congress has attempted to exercise its oversight duties in a matter that demands them, complaining that I.R.S. officials haven’t been treated with sufficient respect, when their contempt for the public, fairness, process and decency warrants no respect, and making the boilerplate all-purpose deflection for all Obama administration scandals, that trying to squeeze the truth out of ideological hacks masquerading as objective public servants is a partisan exercise.
It is partisan because only one party is doing its duty, while the other has chosen to obstruct justice.
Here is a typical example of Democrats doing their Tom Hagen imitation, courtesy of Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-VA):
“This is about theater. Fair play, presumption of innocence, civility…are out the window. Because there’s an agenda that presupposes some guilt, that is based in part on supposition, on paranoia, on conspiracy theory—all of which fires up the base of the other party and plays on right-wing media outlets, at the expense…of the truth.”
One of the most powerful agencies in the government, and one that is absolutely required to be non-political, is shown to have attempted, and succeeded, in stalling conservative political groups, resulting in their advocacy activities in the 2012 election being seriously curtailed. The White House and the I.R.S. gives a cover-up story that proves to be false. The key employee at the center of the scandal refuses to answer questions, and essential evidence is mysteriously and conveniently destroyed after months of stonewalling. The Justice Department, itself thoroughly exposed as a political arm of the White House and in contempt of Congressional authority, refuses to organize a credible investigation. Fair play? It is the I.R.S. and the Obama administration that appears to have been “playing” dishonestly and illegally with our democracy. “Presumption of innocence”? If the I.R.S. wants to show it is innocent, why is it behaving in an adversarial fashion? Why are its officials taking the fifth like drug lords? How can anyone do anything but presume guilt when evidence is destroyed without any credible explanation? Civility? I think the anger and indignation expressed to Koskinen by Republicans—you know, the Congressmen and women who think the possibility that a powerful non-partisan agency was actively involved in influencing a Presidential election is worth looking into?—was both deserved and understated. He was actively defiant. He refused to apologize for the utter (incompetence/corruption) of the agency under his management, as if “oopsie!” was ever considered an acceptable excuse from the citizens the I.R.S. terrorizes. Paranoia? The e-mails that haven’t been destroyed show Lerner actively concerned about finding ways to mute the power of conservative groups. They show powerful Democrats making their desires clear to an agency dominated by partisans, including Koskinen, who contributed $85,000 to Democratic candidates. Gee, why would any Republicans think that the I.R.S. was hostile to them? At the expense of the truth?????? Who lost the emails? Who’s refusing to testify?
How could Connelly say something so manifestly dishonest, misleading and offensive, and not risk being ridiculed coast to coast?
I don’t understand it; I don’t understand why the news media is in league with him and his disgraceful colleagues, and I don’t understand why a single honest or fair American citizen of either party or any party tolerates it. Democrats should be as dedicated to finding out whether the I.R.S. is corrupted, incompetent beyond belief, or both, as Republicans….they are obligated to be so dedicated. Conspiracy theories? It is their astonishing behavior that makes conspiracy theories plausible. Democrats in Congress are actively impeding a critical investigation that goes to the core of whether this is to be a free society of not, and challenges the essence of trust in our government. If you are a Democrat and not deeply ashamed of your party, I really don’t know what’s wrong with you.
But believe me: it’s bad.