There was so much bad news for the Obama Administration this week, that many in the media have taken to calling it “Scandal Week.”
Ironically, the two “scandals” that most dominated the landscape were among the least-deserving of the attention, in my opinion.
The first involved more wolf-crying about Benghazi, with a few State Department officials stepping forward with new information that didn’t really change anything, and certainly didn’t elevate the issue anywhere near the levels of hyperventilation Fox News has bellowed since the moment it happened–how could it?
The second, and the one that’s gotten the biggest media response, involved revelations that the IRS targeted “Conservative” Political Action organizations for increased scrutiny, which some people have taken as evidence of a Nixonian campaign by the Obama Administration to push political opponents around using the power of that agency.
It sounds bad, until you look into it more, and engage something other than Sean Hannity’s mouth or the stem-portion of your brain to think about it.
As other cartoonists have already noted, the groups targeted in this manner were usually (if not always) associated with the “Tea Party,” whose very name is a reference to the term, “Taxed Enough Already.” In other words, opposition to paying taxes is not just one of their founding principles, it’s arguably the founding principle of their entire movement! And since they surely know the meaning of their own na–
PFFFHAHAHAHAHAHA who am I kidding? These are the same people who stood up (well, kind of leaned on the controls of their Rascal™ scooters) and loudly (wheezingly) proclaimed themselves to be “Tea Baggers,” until the internet gently reminded them of the meaning of that phrase.
Regardless, since these groups are founded on opposition to paying taxes, it stands to reason that they’d be more likely to engage in tax evasion, or at least shelter individuals who do, than other political organizations not connected to the “Taxed Enough Already” Party. So doesn’t it kind of make sense for them to be singled out from the general population for additional scrutiny by the agency that deals with tax collection?
Apparently most people disagree, and the appearance of impropriety has lead to not one, but two resignations by top-level officials from the IRS.
Congress has taken the extraordinary action of requiring testimonies on this “scandal” to be delivered under oath. What makes it extraordinary is that no one in the upper management of the Bush Administration was put under oath to root out the lies leading to the War in Iraq, which resulted in at least hundreds of thousands of deaths, and billions in tax dollars wasted and funneled to Dick Cheney’s War Profiteerin’ Pals.
And how many people went to jail for that? Well, let’s see, there was Scooter Libby–OH WAIT.
As if that wasn’t enough on its own, let’s not forget that when Congress questioned the CEOs of the world’s biggest oil companies about the need for “corporate welfare” in a time of soaring profits, Ted Stevens pointedly refused to place them under oath. I guess maybe he was afraid someone might ask, “Have any of you bribed Senator Ted Stevens in exchange for a favorable outcome in this or any other matter?”
But, I guess those lies only affected foreigners and poor people, and were of great benefit to the wealthy. Things are different, now that the President is a black Democrat, and rich white guys may have been at risk of being nailed in a sting operation aimed at rednecks too stupid to avoid giving themselves incriminating names.
The other bad part of the media response to this has been that it’s mostly focused on the specific political leanings of the organizations targeted, with little discussion of how vague or counter-intuitive the qualifications are for a Political Action group to receive tax-exempt status in the first place. That whole area is like the Wild West right now, and the only thing different about the outlaws who rule it is they tend to be in worse shape, and probably smellier.
As I said, I don’t think either of those “scandals” merits the attention they’ve gotten, as there was a bigger fish to fry, in the form of the third one, which the above cartoon addresses. That involved the Department of Justice seizing the phone records of the Associated Press, allegedly in pursuit of “leaks” of classified information.
I wish I could say this news is surprising, but we’ve known Obama wasn’t quite as dedicated to putting a stop to his predecessor’s warrantless wiretapping programs as he should have been since shortly after he took office in 2009, and it would seem to be consistent with that.
Of course, harassment of the press by the Federal government wasn’t a new thing when it came to W., either. Nixon is the person with whom it’s most popularly associated, hence a lot of lazy cartoonists simply drawing Obama as Nixon and calling it good, this week, but even Nixon wasn’t the founder of the practice–it’s nearly as old as the office of the President itself, in fact.
That doesn’t make up for this latest instance, but it does mean treating it as unprecedented would be a grave mistake. Implying that it hasn’t happened like this (or worse) before undermines discussion of the historical context of this sort of thing, and we aren’t going to be able to put a stop to it without having that discussion as a nation, first.