Gang that couldn’t shoot straight
Usually, if you hand a political party a ready-made scandal, they are at least able to run with it and turn it to their advantage.
But for the Republicans, not so much.
Finally, in the fifth year of the Obama presidency, the actions of the IRS in treating conservative political action groups differently than others brings to light actions that all Americans reject from an agency that needs to have a sterling reputation.
The tax exempt group at the IRS, according to an internal Inspector General’s report, systemically treated groups applying for 501c4 status (tax exempt for reasons of public welfare purpose) less favorably if the applying group identified themselves with names like “tea party.”
While there is no evidence that any of the groups so identified were refused the tax exempt status, the groups often faced more detailed, intrusive questions about the nature of their function, and, on occasion, were asked entirely inappropriate questions about their memberships.
The actions continued for a period thought to be nearly two years, and during that time various IRS officials were informed of the charges against the tax exempt group internally, and that there was an internal investigation underway.
All of this leads to several valid questions, the first of which is “who authorized this?”
The American people also deserve to know just who at the IRS knew about this and what actions they took or failed to take.
Further, the investigation, now undertaken by the FBI to find answers and determine if laws were broken, needs to exonerate or identify any political influence brought to bear.
Given all of the above, who better to direct the Congressional response to this very serious matter than elected Republicans?
Unfortunately, before the ink was dry on the IG’s report, Republicans were busy blowing their cover as objective inquirers seeking the facts. Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader, headed straight to the political talk shows to claim the IRS scandal was simply a reflection of the Obama administrations’ “culture of intimidation.”
When challenged to provide facts to support his claim on Meet the Press McConnell replied that the facts were unknown.
First claim the administration is involved, then admit that you have absolutely no evidence to support the claim.
Follow that with a NYT editorial repeating the claim and again offering no evidence.
Nothing quite like taking a perfectly good scandal and immediately overreaching to show your partisanship is more important than getting at the facts.
But Republicans have a history of overreaching during the Obama years. First came the Birthers and silence by Republicans who knew better. Then came Fast and Furious, Republicans who opposed all gun regulation simply amazed that guns fell into the hands of Mexican criminals in a state where there are more gun dealers than fast food restaurants.
That was followed by Benghazi, the only scandal ever owned by a TV network, where Fox has been all Benghazi all the time for months. Interested in the recent upticks in the economy? Not on Fox, no time with Benghazi all day long. But again, it was overreach; Americans simply do not care about the wording on a public statement.
And lastly, the uncomfortable, but legal Justice Department investigation that resulted in collecting telephone records from Associated Press reporters is not really a scandal at all, just an important question about the balance of security and protection of a free press.
Leave it to the Republicans to find a way, in just a few short days, to undermine their own creditability in yet another “We hate Obama” rant when serious issues are at hand.
Jim Crawford is a retired educator and political enthusiast living here in the Tri-State.