Many of the agents and agencies of the federal government do not understand that they are servants of the people. They think they are our masters and they are mistaken. I am not interested in scoring political points. I want to protect and preserve the America that I grew up in, the American that people cross oceans and risk their lives to become part of, and I am terrified that it is slipping away.
—Becky Gerritson, Tea Party activist from Wetumpka, Alabama
Ms. Garritson was one of the conservatives who spoke about IRS intimidation, much of it jaw-dropping, yesterday before a congressional hearing. Many have described the parade of witnesses, all of them impressive, yesterday before Congress as “real people” who “put a face” on the IRS scandal.
So that’s how artificial Washington is! Somebody like Ms. Gerritson, who embraces ideas our Founders would recognize, is almost a curiosity to denizens of Washington culture—she is a “real person” from somewhere weird out there, who, in the view of many Washington bureaucrats, exists only to write checks every April 15.
Let’s be honest. This is not the first time the IRS has been used to further political goals. But the scope and brazenness of the current scandal is something unprecedented in American history. This was an attempt to eliminate opposition to the administration. It was an attack on our First Amendment. Peter Wehner writes on the Commentary blog:
This kind of abuse of power, used in this manner, is something I can’t recall having seen in my three decades in politics. And the Obama administration’s first line of defense, which is that this was being conducted by rogue elements within the IRS, is collapsing. It’s clear that the intimidation tactics were widespread, coordinated and not confined to a few mid-level bureaucrats.
We’re still in the early stages of this scandal, but it seems obvious to me that it will do substantial and sustained political damage. The fact that the president, his top lieutenants and Senate Democrats set the tone for what has occurred–that they created and encouraged a culture of intimidation–is clear evidence that this scandal reaches far beyond the IRS. That happened to be the agency tasked with executing the acts of intimidation.
J. Christian Adams, the veteran DOJ lawyer who resigned when the DOJ refused to prosecute the New Black Panther Party members who intimidated voters at a polling place on election day 2008, has a fascinating piece suggesting where this scandal could lead. But that isn’t my concern here: I want to focus not on particular people but on on what this IRS scandal reveals about how far we have gone from our founding ideals.
Ms. Gerritson summed it up:
This was a willful act of intimidation to discourage a point of view. What the government did to our little group in Wetumka, Ala., was un-American. It isn't a matter of firing or arresting individuals. The individuals who sought to intimidate us were acting as they thought they should in a government culture that has little respect for its citizens.