Quote of the Day:
The IRS tea-party audit story isn't Watergate; it's worse than Watergate.
The Watergate break-in was the professionals of the party in power going after the party professionals of the party out of power. The IRS scandal is the party in power going after the most average Americans imaginable.
—Daniel Henninger, Wall Street Journal
The IRS scandal gets at the heart of one of our basic values, freedom of speech. It was scheme authorized by somebody with significant authority in government—we don’t know who—to clamp down on political dissent.
Peggy Noonan had a great piece the other day headlined “A Tale of Two Scandals” that compared the outrage over Watergate with the dismissive attitude towards the IRS scandal of the media and official Washington. The press, Noonan writes, views the IRS scandal as a partisan political matter. Watergate was partisan at first, too. But Republicans came round and their recognition that Richard Nixon's actions were a threat to our system was one of the things that made it impossible for Nixon to hang on to the presidency.
Don't count on today's Democrats and media to be so open to the facts. We'll see on that score.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration’s policy of stonewalling and stalling until a scandal goes cold or evidence is hard to find has thus far worked with the IRS scandal.
And it now appears that the “lost” emails of former IRS official Lois Lerner that might have resolved many questions about the IRS scandal may be gone forever. Politico reports today:
Ex-IRS official Lois Lerner’s crashed hard drive has been recycled, making it likely the lost emails of the lightening rod in the tea party targeting controversy will never be found, according to multiple sources.
“We’ve been informed that the hard drive has been thrown away,” Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the top Republican on the Finance Committee, said in a brief hallway interview.
It may just be standard government procedure, but the revelation is significant because some lawmakers and observers thought there was a way that tech experts could revive Lerner’s emails after they were washed away in a computer crash in the summer of 2011.
We must also consider the distinct possibility that the Lerner emails were not destroyed through standard government procedure. The time frame of the “lost” emails is significant, Politico explains. The emails were from 2009 to 2011. The targeting of the conservative groups coincided with the 2010 midterm elections and is likely the reason that these groups were relatively silent in 2012. Tied up in red tape by the IRS, these groups could not raise issues and engage in dissent.
The disengagement of the political and media class from the IRS scandal is but one facet of how strange Washington is just now.
Daniel Henninger’s column, in fact, isn’t really about the IRS scandal, which he only gets to towards the end of the column.
Henninger is really writing about the state of the Obama presidency:
With 2½ years left in the Obama presidency, it is at least an open question what will be left of it by December 2016. Or us.
In this week's Wall Street Journal-NBC poll, conducted as the disintegration of Iraq began, Mr. Obama's approval rating has fallen to 41% and his handling of foreign policy to 37%.
Respondents to this poll know what is going on in the world—Ukraine destabilized, Iraq disintegrating, their economy eternally recovering.
Mr. Obama's world this week consisted of flying to the University of California-Irvine to give a speech about a) himself (check the text if you doubt it) and b) climate change. On Wednesday he was in New York City for a midtown fundraiser, an LGBT fundraiser and a third, $32,000 per person fundraiser at the home of Vogue editor Anna Wintour.
The Hill newspaper ran a piece earlier this week wondering if Mr. Obama is "done with Washington." Jamal Simmons, a Democratic strategist, says, "He's never really made it a secret he's not a fan of this place." Or Syria. Or Ukraine. Or Iraq.
The IRS scandal shows how the government structure we learned about in civics classes has been destroyed. But the Henninger column shows a president who, having participated in the rearrangement of our republic’s structure, through executive orders and a blizzard of regulations, now seems to live only for the perks of his job. Iraq in flames? Beheadings? Hey, Anna Wintour is having a big shindig in New York! Just a hop, skip and a jump away on Air Force One.
Meanwhile, if you for a split second doubt the seriousness of the IRS scandal, I urge you to read this letter from superlawyer Cleta Mitchell, who represents organizations that say they were targeted.
And let's hope investigators don't give up on Lois Lerner's emails.
You never know what you'll find.