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Damage Control for Liberals

May 22, 2013 by

By Matt Purple

Six ways to rationalize the IRS scandal for the enterprising liberal.

Writing a column on the recent IRS abuses is a hazardous undertaking. The scandal is expanding so quickly that it’s hard to get a paragraph on paper without having to revise it with new, shocking details. As I write this, an unctuous-looking former IRS commissioner by the name of Douglas Shulman is telling the Senate Finance Committee that he knows nothing, to the consternation of Senator Max Baucus. A Democratic senator angry at a Bush-appointed bureaucrat over the targeting of Tea Party groups—strange times on Capitol Hill.

But even in post-scandal Washington, some things always stay the same. One of them is the inclination of many progressives to defend the president at all costs, no matter what the accusation. Some of these arguments—with their logical contortions and obstinate immunity to new facts—have been downright impressive. Media Matters, head to the job fair. America has a hack surplus.

Let’s take a look at six of these rationalizations that have been circulating on the left.

These right-wingers are just upset that the IRS is doing its job.

“As the [inspector general] report details, from 2010 onwards, there was a significant rise in the number of applications for tax-exempt status. … Given the rise of the Tea Party, it is probably safe to assume that many of these new groups had emerged from the populist right.” – John Cassidy, The New Yorker

As Rep. Todd Young pointed out, and The Atlantic later verified, there was no surge of tax-exempt applications in 2010. In fact there were fewer such applications for 501(c)(3)s and 501(c)(4)s in 2010 than in 2009. The real tidal wave of applications didn’t come until 2012, the year of the presidential election and also the year that the IRS allegedly stopped discriminating against the Tea Party.


And this went much farther than just singling out Tea Party applications for scrutiny. As USA Today reported, starting in 2010, the IRS didn’t approve a single Tea Party group for 27 months, while pushing through dozens of applications for progressive groups. The myth of a wave of Tea Party applications is also undermined by the fact that it wasn’t just Tea Party groups that were targeted. Pro-life, evangelical, anti-voter fraud, and even Jewish groups were all singled out for scrutiny. This was a concerted attack on conservatives, not an attempt to deal with paperwork.

These right-wingers are just rehashing Whitewater.

“The ‘scandals’ confronting President Obama are derived almost entirely from the political and media mindset that gave us Whitewater. That is to say: they are minor instances of bureaucratic incompetence and/or executive overreach that are seized upon by hysterical right-wing media and politicians, and eventually aggrandized by their craven mainstream brethren, into red-alert-Chryon, full-scale Media Narratives.” – Steve Almond, Salon.com

It is true that the Whitewater allegations against Bill Clinton were small potatoes compared to, say, the rape allegations against Bill Clinton. It’s also true that the IRS wrongdoing hasn’t yet touched the current president.

But the notion that the IRS scandal is somehow an analog to Whitewater, or that this is all a “minor instance of bureaucratic incompetence,” is nonsense of the first order. As National Review revealed yesterday, these abuses weren’t even limited to the IRS. One Texas woman, trying to set up two Tea Party-oriented nonprofits, was investigated by the FBI, audited by the ATF, and fined $17,500 by OSHA for violations like having the wrong type of seat belt on a forklift in a machine shop.

A pattern has also emerged in which government agents harassed moneyed Mitt Romney supporters in 2012. One such donor, Frank Vandersloot, caught an opposition researcher digging through his divorce records. Shortly thereafter, he was notified of his first-ever audit by the IRS. Two weeks later, the Department of Labor sent him an audit letter.

It’s a bit early to judge the IRS scandal against Watergate. But I think the verdict is in on Whitewater. Based on what we do know, we’re talking about multiple agencies of the federal government engaged in a concerted effort to harass and intimidate the president’s political opponents. That’s a bit more serious than a few fishy real estate investments made by Bill Clinton.

These right-wingers are working against public opinion.

“The simple fact is that although the Republican sharks are circling, at least so far, there isn’t a trace of blood in the water. A new CNN/ORC survey of 923 Americans this past Friday and Saturday, May 17-18, pegged Obama’s job-approval rating at 53 percent, up a statistically insignificant 2 points since their last poll, April 5-7, which was taken before the Benghazi, IRS, and AP-wiretap stories came to dominate the news and congressional hearing rooms.” – Charlie Cook, National Journal

via The American Spectator : Damage Control for Dummies.

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