As the right continues to try to make the IRS’ bad behavior look political, they are seemingly doing nothing more than making themselves look foolish. Fox News posted two articles at the end of the week (here and here) trying to further suggest the many times debunked notion the mistakes can be traced back to the White House and Darrell Issa also posted an op-ed in the USA Today eluding to the same. Most of their new argument is based on Thursday’s testimony of two IRS employees, one of which linked the review of groups to the Office of Chief Counsel, who is an Obama appointee.
I suppose this was intended to be breaking news and something new for the country to look at regarding the ongoing investigation. Just one problem: we already knew the Chief Counsel was involved over two months ago. Call it lazy research. Call it an omission. Call it biased reporting. Call it what you want. It just looks ridiculous.
If you look at page 42 of the TIGTA’s report from May 14, 2013, the first entry in the timeline for August 4, 2011, the report clearly states:
Rulings and Agreements office personnel held a meeting with Chief Counsel so that everyone would have the latest information on the issue. (Emphasis added)
Breaking news folks! The team at Fox has made it most of the way through one report released 9 weeks ago! Congrats guys!
As for Mr. Issa, he continues to plant the seed that the targeting was political and goes to the White House at any chance he gets. In his op-ed, he questions:
Was the targeting of Tea Party applicants directed from the White House or somewhere else outside the IRS?
He then suggests judgement should be withheld until all the info is in but the implication is clear. There are many ways to word that question and make that point but he clearly refuses to stop linking the scandal to the White House despite having zero evidence.
If you have been paying close attention to the scandal and watched the 5 hours of testimony Thursday, you’ll notice an evolution in the argument coming from the right. At first, they suggested the targeting itself was political but that has been debunked beyond any doubt at this point and there is no longer an argument there considering the mountain of evidence against it.
Now the argument is the delay in giving the non-profit groups approval was political. And it turns out this argument may be showing the hypocrisy of the right considering they might be the side that created the problem that led to the delays.
If you watch the testimony of the Inspector General from Thursday and skip to questioning from Republican Rep. Tim Walberg at around the 46:00 mark, you’ll see him getting an answer he probably didn’t want regarding the delay. He brings up how some of the work was shifted from an experienced IRS employee to another greener employee and the IG jumps in and points out:
I would just add, Congressman, given the fiscal constraints facing the entire nation, but especially those confronting the Internal Revenue Service, I am not surprised that they would have made a decision like that and they’re, unfortunately, going to have to continue to make some of these…haphazard-types of decisions because of a lack of resources and manpower. (Emphasis added)
In other words, the old conservative strategy of “starving the beast” has worked perfectly for them in that it has created underfunded agencies incapable of doing the work imposed on them by the government and now they get to yell “fire” where they lit the match.
Another tactic of the right in the first testimony was to demonize Lois Lerner further. So, what do the IG investigators think of Lerner’s actions during their testimony? She was actually helpful and trying to fix the problem. When Republican Tim Walberg asked about her actions he received this response (44:47 mark):
Well, she (Lerner) was trying to fix the problem. She…recognized, then, that these criteria were inappropriate, to use any names regardless of political party, and she was trying to fix it.
She might not have been perfect, but it certainly seems like she wasn’t as bad as the right is making her out to be.
There are two other exchanges I would encourage people to watch from the IG testimony. The first (at 2:10:12) is Democrat Carolyn Maloney holding up and showing the training manual from the IRS that encourages employees to look for terms like “Republican, Democrat, donkey, elephant, Tea Party, and progressives.” The IG explains he just received the document last week so this was not included in earlier testimony and reports from his office.
The second (at 2:18:16) tip of the hat goes to Democrat Tony Cardenas of California. He simply asks the IG to identify if he has any evidence regarding accusations by Republicans, such as Representatives Issa and Rogers and Senators McConnell and Cruz, and if any of those outlandish claims have any truth to them. Answer: nope. Nicely done Mr. Cardenas!
I’ve said before the IRS acted poorly in this situation but the evidence continues to mount that none of the wrongdoing was political in nature. And as this evidence mounts, the folks on the right trying to reach for anything they can to prove what isn’t true just look more and more ridiculous as time goes on. Keep up the good work Fox and Issa! We surely enjoy watching you show the world your true colors!