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Tuesday, June 04, 2013

GOP Hyping IRS 'Scandal' to Death

Man screaming
I get the feeling that if you pulled a modern conservative aside and said, "Dial back the rhetoric," they'd stare blankly at you like you'd just spoken in an ancient regional variant of Middle English. I think years of RINO hunting have evolved the part of the brain that controls moderation nearly out of existence. Given an issue on which they have an opinion, they'll become instantly hyperbolic. Everything is the Holocaust, everything is like the Soviet Union, everything is the worst thing ever! A community bikeshare program, for example, is totalitarian government run amok. "I disagree" is never enough. It's always, "I disagree, BECAUSE YOU'RE HITLER!!" Shrill, shrieking, and strident, the modern American conservative has developed a whine high-pitched enough to make anyone's ears ring.

So it's not much of a surprise to learn that Republicans are taking one of their "White House scandals" and keening on about it in a register that can shatter stemware. As the IRS/Tea Party controversy fails to catch fire with the American people -- by virtue of spinning its wheels in the mud -- individual members have apparently decided to crank everything up to eleven and set the nation's teeth on edge. And while they seem to believe that this will elevate the issue, what they're really doing is burying it under piles of BS.

In arguing that the GOP is blowing their big chance to tar Obama, Ed Kilgore points to Dana Milbank's latest column:

A third House committee joined the stampede to examine the IRS on Monday, and its chairman did exactly what you would expect somebody to do before launching a fair and impartial investigation: He went on Fox News Channel and implicated the White House.

Asked by Fox’s Bill Hemmer what he hoped to learn at Monday afternoon’s hearing, Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) offered this bit of pre-hearing analysis:

“Of course, the enemies list out of the White House that IRS was engaged in shutting down or trying to shut down the conservative political viewpoint across the country — an enemies list that rivals that of another president some time ago.”

It was a sentence in need of a verb but packed with innuendo. And it is part of an approach by House Republicans that seems to follow the Lewis Carroll school of jurisprudence. Not only are they placing the sentence before the verdict, they’re putting the verdict before the trial.
"Rogers isn't some random Fox personality; he's one of Congress' most powerful officials," Steve Benen reminds us. "And on the IRS story, he's already unhinged, spewing nonsense on national television."


There is, of course, no evidence at all of coordination between the White House and the IRS -- let alone any "enemies list." Even the weak and circumstantial connections being reported by rightwing media are BS. Evidentiary support for actual White House involvement in this "White House scandal" boils down to wishful thinking by wingnuts who fantasize about impeachment. Yet here's Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, assuring Fox News that his investigation is going to find that connection -- before he's even looked. He's dialing this hearing up to eleven, making sure everyone's looking at how earth-shatteringly important it all is. And it's almost certain to be another boring empty net party that tears the "scandal" meme down much more than it builds it up.

Meanwhile, Ed Kilgore points out that Darrell Issa's grandstanding on the issue -- already stalled and going nowhere -- is about to take a bit of a hit. The concept of the sympathetic witness seems to be completely lost on him.

Today’s big hearing in Darrell Issa’s Ways & Means Committee shows another rather glaring problem with the IRS investigation: a cavalcade of “victims”— including four local tea party groups, a near-moribund anti-gay-marriage organization, and an anti-choice organization—which aren’t exactly universally respected. It will be difficult to avoid the impression that the purpose of the hearings is to allow conservatives to whine to each other about the perfidy of the Obama administration—not exactly a new phenomenon. It’s the kind of show that only “the base” is likely to appreciate or, over time, watch at all.
And what are they whining about? That the IRS actually let them claim to be non-political social charities -- like homeless shelters or American Red Cross -- but asked them to them jump through a hoop or two first. Remember, for all the tears and the giant pile of victim cards, none of these organizations were denied tax-exempt status, despite their clearly political purpose. This aspect of this "scandal" already has people scratching their heads -- and Issa thinks it'd be a great idea to expose the public to specific examples. According to The Hill, one of these put-upon "charities" -- the Coalition for Life of Iowa -- "was asked not to protest in front of Planned Parenthood offices as a condition of their tax-exempt application being approved." In other words, before they had their tax-exempt non-political status approved, they needed to stop it with the political activities.

The horror!

By building everything up so high, Republicans can't help but set themselves up for a big fall. The framework of the facts and the evidence can't support the accusations. I'd say that it was all going to come tumbling down like a house of cards, but houses of cards don't make the deafening crash I think we're likely to hear. More like a house of manhole covers. And anyone who doesn't get clear of this teetering tower of giant expectations when it finally collapses stands a good chance of being crushed by it.


[photo by dcarlbom] Get updates via Twitter