I tend to think that the new IRS scandal is much less than it appears to be. The more facts that come in, the most reasonable the actions of the IRS seem to be. But most reporting on it is shockingly superficial: the government targeted conservative groups! Yes, the allegation is of concern and I’d like to know more about it. I don’t see how this is that big an issue with what we know, especially considering that it appears that the IRS noticed the problem years ago and fixed it.
Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Pat Leahy said, “I am very troubled by these allegations and want to hear the government’s explanation.” But he wasn’t talking about the IRS. He was talking about the far more troubling news that the Justice Department secretly obtained the records of over 20 Associated Press telephone lines for a two month period. This is a direct assault not just on the First Amendment but on the very reason we have a First Amendment.
Compare this to the IRS scandal: a bunch of questionable political groups had to prove that they really did deserve the non-profit status they were claiming. This is not the government spying on these groups. This isn’t Watergate. This is part of a government bureaucracy making a bad decision in the face of limited resources. At least, that is as much as can be said at this point. It certainly isn’t an Obama administration conspiracy, “Let’s try to shut down those conservative groups!”
Right now, there are three scandals or supposed scandals. And they are getting attention in reverse order of their importance:
- Benghazi: fake scandal
- IRS: real but ultimately unimportant scandal
- DOJ telephone records: important scandal
My guess is that the AP story won’t get that much traction. For one thing, this is the kind of thing that conservatives have long been pushing the Justice Department to do more of. Meanwhile, Democrats mostly line up to protect the president, regardless of the hellish policies of the administration. So it won’t do much good for either side to make a big deal about this.
Normally, I would think that the Benghazi story would fade out to be replaced by the IRS story. I’m not sure that’s going to happen. The reason is that there is not much for the Republicans in the IRS scandal. It doesn’t touch Obama or Clinton. It’s just about good governance, and Republicans don’t really care about that. The mainstream news may pick up on the IRS scandal, because it has a factual basis. But there won’t be a lot to say until there is an actual investigation. The Justice Department’s actions probably won’t even get an investigation. We’ll see if AP and other print news sources push on the story. Regardless, I would expect to hear a lot more about Benghazi, which I didn’t think only yesterday morning.