This IRS scandal is going from irrelevant to enraging. What bugs me most is that everyone is running around acting like it is a proven fact that some terrible thing was done. We’ve been through this time and time again. Even thus far in this scandal, the more information that comes out, the more benign it all appears. The IRS targeted conservative 501(c)(4) groups because the vast majority of the applications were coming from conservative groups. Politically incorrect? Absolutely. Wrong? Sure. But some kind of attack on conservative America? No way!
Here’s something that hasn’t gotten much coverage: those applications that the IRS preferentially targeted conservative groups for were voluntary. The groups didn’t have to get approval; they could have just filed their taxes as 501(c)(4) groups and waited to see if the IRS complained. Which would take up to six years. What’s more, I have yet to see any reporting of a conservative group getting denied 501(c)(4) status but there has been reporting of liberal groups being denied. Like I said: the more you know about this scandal the more it seems like a tempest in a teapot.
Now, of course, there is talk of impeachment. Impeachment! Based upon what? As far as I can tell the reason is that the conservatives don’t like Obama and they think the proper thing to do when you don’t like a president is to impeach him. There is a very real sense in the Republican Party that if you can’t have things the way you want them, you are justified in destroying the system. As I’ve noted time and again, American conservatism is no longer a traditional political movement and the Republicans have become a revolutionary party.
In an article yesterday at the National Review we got the take on all this from one of the “reasonable” Republicans, Portman to Obama: Come Clean. In it, Rob “my son’s gay so now I support gay rights” Portman magnanimously said that talk of impeachment is “premature.” This is because there has been no direct connection between Obama and any of these scandals. It hasn’t even been clear that any of these scandals would be an impeachable offense. That’s even true of the Associated Press scandal. (That’s what’s so terrible about that case.) Of course, Portman hasn’t thought it through that much. In fact, he seems to assume that the administration was directing these low-level employees in the IRS. But if the administration were even talking to the IRS, that would be an impeachable offense. Portman doesn’t seem clear on that.
But there was one thing that Portman said that really floored me. “The American people have been betrayed in fundamental ways by the most powerful agency in government.” That’s a conservative all over. The IRS is the most powerful agency in government. It isn’t the Pentagon—you know, the people with all the guns. It isn’t the Department of Energy with all those nukes. No, it is the IRS. Because again, in Republican World, whatever it is that you don’t like is the most powerful and most pernicious.