What If There Was No IRS Scandal?

Scandal?!At the beginning of the IRS scandal, I was really angry when the White House forced the resignation of IRS chief Steven T. Miller. Even at that time, it was well known that Miller was not in charge when the scandal was going on. It was Shirley Sherrod all over again. Our current president has no tolerance for even a whiff of scandal and there is no end to the number of people he will roll over on in order to keep himself safe. It’s pathetic. I know that I am a pretty bad follower and have little regard for leaders. But the one thing I do respect in a leader is loyalty and Obama again and again shows he is far more interested in systemic protection than justice or mercy for those working under him.

I’ve been thinking about this for the last few days. To start with, there was the claim by Holly Paz that the term “tea party” was not used to indicate a conservative political organization but any political organization. That could just be her perspective, especially given that she works in Washington and thus had relatively little contact with the Cleveland office. Then there was the revelation from Elijah Cummings’ release of all the hearing testimony that indicated that the IRS put similar groups together so that they would be consistent in their findings. All of this indicates that there isn’t even a scandal here.

Most of the media are only interested in this case as far as it may lead to the White House. Those on the right are screaming about how the White House must have been pushing the IRS to go after Obama’s enemies. Those on the left are screaming just as loudly that the White House had nothing to do with it and that it was entirely an internal IRS scandal. But no one seems particularly interested in asking the most basic question, “Was there any scandal at all?” It’s looking more and more like Norm Scheiber may have been overstating the scandal when he wrote:

Democrats can’t say it; Barack Obama can’t say it; and the IRS certainly can’t say it, so here goes: the only real sin the IRS committed in its ostensible targeting of conservatives is the sin of political incorrectness—that is, of not pretending it needed to vet all the new groups that wanted tax-exempt status, even though it mostly just needed to vet right-wing groups.

It might be even less than that. I doubt we will ever get to the bottom of it, though. As it becomes clear that this supposed scandal doesn’t reach to the White House, both sides will lose interest. But the Republicans will need to save face, so they will use the opportunity to vilify the IRS. The Democrats won’t push back because it doesn’t really touch them. In the end, it will be another turquoise socks controversy: no real evidence of wrong doing, but enough allegations that people assume something nefarious must have been going on.

More important to me is the fact that the whole nation can’t take the time to figure out what is really happening. This is an issue that I commonly deal with in talking to individuals about politics. People (conservatives especially but hardly exclusively) are forever getting angry about this or that outrage. But in almost all cases, the real situation is far more complex. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t real outrages, but it never hurts to slow down and find out a little more about the situation. Like in this case: would it really have hurt the country to wait and see if the IRS scandal was real before freaking out? Would it have hurt to allow Steven T. Miller to serve out his term? These are not life-and-death issues. We have time to figure out the truth.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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