When a man tells me that he was a Democrat in the 1980s, but that he “saw the light” and became a Republican, it doesn’t make me feel better about him. It isn’t because I’m a liberal and he is moving against the light so to speak. It is that since the 1980s, the Republican Party has been making a beeline to crazytown. So someone who once was a Democrat and who became and continues to be a Republican, must have taken an even more extreme route. It doesn’t bode well for such a person’s mental state.
But that is just what Russell George claimed at yesterday’s House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing. He said it as a way of deflecting the quite reasonable suspicion among Democrats that he—at the bidding of Darrell Issa—created a scandal out of the IRS’s normal procedures for checking nonprofit group applications. The evidence now is unequivocal: the IRS did not target conservative groups; they targeted clearly political groups on the right and left. But somehow, all of the information about the targeting of liberal groups was absent from George’s report to the committee. Funny that.
The only real revelation at the hearing was a clear lie told by George. His spokesman Karen Kraushaar had previously reported that the inspector general was asked by Issa to “narrowly focus on Tea Party organizations” for his audit. Now George claims that Kraushaar “misspoke.” But the fact remains that his report did indeed focus on Tea Party organizations and he filtered out all information that didn’t reinforce Issa’s predetermined narrative about the evil Democratic president using the big bad bureaucracy to go after the poor defenseless conservative groups.
Now, some Democrats are saying that George ought to resign. Virginia Representative Gerry Connolly said, “I would start by getting a new inspector general. He has so compromised his credibility with at least half of us that it makes it almost impossible for him to go forward with his job.” That’s about right. The first time he came before the committee, he effectively lied—whether because of partisan loyalties or incompetence. This time, he was just trying to cover his ass. He should go.
But the real villain here is Darrell Issa. It is clear what he was up to. The man cannot even pretend to be looking for the truth. He’s only interested in his naked partisan agenda. What’s so annoying about it is that he is successful. For months, he managed to drag Obama, the Democratic Party, and the IRS through the mud. He managed to get the last IRS chief Steven T. Miller fired. Issa got major stories everywhere. And now that all of his nefarious actions are crumbling, where is the press?
Mostly there is little coverage. Much of what is around is pathetic. Josh Hicks at the Washington Post offered up this deceptive and irrelevant headline: IRS Inspector General Russell George Was a Democrat. The focus of the article is on George and hardly at all how he defended himself, much less the clear evidence of his misbehavior. Politico (linked above) did as good a job as I found. As for TV news, well, that’s not my thing, but I haven’t seen any coverage. Even on MSNBC, there was nothing on All In and The Rachel Maddow Show. There was a justified hit piece of Darrell Issa on The Last Word, but it didn’t even mention George.
I know what many people will say about this absence of coverage: the story is over. No one cares. But is that really how our news is supposed to work? While we don’t have any facts, we get blanket coverage. People and institutions that did nothing wrong are slandered with innuendo. And then when all the facts come out, long after the damage has been done, the press just drops it. Is that really what we give special protections in the Constitution for? So our media can report rumor and gossip and avoid anything tainted by facts? If that’s the case, we really are lost.