Republicans can’t catch a break. Just when it felt like they were getting somewhere in their now five-year campaign to neuter Barack Obama, another giant tornado rips through Oklahoma and the national press pretty much drops three mega “scandals” — Benghazi-gate, IRS-gate and AP-gate — and rushes off to do its professional public comforter thing for the storm victims. “How did you feel?”, “We’re sorry for your loss/thankful for your survival”.
Meanwhile, the effect on the “ten times worse than Watergate” episodes left behind in DC will vary, as they should.
Despite the GOP’s top foreign policy leaders – John McCain and Lindsey Graham chewing on this like a couple starving dogs with the same dessicated mule bone — this “scandal” was never a starter with the press or the majority of the public. The “outrage” was so obviously tailored to infuriate the hyper-conservative base, it was just another “birther” issue. Also, it was premised on the not-exactly digestible notion that somewhere along the line Obama had over-assured the public that he had so successfully flattened Al-Qaeda that terrorism against American interests would never happen again, anywhere, for any reason. Personally, I guess I missed that. Maybe Tom Emmer and Bob Davis were selling it on their show. But somehow most of the country continued to understand that a half dozen guys with machine guns can show up anywhere at any moment. But that “false assurance” was supposed to explain “the cover-up”, which as Obama said recently, wasn’t much of a cover-up since three days after the attack the White House officially branded Benghazi as an incident of terrorism.
The GOP and its media marketers had a tough time with that one. For one thing whenever Darrell Issa holds one of his committee hearings, it’s hard to find a journalist outside FoxNews and Breitbart who hears anything but partisan blowhardry. Issa’s well-known murky business background sucks almost all credibility out of anything he says before he smacks the first gavel. And then, as if SOP Issa wasn’t bad enough, you had the usual parade of the GOP’s nutball caucus, people like Our Gal Michele Bachmann, Iowa’s Steve King, etc., people who are running jokes with the public and whose mere face attached to any issue instantly diminishes the credibility of charges being made … whatever they are in the matter of Benghazi … and they kept shifting.
Right up to the point ABC’s Jonathan Karl, a kind of John Stossel-like affirmative action hire by the network to give it some entrée with conservatives, got very badly played by one of his sources.
The cooking of a White House e-mail to insert the phrases “talking points” and “State Department” effectively toxified and killed Benghazi as a political weapon, which was all it was ever meant to be.
Besides there were far better scandals rolling in … .
The IRS v. The Tea Party.
The sell here is that Obama somehow covertly directed the IRS to discriminate Tea Party groups from getting tax-exempt status … and revealing their donors lists. (It is telling how fiercely donors to conservative groups resist public disclosure, ostensibly because mean old liberals will pick on them and call them names).
The incident is amazingly stupid. But it would be even more stupid for Obama — a guy not in the habit of doing manifestly stupid things –had he directed anything of the sort. the Tea Party et al live for victimhood, and as I’ve said before, they savor the grandiose notion that the gargantuan federal bureaucracy is personally out to get them. And here was red meat on a plate.
It appears that the IRS’s overworked Cincinnati office has been reduced to a snakepit, with regional officers frantically trying to avoid being carved up and served as the lone seared goat.
But again, the ranting and flailing of aggrieved Teabaggers (and they’ve been back out the last couple days, bags dangling from their Tri-corner hats) plays against a fairly wide sense, as the story has been more fully developed, that the country’s tax laws are a godawful mess. And that they’ve been legislated into law by some of the same Congressmen expressing high indignation over the IRS handling of this thing. The public quickly became aware of the flood of applications that poured post-Citizens United, where every neighborhood “freedom crusader” saw an opportunity to game the system just like Karl Rove and the big boys. Hell, they could go non-profit/tax exempt and do their saintly Constitutional “social welfare” unimpeded by Big Gubmint asking impertinent socialist questions.
Except of course, Karl Rove and the big boys don’t seem to have been hassled in the same way the IRS hassled the pathetic reenactor crowd. (Although Rove’s gigantic Crossroads GPS still does not have the tax-exempt it has applied for … to do its 51% “social welfare” work). Had the IRS directly advised its minions to start with the big money and work down to the Andover Freedom Lovers Patriotic Front the little-loved agency probably wouldn’t have the problem it has today. (There is also an irony in Rove, who vowed to crush the piddly-ass Tea Party groups to keep them from screwing up his candidate selection plans, is now “outraged” at what the IRS has done to the meddlesome little yobs. But he’ll benefit immensely if the end result is weaker IRS enforcement of tax-exempt statutes.)
But as the public gets up to speed with this deeply arcane mess, one takeaway will be the obvious question, “Why are blatantly political groups getting tax exempt status in the first place?” (Beyond that lies the big one. Namely, ‘Why are so-called ‘churches’ allowed to keep tax exempt status even when they flagrantly engage in political activities?’ … Archbishop Nienstedt, are you listening? Talk about a windfall to the public coffers if the IRS ever enforced that one.)
The right-wing echo chambers desperately hope this will be the one that finally allows them to impeach Obama. But the likely conclusion is career disaster for a handful of faceless IRS bureaucrats and Congressional resistance to any fresh ideas for cleaning up the tax code.
The AP/FoxNews raid by the Justice Department
In a sane world this would be the “scandal” that takes out a couple big names. But the general public has no real understanding of a “shield law”, and a virulent sub-set of that same public hates the (mainstream) press, so it isn’t exactly going to rally to its cause. But there’s no doubt this was a stunningly clumsy move. Whoever thought it was a clever idea to make an end run of the reporters and agencies involved in this hunt — thereby keeping the press in the dark that anyone was even looking for information — should be fired for rank incompetence.
But the Obama Justice Department is hardly the first to wander into foul-smelling snooping activity. Does anyone want to re-negotiate The Patriot Act?
But as I say, with Benghazi now rightly removed from active consideration as a “scandal’, the two that remain are both murky, complicated, tough sells to the general public. Moreover, as the wide audience is educated on what exactly happened, each of the last two Obama-killing “scandals” prompts big picture discussions about long overdue resolutions conservatives have chronically resisted.