On May 18, 2009, Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit, in the Wall Street Journal Online, wrote:
Barack Obama owes his presidency in no small part to the power of rhetoric. It’s too bad he doesn’t appreciate the damage that loose talk can do to America’s tax system, even as exploding federal deficits make revenues more important than ever.
At his Arizona State University commencement speech last Wednesday, Mr. Obama noted that ASU had refused to grant him an honorary degree, citing his lack of experience, and the controversy this had caused. He then demonstrated ASU’s point by remarking, ‘I really thought this was much ado about nothing, but I do think we all learned an important lesson. I learned never again to pick another team over the Sun Devils in my NCAA brackets. . . . President [Michael] Crowe and the Board of Regents will soon learn all about being audited by the IRS.’
Of course, it’s never funny when the President of the United States threatens to unleash the IRS on anyone, but Mr. Obama has been exempt from the rules that apply to mere mortals. There are signs that is changing, even among his most fervent worshippers: the Lamestream Media. Few things concern American more than the IRS being used as a political weapon, and even reporters can easily imagine themselves on the wrong side of an audit. We now know that the IRS was subjecting conservative groups to extra, incredibly intrusive and illegal scrutiny by early 2010. That scrutiny was also far broader than previously known. Fox News reports:
An IRS campaign to apply additional scrutiny to conservative groups went beyond targeting ‘Tea Party’ and ‘patriot’ groups to include those focused on government spending, the Constitution and several other broad areas.
The additional guidelines created by the agency were part of a timeline, obtained by Fox News, from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, which is looking into the controversial IRS practice. IRS officials apologized Friday for the scrutiny, but new information suggests senior leaders were apprised of the effort as early as 2011 despite public denials from the top…
The internal IG timeline shows a unit in the agency was looking at Tea Party and ‘patriot’ groups dating back to early 2010. But it shows that list of criteria drastically expanding by the time a June 2011 briefing was held. It then included groups focused on government spending, government debt, taxes, and education on ways to ‘make America a better place to live.’ It even flagged groups whose file included criticism of ‘how the country is being run.’
By early 2012, the criteria were updated to include organizations involved in ‘limiting/expanding government,’ education on the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and social economic reform.
And what, if anything, did the IRS do to deal with this egregiously criminal behavior? The Washington Post reports:
At various points over the past two years, Internal Revenue Service officials targeted nonprofit groups that criticized the government and sought to educate Americans about the U.S. Constitution, according to documents in an audit conducted by the agency’s inspector general.
The documents, obtained by The Washington Post from a congressional aide with knowledge of the findings, show that on June 29, 2011, IRS staffers held a briefing with senior agency official Lois G. Lerner in which they described giving special attention to instances where ‘statements in the case file criticize how the country is being run.’ Lerner, who oversees tax-exempt groups for the agency, raised objections and the agency revised its criteria a week later.
But six months later, the IRS applied a new political test to groups that applied for tax-exempt status as ‘social welfare’ groups, the document says. On Jan. 15, 2012 the agency decided to target ‘political action type organizations involved in limiting/expanding Government, educating on the Constitution and Bill of Rights, social economic reform movement.,’ according to the appendix in the IG report, which was requested by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and has yet to be released.
Apparently Lerner has little pull within her own agency, if she actually demanded any changes. But dangerous radicals concerned with educating the public about the Constitution weren’t the only focus of the IRS. Kevin Williamson at National Review Online notes:
Along with targeting tea-party groups, the IRS may also have given extra-special attention to the tax-exempt status of some Jewish groups for political reasons.
From the Jewish Press:
The passionately pro-Israel organization Z STREET filed a lawsuit against the IRS, claiming it had been told by an IRS agent that because the organization was ‘connected to Israel,’ its application for tax-exempt status would receive additional scrutiny. This admission was made in response to a query about the lengthy review of Z STREET’s tax exempt status application.
In addition, the IRS agent told a Z STREET representative that the applications of some of those Israel-related organizations have been assigned to ‘a special unit in the D.C. office to determine whether the organization’s activities contradict the Administration’s public policies.’ . . .
And at least one purely religious Jewish organization, one not focused on Israel, was the recipient of bizarre and highly inappropriate questions about Israel. Those questions also came from the same non-profit division of the IRS at issue for inappropriately targeting politically conservative groups. The IRS required that Jewish organization to state ‘whether [it] supports the existence of the land of Israel,’ and also demanded the organization ‘[d]escribe [its] religious belief system toward the land of Israel.
Gotta keep an eye on those Jews! At a joint news conference on May 13 with British Prime Minister David Cameron, Mr. Obama finally addressed the scandal:
I’ve got no patience for it. I will not tolerate it, and I will make sure we find out exactly what happened on this.
One might be tempted to believe Mr. Obama, however, that would be a mistake. As the foremost practitioner of the “Chicago Way,” Barack Obama is nothing if not irredeemably thuggish. Remember his 2012 campaign admonition to “punish our enemies?” One can be certain he meant that and will always act on that sentiment. During that same campaign, Obama castigated businessmen who lawfully supported Mitt Romney:
This follows a multi-year effort by the ongoing Obama campaign to vilify specific donors to competing philosophical causes and demands that organizations release lawfully protected donor lists or donors reveal lawfully private and personal financial information.
In each of these instances, President Obama has relied on a vast grassroots network to coerce, bully, boycott and vilify individuals lawfully taking part in the political process, just as his own donors and supporters are freely allowed to engage.
Pundits and much of the media observe that there is–as yet–no evidence directly linking Mr. Obama to this scandal. By this they mean, of course, that there is no documentary or other evidence proving Mr. Obama ordered such improper scrutiny. They have also been careful to note that the former director of the IRS under whose leadership this program of harassment began was a Bush appointee, however, they neglect to mention that Mr. Bush was out of office for more than two years before the program apparently started.
It is no coincidence that IRS intentions, actions and their intrusive questioning of applicants exactly match the beliefs, programs and philosophies of the Obama Administration, to say nothing of its well-known thuggish tendencies. We also know that the IRS admitted to these abuses, some two years after their chief counsel was first informed of them, not out of a desire to do the right thing, but because an IG report was about to explode in public and they doubtless wanted to get out in front of it. It may be a more or less remarkable coincidence that this scandal might tend to somewhat deflect interest in the burgeoning Benghazi scandal.
Will Mr. Obama do anything about this? His usual practice–one he employed with Benghazi, is to deplore whatever happened and promise to get to the bottom of things. What follows is obfuscation, claims to be unable to speak to the issue because of an ongoing investigation, and no action whatever that might reveal the truth. Considering that the actions of the IRS exactly align with Mr. Obama’s political philosophy and goals, and that one can tell when Mr. Obama is lying–his lips are moving–there is every reason to believe Mr. Obama’s May 13 statement is more Chicago business as usual.
Regardless of whether a smoking gun tying Mr. Obama to this particular scandal is ever found, remember that as the head of the executive branch, not only is he the boss of whoever he appoints to head the IRS, he is ultimately responsible for everything that goes on there. Whether Congress and the press will hold him responsible is another matter.
One final note: On the May 12th of ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopolous, George Will jogged the memory with the fact that one of the articles of impeachment drawn up and approved before Richard Nixon resigned the presidency involved his misuse of the IRS. Yeah. Good luck with that. How does one impeach a messiah?