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Friday, May 24, 2013

The GOP Won’t “Overplay its Hand” on the Obama IRS scandal...Because it Can't

It’s only been a couple weeks since news broke that the IRS unconstitutionally targeted conservative groups/organizations for additional scrutiny and harassment in the run-up to the 2012 election, and already, President Obama’s most ardent apologists are acknowledging the severity of this problem, calling the White House out on its arrogant mendacity and joining Republicans in their efforts to uncover the truth and bring all culpable parties to justice.
Yeah, right.
Actually, many on the Left have been trying to shift the focus from what is clearly a serious scandal involving unconstitutional acts by the government to...the GOP. But how? Republicans, whose role in this sordid affair (if any) is limited to that of victims, are rightly incensed by what in all likelihood was a calculated political efforts to boost the electoral prospects of the president and other Democrats by hamstringing conservative groups and individuals.
Well, as gifted as the Left is at creating alternate realities, even they can’t inculpate the GOP in this mess, it’s pushing a different narrative: Republicans are eagerly ginning up controversy and trying to capitalize on these so-called "scandals", but they're so blinded by their utter contempt and disdain for the president that they're already overreaching and blowing these things way out of proportion, oblivious to the pitfalls of ganging up on a president who's still a lot more popular than they are.
Charlie Cook, an idiot, has been pushing this narrative with the utmost vigor in National Journal. Last week, he wrote that “Republicans Should Go Easy on Obama. (I tried to find where Cook had written the same or something similar about Democrats and President Bush, but I could find no such case.) On Tuesday, he claimed that Republicans are so blinded by their “hatred of Obama” that “they can’t see how little impact the 'scandals' have had on public opinion.” (Yes, he actually put "scandals" in quotation marks.) 
“The simple fact is that although the Republican sharks are circling,” Cook wrote, “there isn’t a trace of blood in the water.” He based this on an out-of-context quote from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and the results of two polls (one of which was an outlier that pegged Obama’s job-approval rating at 53%, five percentage points higher than the current RCP average, and the other being Gallup, which as we know nailed President Romney’s margin of victory in the 2012 election).
Cook recites these polls in his latest article, in which he likens the bipartisan investigation into to the impeachment of Pres. Bill Clinton that proved to hurt Republicans more than the president: “The current situation is reminding many folks of the impeachment controversy in 1998” he says, raising the question of how many “folks” Cook talks to who don’t think exactly like him. “Blinded by their hatred for President Clinton, Republicans made irrational decisions then, and they are making the same mistakes today.”
Another National Journal contributor, Ron Fournier (who is not an idiot but is pretty obtuse) yesterday accused RNC Chairman Reince Priebus of “demonizing, politicizing and overreaching just enough to jeopardize his cause.” This is the same Ron Fournier who earlier this week expressly stated that the White House “has demonstrated an inability and/or unwillingness to tell the full truth about the IRS scandal and a spate of other controversies.” Either Fournier is suffering from some kind of bipolar disorder or he believes that the Obama White House’s serial dishonesty is just as consistent with innocence as culpability. 
Stuart Rothenberg, who is usually more astute, couldn’t resist the same faulty comparison Cook made. In a blog post entitled, “Will Republicans Screw Up Again? Some Are Already Overreaching, Rothenberg mused:  
Republicans failed to capitalize on President Bill Clinton’s inappropriate conduct by over-playing their hand and pushing impeachment. Not only did they fail to drive him from office, the GOP ended up losing a handful of House seats in the 1998 midterms instead of adding seats as initially expected.
Republicans allowed themselves to look as if they were primarily interested in scoring political points and overturning the results of the 1996 election, even if it meant paralyzing the government.
That same danger exists once again for the GOP.
With fundraising playing such a huge part in our politics, some conservative groups will be tempted to use the trifecta of controversies to play to their bases to boost anger and fundraising.
This, in turn, will make the issues appear more and more partisan, giving the president the same opportunity that Clinton used when he sought to rise above “politics” and called for members of both parties to address public policy challenges.
He then undermined his own argument by describing some of the differences between 1998 and 2013 that make any comparisons of the two situations sound ridiculous.
I’ll spare you excerpts from the ramblings of ditsy hacks like Joan WalshGreg Sargent and Michael Tomasky; let it suffice to say that they've been even more defensive in their commentary on these affairs.
The logical rebuttal to these warnings of Republican “overreach” is simple. Republicans won’t overreach on—and won’t overblow—these scandals, esp. the IRS scandal, because they can’t. Yes, you could conceivably say something that exaggerates the magnitude of any one particular scandal (though I’ve yet to hear any such thing from a Republican to date), but the cumulation of these things—from the abject incompetence of the ill-conceived (and even more poorly executed) "Fast & Furious" operation to administration’s repeated prevarication about Benghazi to the possible unconstitutionality of the Justice Dept. preying on reporters and the definite unconstitutionality of the IRS’s treatment of conservatives—is far greater than any scandal or combination of scandals involving a U.S. president and his administration.
Sure, other presidents have done terrible and inexcusable things. Andrew Jackson forced thousands of Cherokee (including my great-great-great-great grandparents) to take leave of their homes in the southeastern U.S. and trudge miles westward in a journey that killed thousands of them and injured countless others. L.B.J. and his administration repeatedly misled Americans about the Vietnam war and continued to send American soldiers, many of whom were drafted, to die and/or suffer serious bodily harm in the jungles of southeast Asia after it became clear they were fighting a losing battle. Richard Nixon...well, we know what he did. And, don’t get me started on F.D.R.
Whether or not these or other nefarious deeds by part presidents fit the definition of “scandal” is a discussion for another time. I’m not saying the pain and suffering caused by the Obama Administration’s actions is worse than the Trail of Tears, but unlike Obama, Jackson had the legal authority to do what he did.
In addition to the unconstitutionality of the IRS’s actions, there’s another compelling reason why the gravity of that particular scandal can’t be overstated. As I explained in a YouTube video yesterday, the effects of the IRS’s misdeeds were, among other things, to unfairly hamstring conservative efforts in the 2012 campaign. Libertarian/Republican candidates and causes were deprived of much-needed capital during a critical election cycle. Who knows how many races would have turned out differently had the playing field been level?
I don’t mean to invite people to reconsider what has already come to pass, and I certainly don’t want to dwell on what might have been. This much is undeniable, however: as long as even one politician elected in a close race in 2012, the outcome of which might have been different had the IRS not engaged in these unconstitutional practices, is still in office, we are still living with the consequences of what the IRS did, and that means this scandal still has legs. In that sense, nobody is “overreaching” just by pulling out all the stops to make sure that the truth will come out and all complicit parties will be exposed and brought to justice.

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