Now that the IRS has admitted targeting Tea Party groups, let’s take stock of where we are. The IRS claims, risibly, that politics played no role in its decision to target the Tea Party:
Lois G. Lerner, the IRS official who oversees tax-exempt groups, said the “absolutely inappropriate” actions by “front-line people” were not driven by partisan motives.
Even most of the usual leftist apologists find this absurd. For instance, Time’s Joe Klein writes, “Does anyone actually believe this?” The Washington Post adds “it seems that groups with “progressive” in their titles did not receive the same scrutiny.”
ASIDE: The IRS does still have a few apologists. The New York Times seem to think it’s okay, editorializing “The IRS does its job.” (That was in March 2012, but it’s hard to see what has changed materially since then.) National Journal seems to think it’s no big deal, calling it a “mishap” and then revising it to a “blunder”, both of suggest that this can somehow happen without deliberate misconduct.
Let’s not make the mistake of giving the IRS any credit for coming out with this. The agency denied the charges for months. They only admitted to it now because the story was coming out soon anyway, and they tried to dump it on a Friday (as if a story this explosive could be buried).
The claim that only “front-line people” were involved seems to be a lie. Senior officials knew what was going on. The IRS’s director seems to have perjured himself when he testified in March 2012 that Tea Party groups were not being targeted. According to the AP, senior officials were aware by June 2011 at the latest.
Hot Air has a list of some of the outrageous things the IRS demanded. They demanded a whole sheaf of personal information on present and past employees, and their families, and promised to make all of that information public.
Even the left is jumping on this, in part because the IRS’s conduct is too outrageous to excuse (except perhaps by the NYT), and in part because they think that the scandal won’t reach back to the White House. They shouldn’t be so sure. This is a president who jokes about abusing the IRS, and which has snooped through IRS records on its political opponents before.
We’ll get a sense pretty soon of whether the White House feels safely distant from this on Monday. If they do, they will announce an independent investigation. If they don’t, that will be an indication that they are worried this will come back to bite them.