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I get it. The IRS scandal is petered out. Over. Old news. Nothing more to see here.

Darrel Issa and Peggy Noonan: one congressional chair, one pundit, and zero accountability for the phony IRS scandal
Darrel Issa and Peggy Noonan:
one congressional chair, one pundit,
and zero accountability for the phony IRS scandal
Except...

Why should the people who created a scandal out of nothing just get off like that? Do we just be glad the IRS scandal turned out to be nothing and stop talking about it? Try to pragmatically fix the minor but real problems? Do we go on the offensive and try to hold some people accountable? Smart readers probably already guessed I'm leaning towards the last one. I'm not insensible of the case for just dropping it. I'm just asking for some public pounding of some miscreants.

After congressional Republicans spent who knows how much time digging into the "scandal", why did it take the press to reveal that the same scrutiny was given to applicants who had nothing to do with tea parties or conservatism? When did Republicans figure out the case for bias just wasn't there? Maybe they really just blinded themselves to contradictory information. People do. However, even if they didn't knowingly withhold important information, will they own up that they screwed up? More important, will we demand that they own up, and that the press dig into when Republicans learned conservative applicants weren't singled out?

I get that the Inspector General focused on investigations of conservative groups because that's what oversight chair Darrell Issa asked for, but the IG doesn't work for Congress. Issa can't give such an order. As much as Issa deserves to be pilloried for ordering up a biased investigation, the IG needs to answer for giving it to him, including withholding important information, namely that non-conservatives were subjected to the same scrutiny, so the whole basis for an investigation was false. How did a partisan Republican (judged not just from how he does his job, but from his appointment to government jobs by both Bushes) get into a job that requires scrupulous non-partisanship? I hardly expect personnel records to be opened to the public, but is it too much to ask that those who do have such access look into it?

Will any of the punditry who raged on about this being worse than Watergate admit they were wrong? Get fired for consistent wrongness? Lose even a single appearance on the Sunday morning interview shows? Maybe we need an update to Godwin's Law, that whoever resorts first to Nazi comparisons loses because you shouldn't compare anything to Nazis unless you're actually discussing Nazis (something else referred to as Godwin's Law is the law that all online discussions eventually devolve into Nazi comparisons --- just acknowledging variations without wanting to divert into a discussion of which one really is Godwin's Law). So no more comparing anything to Watergate if it isn't as freaking big as Watergate.

A kudo though to some of the press. Not, I would hope it would be obvious, to those in the press who played up the scandal for the sake of mouse clicks or ratings or partisanship or a misplaced sense of drama, but rather to some like Jonathan Weissman, whose NY Times article I linked to above. There were professional journalists who dug in with the appropriate skepticism and did the sort of work congressional Republicans couldn't be bothered with.

Organizations approached by The New York Times based on specific “lookout list” warnings, like advocates for people in “occupied territories” and “open source software developers,” told similar stories of long waits, intrusive inquiries and bureaucratic hassles that pointed to no particular bias but rather to a process that became too rigid and too broad. The lists often did point to legitimate issues: partisan political campaign organizations seeking tax-exempt status, or commercial businesses hoping to cloak themselves as nonprofit groups. But even I.R.S. officials say lookout list warnings were often pursued in a ham-handed or overly rigid way.
Sounds like work that's both essential and tedious, with no chance to grandstand at a congressional hearing or enjoy being lionized on conservative talk radio.

So clearly I don't want to just be glad the IRS scandal never reached Obama and just let it drop. Congressional Republicans and their parallels in the media deserve to have their credibility damaged, but that won't happen if we once again just tittle to ourselves about what charlatans they are and otherwise let it slide.

Originally posted to ericf on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 03:06 PM PDT.

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