Within hours after the news broke that the Internal Revenue Service singled out Tea Party and other conservative groups that had applied for tax-exempt 501(c)(4) status for extra scrutiny, conservatives were already complaining that the story wasn't getting enough play in the media. "Imagine if this had happened under President Bush!" they cried. For starters, it actually did. In that case, it was the FBI, not the IRS, that went after liberal groups under the pretense that they might be harboring al Qaeda terrorists (after all, it's well known that the first thing a sleeper cell does when they get to the U.S. is maintain their low profile by participating in an anti-war protest).
Now that there are finally a couple of Obama administration "scandals" for conservatives and the media to chew on, we're going to be hearing a lot of comparisons to what went on in prior administrations, so it will be useful to get our history straight. One Republican after another has declared the Benghazi affair "worse than Watergate," which is sort of like declaring that hangnail you just got "worse than the Ebola virus." History buffs will recall that Watergate was so serious that the president of the United States, facing impeachment and all-but-certain conviction, resigned over it. "But how many people died in Watergate? Huh? Huh?" conservatives are fond of saying, convinced that their brilliant rhetorical gambit has won the argument. By that measure, the worst scandal in American history was the Civil War. Perhaps it's not too late to impeach Lincoln?
Getting back to Richard Nixon, more than a few times we've heard the recently revealed IRS actions referred to as "Nixonian." They might be—if it turns out that President Obamapersonally ordered the IRS to audit his political opponents. Because that's what Richard Nixon did. On tape. Nevertheless, a survey just released by Public Policy Polling shows "Republicans think by a 74/19 margin than Benghazi is a worse political scandal than Watergate, by a 74/12 margin that it's worse than Teapot Dome, and by a 70/20 margin that it's worse than Iran Contra." I suppose we can forgive the fading memories of Teapot Dome, but on the others, one has to ask, are these people nuts?
Those bizarre poll results clue us in to an immutable truth: whatever we do or don't learn about these affairs, in the coming months, Republicans are going to make fools of themselves. Count on it.
So They Say
"But the best way I can put it to you is, here at age 46, I am less interested in politics than I’ve ever been in my life. Politics don’t serve a lot of good. I’m not talking about government—government serves a lot of good. But politics don’t seem to be reaping a lot of positive benefits these days. ... Our country is run by good people, more or less, who want the best for their own families, but as with most things that pass through the filter of politics, things get messed up."
—Vince Gilligan, creator of Breaking Bad
Daily Meme: Scandal Odds-and-Ends
- The IRS mess announced last Friday is dominating the news cycle once more today, and growing into a wider debacle.
- Or, as NBC News puts it, "The White House’s terrible, horrible Friday spills over…"
- ... and makes conservatives gleeful.
- Alec MacGillis says the real scandal is that the IRS wasn't targeting the groups doing the most egregious election spending—like Crossroads GPS.
- Glenn Beck is pretty sure that the IRS scandal, Benghazi, and the Boston bombings are all connected. There's a good chance he's already called up Nicolas Cage about making this the plot of the next National Treasure movie.
- While Newt Gingrich was intent on connecting the IRS and Obamacare, when not delivering soliloquys on smartphone semantics.
- Obama is also not pleased with the IRS. “If you've got the IRS operating in anything less than a neutral and nonpartisan way, then that is outrageous. It is contradictory to our traditions, and people have to be held accountable."
- But, as Jamelle Bouie points out, despite the clear lack of connection between the IRS workers in Cincinnati and the White House, Republicans are already packing together this and Benghazi into one big 'ol scandal snowball. "If the GOP takes the Senate in next year’s elections, and thus gains control of Congress, don’t be surprised if we begin 2015 with impeachment proceedings against the president."
What We're Writing
- Want to organize your workplace? There's an app for that! Abby Rapoportinvestigates FixMyJob.com, labor's newest tool for would-be unionizers in the post-collective bargaining era.
- Since the end of the recession, revenues at American corporations have been largely stagnant, yet a funny thing has happened--profits have continued to rise. "The answer is that profits are increasing because corporations are getting by with fewer workers than they employed before the crash of 2008, and they’re paying those workers less," writes Harold Myerson.
What We're Reading
- Clinton 2016 bigwigs are very wary about "Ready for Hillary" PAC, run by a bunch of enthusiastic nobodies.
- Ta-Nehisi Coates reminds us, in the middle of the Richwine debacle, "the differences between us were constructed by men who sought power, and are maintained just the same."
- NPR looks at the growing numbers of Americans identifying as multiracial.
- Jonathan Cohn writes that the new Oregon Medicaid study "should force all of us, on the left and the right, to think more carefully about how we write and talk about health care reform."
- Behold, that poll on hipsters and PBR you didn't know you wanted.
- Nathan Heller wonders whether college—even the Ivy League kind—has moved online.
- McSweeney's remembers our nation's drone veterans.
Poll of the Day
A new poll from the New York Fed found that credit is still hard to come by for small businesses, with an approval rate of only 63 percent for loan applicants in 2012, same as the year before. The same poll found small businesses say adequate financing is their biggest obstacle to growth and that only 57 percent of companies seeking loans of $100,000 or less--the amount the majority of them seek—were approved.