Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Scandals that Weren't

This is a political post.

When you don't like somebody, everything they do is wrong. If you don't like somebody,  you can rationalize the validity of the statement "Look at them, sitting there eating cookies like they're better than me." And although they've been subtle about it, we are beginning to get the impression that maybe some conservatives don't think of the President as their pal, ha ha.  Okay, all jokes aside, we all know that if Obama personally cured cancer they still would not like him. Which I believe makes every assertion made towards him more than a little suspect.

Now the sad part is there is plenty to get mad at Obama about: the continuing existence of Guantanamo which serves mostly as a radical recruiting tool, the comically dubious nature of the drone strike program, and the ridiculous backlog of claims at the VA. Any one of those is fodder for a semi-serious critical analysis of the President's well as many other things. But instead we got the week of fake scandal. Not anything about jobs, or growth, or deficit reduction, or the continuing abuse of financial privilege. No, we got this.... 


Once you become convinced of a conspiracy, until you find said conspiracy, you will never be satisfied. No matter what facts emerge, unless you can link them up to make your theory valid, you will believe that there is more to find. Even when nothing more exists. Which brings us to Benghazi.

The conspiracy cadre wants so dearly to learn that awoken in the dead of the night and told the
diplomatic mission was under attack, the President said "f**k'em" and went back to sleep. Or even that somehow the President was in Benghazi that night leading the attack, Hillary Clinton with a fake
mustache by his side, in an effort along with the ACLU, the Unions and gays to bring down the country. Unless Obama and Hillary confess to something like this, then these fools think they must still be hiding something! Because this is bigger than Watergate...which just goes to show you how few people remember the particulars of Watergate, why it was so bad and why this isn't even close to that accident of history. And at this point I'm not sure what they're still trying to prove Obama did wrong. I don't think they even know. 


So let me get this straight. The problem is that the taxing agency of the US used inappropriate criteria to select applicants for review which resulted in delays and asked for too much information from said applicants. Yes, really, that's the whole scandal. It sounds simple, but what it caused is for conservative groups to be treated unfairly. Maybe. But let's look deeper, let's look for context.

In 2010, with the Citizen United decision having been handed down which loosened the rules of money in politics, there was a sudden upsurge in requests for 501(c) tax exempt status. The problem was a lot of the applications were more than a little suspect, as the organizations requesting to be classified as "social welfare" groups clearly were not anything of the sort. Social welfare organizations can't favor specific legislation or a candidate, and cannot be focused on political campaigning. A large number of the applying organizations clearly were political, and thus ineligible for this classification. So the IRS spotted possible widespread tax fraud, something that seems to have been forgotten when discussing the scandal. The problem is they took the wrong steps in their initial investigation.

Only this doesn't even appear to be a coordinated effort by the sitting administration, but more a group of bureaucrats looking for a workload shortcurt. Or rather, one person. Which is terrible. Unless of course you actually work for living, then you kinda understand how overworked people look for shortcuts. And if you look into it a little more, you realize that this not only happens all the time, this instance doesn't even reach the level of normal shenanigans. History shows FDR, Nixon and most recently in 2004, then President Bush targeting Greenpeace, the NAACP and churches who spoke out against Iraq using the IRS as a weapon.

So there must have been a cover up of this horrendous and illegal practice? Um, but Congress looked into this last year, and the Acting Head of the IRS testified on this very subject before a Ways and Means subcommittee. Answered every question they had too. And although inappropriate, the act is hardly illegal.

So the real scandal is organizations who submitted forms for tax exemption, during a massive surge in applications, that that appeared fraudulent got got delayed and received extra scrutiny? Oh, the horrible shame of the IRS tying to do it's job. 

Associated Press

It's funny how the people who implored the administration the loudest to investigate the national security leaks, well, not implored, more like screamed at the President to do something, are the ones now outraged at the actual investigation. Even worse, the things they're mad about aren't even the right things. Again, going with context.

The Justice Department tries to do all sorts of things of dubious legality in an effort to be legal. They write up an opinion, stick in the file and like magic "they can do that." That's why we think "waterboarding" somehow is exempt from the term cruel and unusual.  The Justice Department did not just seize two months of Associated Press phone records. Repeated use of the word seize has colored this whole episode with such a bad connotation. It gives the impression of men in dark suits showing up and just taking things. Would you be as mad or interested if they used another word like, er, "asked for", "requested", or "subpoenaed"?

Because the Justice Department did get a subpoena. You know, like on Law and Order. Which means that this time they didn't use "opinion magic", they like...went through legal steps and junk.  Eric Holder had even recused himself - meaning he had no part at all - in the investigation to avoid any irregularities. And since they had to then serve the Associated Press with the subpoena, and wait for them to comply...AND the Associated Press cited it understood the existence of security concerns and waited to run the story....why is there outrage? The AP handed over the info...then waits a while?

That the leak that is being pursued was of classified information seems to have been overlooked. That a person without the proper clearances receiving said information is against the law has been pushed aside in the rush to damn Obama and his administration. Inflammatory language to gives rise to the imagery of jack booted thugs isn't helping. But then the AP, and the Conservatives, are trying to make its case in the court of public opinion.

The practical upshot of this week, ...mess? On the plus side, we've spent a week unconcerned about the unwholesome antics of what ever talentless starlet would have normally been our focus. But on the downside, our attention was on the ludicrous political circus of pettiness, greed and jealousy that needs to end before we head down the rabbit hole.

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