While President Barack Obama was doubling down on his discredited narrative concerning the attack by terrorists on the Benghazi consulate, in the course of which Mr. Obama’s personal minister – that is what an ambassador is; the personal minister of the president – was murdered, it was revealed that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) had targeted Tea Party groups for what may turn out to be punitive audits.
National Public Radio briefly reported that when the president was asked a question concerning “reports that the IRS targeted organizations that identified themselves as ‘tea party’ or ‘patriot groups and gave their applications for tax-exempt status extra reviews, Obama said:
"’This is pretty straightforward. ... If in fact IRS personnel engaged in the kind of practices that have been reported ... and were intentionally targeting conservative groups, then that's outrageous and there's no place for it.’ Those responsible, he said, will ‘be held fully accountable.’”
Mr. Obama was asked about the audits during a press conference that featured British Prime Minister David Cameron. The president’s initial response, the promise of a severe dressing down of the IRS, passed muster with the increasing band of journalists who thought Mr. Obama’s handing of the Benghazi assault was seriously deficient. Even Fox News, unrelenting on Benghazi, slathered the president with commendations. Brit Hume of Fox News generously allowed the president’s initial response was the right one.
An explanation offered by IRS tax-exempt chief Lois Lerner quickly came under fire. Ms. Lerner attributed the possible “outrageous” conduct to “line people” in Cincinnati, Ohio who had “used names like Tea Party or Patriots” as criteria for selecting tax-exempt applications for further scrutiny.
Chairman of Americans for Limited Government Howard Rich noted in a piece written for Forbes Magazine that Ms. Lerner pointedly did not mention that “the IRS’ Cincinnati office is the central location for all tax-exempt application evaluations – meaning the discrimination that took place there “wasn’t an isolated, dumb incident by some random field office,” as The Washington Post concisely noted. In other words this was no error: It was official policy – which directly contradicts testimony previously provided by the agency’s leadership to Congressional investigators.”
A Reuters report noted, “When tax agents started singling out non-profit groups for extra scrutiny in 2010, they looked at first only for key words such as 'Tea Party,' but later they focused on criticisms by groups of ‘how the country is being run’ … At one point, the agents chose to screen applications from groups focused on making ‘America a better place to live.” Other IRS search terms included: “Government spending”, “Government debt, or taxes.” On Jan, 25, 2012, the criteria for flagging suspect groups was changed to "political action type organizations involved in limiting/expanding Government, educating on the Constitution and Bill of Rights, social economic reform/movement,’ according to an advance copy of a report done by Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), which notes that agency leadership was made aware of the discrimination nearly two years ago, who said nothing – and clearly had no plans to alert the public to what had happened.
On ABC This Week, columnist George Will remarked that the country had just celebrated – if that is the proper word – the 40th anniversary of the Watergate summer and read from then President Richard Nixon impeachment records: “He has, acting personally and through his subordinates and agents, endeavored to obtain from the Internal Revenue Service, in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens, confidential information contained in income tax returns for purposes not authorized by law, and to cause, in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens, income tax audits or other income tax investigations to be initiated or conducted in a discriminatory manner.”
Finally, shortly after the possible “outrageous” conduct of the IRS towards the much maligned Tea Party groups knocked the Obama administration on its noggin, a third shoe fell. The Justice Department, led by Fast and Furious Eric Holder, had wiretapped the phone lines of more than a hundred Associated Press reporters in an attempt to uncover the source of a leak of top secret information. Mr. Holder, who had recused himself from investigating the event, explained in a press conference that the taps were justified because of the nature of the leak.
This is not theway to gain friends and influence reporters among the national media. To judge from subsequent media availabilities in which presidential spokesman Jay Carney was relentlessly grilled, some worm had turned in the breast of reporters, and the Obama administration, which tends to treat words as incantations that magically alter objective reality, was playing hardball defense.