They certainly are. Unfortunately, they’re also uncomfortable, and lead to some pretty dark conclusions about what kind of country this is, which themselves lead to some very dark and scary places indeed.
The facts are simple. The IRS systematically targeted conservative and Tea Party groups after their activism proved decisive in the 2010 midterm elections—Obama’s famous “shellacking.” The effects of this targeting were widespread. Some Tea Party groups were neutered in the months before the 2012 presidential election.
Few of the explanations or justifications of this targeting provided by IRS leaders and Obama administration officials have held up. IRS officials at first denied that any targeting had taken place. That was false. They later claimed that the targeting had involved only low-level employees in the Cincinnati office. That was false. They argued that conservative groups weren’t singled out, that progressive groups were subject to the same level of scrutiny. That was false. They argued that the IRS has complied with all requests for information from Congress. That was false.
Three years ago, on June 3, 2011, Representative Dave Camp, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, wrote to the IRS requesting all information—including emails and other communication—related to the alleged targeting of conservative groups. Ten days later, Lois Lerner, the woman at the center of the targeting, reported to the IT team at the IRSthat her hard drive had crashed. IRS leaders, questioned repeatedly about Lerner’s emails in subsequent congressional hearings, made no mention of the hard drive crash. Earlier this summer, IRS director John Koskinen disclosed that thousands of Lerner emails—including many of those sent to executive branch agencies—were missing because of the alleged computer problems. From her first appearance before a congressional committee, back in May 2013, Lerner has exercised her right against self-incrimination and refused to testify.
These facts lead to one conclusion: Lois Lerner and other top IRS officials were desperate to keep information on the targeting of conservative groups from Congress.
It’s crucial to understand why. And that will require a special prosecutor.
Ahh, not so fast there, Stephen. Andrew McCarthy explains the flaw in this bad idea:
Let’s say you had a president and attorney general who were regarded by even the opposition party as trustworthy.
Okay, you could just stop right there, really.
They could appoint a lawyer widely respected by both major parties as a pillar of rectitude and competence. Such an attorney’s reputation might convince the public to overlook the technicality that the lawyer would answer to the AG and, ultimately, to the president. But the attorney’s reputation on its own wouldn’t suffice. This “independent” counsel’s appointment would have to be accompanied by the president’s own very convincing demonstration that he regarded the investigation as a serious matter and was cooperating earnestly — in particular, by directing his subordinates, on pain of termination, to answer all questions and disclose all relevant evidence.
Now, let’s consider the Obama administration. President “I’m not interested in photo ops” is notoriously cynical and slippery — indeed, flat-out dishonest at times. His attorney general has already been held in contempt of Congress, owing to his penchant for providing misinformation. The president has publicly prejudged the IRS scandal as bereft of a “smidgeon” of corruption. The attorney general — notwithstanding the ethical canon that lawyers must avoid even the appearance of impropriety in the administration of justice — assigned this abuse-of-power probe to Barbara Bosserman, a heavy Obama and Democratic-party campaign donor.
Legitimacy is mostly a matter of trust. This president and this attorney general do not have the credibility to structure an independent-counsel investigation that sensible people would accept as a search for the truth. And never forget that they have stuck with the hopelessly compromised Ms. Bosserman for months — notwithstanding intense congressional criticism, reports that key witnesses have not been interviewed, and indications that relevant evidence has been destroyed with impunity. The suggestion that they might suddenly put the case in the hands of an impartial, impeccably credentialed former prosecutor with directions to go wherever the facts lead does not pass the laugh test.
No, it doesn’t. But it gets even worse from there, leading ultimately to this:
You can have political accountability for abuses of power or you can have an “independent” counsel and “the process.” Political accountability is driven by congressional investigations and court cases brought by citizens whose rights have been trampled. It is messy, combative, and political, but the malfeasance it uncovers can result in the removal of corrupt officials from power.
By contrast, “the process,” under the steady hand of “independent” counsels, is neat, silent, and somnolent. In fact, once it starts, that may be the last you hear about it until President Obama pardons everyone on his way out the door.
Indeed–right after a week or so of gullible conservative pundits waxing smugly–and erroneously–indignant about what Obama “wouldn’t dare” or “couldn’t possibly” do, followed closely by gleeful hooraw-ing about his concomitant “nosedive” in the polls after he does it, and the absolute certainty of a tsunami of Republicrat victory in the next round of meaningless elections. Lather, rinse, repeat until you collapse. Or the country does.
In the end, there’s only one course of action that will bring about the desired result and re-establish the legitimacy of government even partially, and nobody really wants to do it: dismantle the IRS, simplify the tax system, and bring the whole sordid mess more into line with the Constitution. Regrettably, as I said, none of our political masters in DC from either the Demican or Republicrat wing of the Ruling Party are in favor of this, and certainly won’t be sticking their necks out to do it, or even advocate it.