You can tell how bad the IRS scandal is by CNN‘s remorseless efforts to soft-pedal it during their report on the House vote to hold former Tax Exempt Organizations head Lois Lerner in contempt. Check out how much shoddy reporting they packed into just the first four paragraphs of their report:
Acting on a conservative battle cry and potentially triggering a court battle with the Obama administration, the Republican-led House voted Wednesday to hold former IRS official Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress for refusing to answer questions about her agency’s targeting of conservative and other groups.
The 231-187 vote fell almost entirely along party lines, a decision that cut across three sharp divides: balance of power issues between the branches of government, political questions over the IRS scandal, and a Constitutional debate over Lerner’s individual Fifth Amendment rights.
Lerner is in the middle of that trio. Until she retired last year, she ran the IRS division in charge of tax exempt status. An inspector general’s report concluded her staff had inappropriately targeted Tea Party and other groups for extra scrutiny.
The term “progressive” was also flagged but the inspector general report indicated that conservative terms drew more attention from the IRS.
The very first words of the article try to paint the whole thing as a purely partisan theatrical performance, with conservatives rallying to a “battle cry,” not Americans of all political persuasions asking very serious questions about the abuse of government power to stifle political dissent. Not another word in the article is devoted to the Democrats who voted to hold Lerner in contempt on that “almost” party-line vote.
Later in the article, CNN claims “the problem for Republicans has been that as their base clamors for action and high-ranking heads to roll on the scandal, neither Lerner nor anyone at the IRS has provided information linking the controversy to the White House.” As if the only high-ranking heads that should roll – in a scandal that has resulted in zero heads rolling thus far – are in the White House, and if nobody who sees Barack Obama at least once a week can be destroyed, the whole effort is a waste of time. This is not a binary choice between “bring down the President” and “let Lois Lerner do whatever the hell she wants.”
By painting it that way, biased media reinforces the narrative that it’s a partisan game, not a serious crisis of government. Does anyone really think a couple of graceful retirements, with full taxpayer-funded benefits, would be considered an adequate resolution if this story was a about a Republican Administration unleashing the IRS against civil-rights groups? Does anyone imagine for an instant that Democrats and their media auxiliaries would accept the key figure in such a scandal taking the Fifth – after first delivering a self-serving statement that arguably waived her right to do so – and call it a wrap?
In a similar vein, CNN claims the “three sharp divides” in the case are “balance of power issues between the branches of government, political questions over the IRS scandal, and a Constitutional debate over Lerner’s individual Fifth Amendment rights.” How about “abuse of the IRS to suppress the political adversaries of the Democrat Party?” That strikes most of us as the major issue here. There are no longer any serious questions that such abuse took place – a direct chain of evidence exists between top Democrats whining about the political influence of conservative groups, and Lerner orchestrating the deliriously biased assault on such groups by her unit of the IRS – a crusade designed to intimidate donors and tie up these groups in endless procedures that didn’t get resolved until after the 2012 election.
CNN’s left-wing biases shine most clearly when they plug the utter non-sequitur about “progressive” groups getting flagged as well into the fourth paragraph of the story. They want this absurd and discredited talking point to be one of the first things their readers see. Actual number of progressive groups subjected to Tea Party-style scrutiny, intimidation, and delaying tactics: zero. This is not a matter of opinion or debate; it’s a cold, hard fact that is not difficult for a news organization to explain to its readers. The incredibly tiny smattering of non-conservative groups (seven!) that received any sort of enhanced scrutiny from Lerner’s unit all had serious non-political problems that made such scrutiny obligatory, such as ACORN groups making highly dubious efforts to present themselves as new organizations. None of these seven progressive groups received anything remotely comparable to the inquisition suffered by Tea Party and pro-life organizations. Media organizations that throw in vague, misleading statements like CNN’s are telling their liberal readers a comforting fairy tale, not reporting on the “news.”
Soft-pedaling the controversy is an important part of creating a biased media narrative that Lois Lerner is some kind of victim, a helpless partisan punching bag. The real story here is that the Obama Administration refuses to hold anyone accountable for outrageous abuses of power – described as such by the President himself, during the brief period when he felt it necessary to pretend he was outraged – and it’s necessary for Congress to resort to these measures in order to get at the truth. And even this isn’t likely to get the job done, because the House also voted 250-168 to ask Attorney General Eric Holder’s Justice Department to appoint a special counsel, and there’s not much chance that’s going to happen. You’ll notice that vote had considerably more Democrat “ayes” than the one to hold Lerner in contempt. That’s because Democrats looking at a brutal 2014 election are nervous about the perception that they don’t want to do anything about the abuse of IRS power, and they probably figure tossing the hot potato over to the most partisan Attorney General of the most politicized Justice Department in modern history is a good way to get rid of it.
The real “partisanship” story here is Democrats closing ranks to protect corrupt government officials, and the banana-republic farce of Rep. Elijah Cummings – himself an active participant in the scandal, who has labored to conceal his involvement – retaining a seat at the table. Of course the Democrat Party doesn’t want its voter-suppression operation investigated.
This whole saga began with Lerner admitting the IRS acted inappropriately, using a planted question at a conference to get out in front of a damning internal audit. It’s not Republicans who are trying to keep the scandal alive through the midterm elections, as Lerner’s attorney alleges. It’s the Administration that steadfastly refused to hold anyone responsible for admitted wrongdoing, or give the American people a clear and definitive account of exactly how the wrongdoing happened, and why no one put a stop to it.
Update: What did the IRS do with those donor lists they kept demanding from targeted groups? It turns out they audited fully 10 percent of those donors, a far higher audit rate than the national average. But that’s no big deal, right, liberals? You’d be totally cool with a Republican Administration doing that to left-wing groups, and if the mastermind of the operation took the Fifth when called to testify, you’d just throw in the towel and tell America to move along, right?