One of the more memorable debate moments yesterday didn’t happen in prime-time. It occurred four hours earlier, at the debate for the seven Republican presidential hopefuls whose poll numbers were too weak to qualify for the main event.
Fox News’ Martha MacCallum posed a question to Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), which he seemed eager to answer. From the transcript:
MACCALLUM: On the same topic, let’s go to Governor Jindal. Carly Fiorina, also on the stage, said that she would go so far as to shut down the government over the issue of defunding Planned Parenthood. Would you do that? Would you be willing to shut down the government when it comes to defunding this group?JINDAL: Well, a couple of things. Planned Parenthood had better hope that Hillary Clinton wins this election, because I guarantee under President Jindal, January 2017, the Department of Justice and the IRS and everybody else that we can send from the federal government will be going in to Planned Parenthood.
This generated no real follow-up, which is a shame because it was an amazing answer. According to Jindal, his administration would dispatch the Internal Revenue Service to target Planned Parenthood because, well, Bobby Jindal doesn’t like Planned Parenthood.
But there’s a small problem with idea: it’s brazenly illegal.
Remember, Richard Nixon, among other things, tried to use the IRS as a political weapon to target his political foes – and had he not resigned in disgrace, Nixon would have been impeached for having done so. More recently, Republicans and much of the Beltway media accused President Obama of using the IRS to punish far-right Tea Party groups. The allegations proved baseless, but for a short while, Republicans saw this as a devastating scandal involving an abusive, out-of-control White House using the IRS as a political weapon.
And yet, there was Jindal – according to some, one of the smarter GOP officials on the national scene – offering a striking example of a presidential candidate vowing to commit impeachable offenses before the election even happens.
In related news, the Senate Finance Committee wrapped up its two-year investigation into the IRS “controversy” this week, issuing a report pointing to “mismanagement” at the tax agency, but finding no evidence of criminal wrongdoing and no evidence of White House interference.
In fact, the panel’s ranking Democrat, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), noted in the findings that the Republicans’ single most important talking point isn’t true: “Groups on both sides of the political spectrum were treated equally in their efforts to secure tax-exempt status.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, added, “After more than $20 million, two Inspector General reports, two years of Congressional investigations, and now a bipartisan Senate report, the fundamental facts remain the same: while there was certainly mismanagement at the IRS, there is still no evidence that the White House ever directed the IRS to target conservative groups, as Republicans have claimed for years.”
This should effectively end the matter – at least until Jindal’s inauguration.