House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), struggling to shake his well-deserved reputation as a “laughably inept” clown, did his level best this week to revive the discredited IRS “scandal.” Relying on a partial transcript – one of his favorite tactics – Issa fed the media what he said was a scoop.
When IRS officials in Cincinnati needed guidance on how to deal with questionable tax-exempt applications, they solicited feedback from the agency’s office Washington. Among those who weighed in was the IRS’s lawyer, which obviously makes sense given the circumstances.
The Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan, whose uncontrollable contempt for President Obama has become difficult to watch, found this revelation fascinating.
The IRS scandal was connected this week not just to the Washington office – that had been established – but to the office of the chief counsel.
That is a bombshell – such a big one that it managed to emerge in spite of an unfocused, frequently off-point congressional hearing…. Still, what landed was a bombshell. And Democrats know it.
It troubles me that the right doesn’t realize the extent to which it’s embarrassing itself. The revelation isn’t a “bombshell”; it’s trivia we learned in mid-May. Indeed, Peggy Noonan herself knows this. I don’t mean she should know this; I mean there’s evidence she literally knows it – she wrote a column in May that referenced the same boring tidbit she now considers a “bombshell.”
Here’s what probably happened. Noonan learned a fairly mundane detail in May and wrote about it in a column. Then she forgot it. Two months later, Darrell Issa said he wants the media to take the mundane detail seriously for no particular reason, and Noonan, unwilling to reference her own work, rediscovers her fascination with the unimportant point.
Ben Smith recently characterized Noonan as the “last interesting columnist standing.” If by “interesting” he meant “lazy and blindly partisan,” I’m inclined to agree.
Of course, Noonan isn’t the only Republican who’s failing miserably to revive the ridiculous IRS “scandal.”
Issa’s hearing was itself an attempt to convince the political world the story still deserves to be taken seriously. It arguably had the opposite of the intended effect.
The inspector general behind the critical report about the IRS’ targeting of tea party groups acknowledged Thursday that the information in his report was not complete.
J. Russell George, the IRS inspector general, told the House Oversight Committee that only in the past few weeks has he become aware of documents showing that the IRS screened progressive groups in addition to conservative ones. George said he was “disturbed” by the fact that these documents were not provided to his team of investigators prior to the audit’s release and that he was continuing to investigate the issue.
“I am concerned that there may be additional pieces of information that we don’t have,” he said. “I’m very concerned about that sir.”
Oh, you mean “additional pieces of information” such as the fact that liberal groups were subjected to the same scrutiny as conservative groups? And there was no targeting of conservative organizations? And that politics had nothing to do with the added scrutiny?
And that this entire controversy is based on a report that by its author’s own admission, presents an inaccurate picture of reality?
Perhaps my favorite moment of yesterday’s hearing came when George was asked why his report failed to mention that he found literally zero evidence of political motivations on the part of the IRS, even after he reviewed 5,500 emails on the matter. George responded that he couldn’t have known “if there was an email that was destroyed.”
Making matters much worse, the hearing devolved into farce when Issa accused Oversight Committee Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), who is African American, of reminding him of a “little boy.” Issa later clarified he didn’t mean for the comment to sound so racist.
I’m not going to say the IRS scandal is officially over now, because for anyone who gives a darn about reality, this point came and went weeks ago. I will say that to continue to believe this story has merit and deserves to be taken seriously is deeply, painfully foolish.