Why is it hard to believe Obama ordered the IRS to target his enemies?

Why is it hard to believe Obama ordered the IRS to target his enemies?

Obama PoutingSeveral columns this morning probe the question of the president’s involvement in the burgeoning IRS scandal. Jonah Goldberg at Townhall delivers a typically compelling argument that the IRS was following Obama’s example (more on which below), but the article opens with a disclaimer: “Yes, it’s extremely unlikely he ordered the IRS to discriminate against tea party, pro-life or Jewish groups opposed to his agenda.”

But why is that so hard to believe? Sure, making the claim that the president may have been directly involved gets you branded a conspiracy theorist, but consider two pieces of circumstantial evidence. One is Obama’s fixation on “outing” his “enemies.” He has twice attempted to rally support from the community at large. The second is his believing too much in his own power and the willingness of the press to run interference for him.

Calling on snitches. On two separate occasions the White House website enlisted the aid of citizen whistleblowers, asking them to report “lies” and distortions leveled at the president. The first such invitation was labeled AttackWatch.com and invited the user to “get the facts” and “fight the smears.” That was in September 2011. It was followed up in April 2012 with The Truth Team, whose slogan was “Know the facts. Get the truth.” (The third imperative, hidden in the running text on the page, was “Spread the word.”)

Granted, one man’s smear is another’s First Amendment-protected speech, but the web pages had a Big Brotherish quality that made them unsettling. A now-defunct page titled Keeping the GOP Honest was particularly disturbing, creating an adversarial spirit that is anathema to the one our republic is founded on. It prompted Kim Strassel of the Wall Street Journal to write at the time:

Richard Nixon’s ‘enemies list’ appalled the country for the simple reason that presidents hold a unique trust. Unlike senators or congressmen, presidents alone represent all Americans. Their powers — to jail, to fine, to bankrupt — are also so vast as to require restraint. Any president who targets a private citizen for his politics is de facto engaged in government intimidation and threats. This is why presidents since Nixon have carefully avoided the practice.

Save Mr. Obama, who acknowledges no rules.

In her article, Strassel quoted former U.S. solicitor general Ted Olson as saying:

We don’t tolerate presidents or people of high power to do these things. When you have the power of the presidency — the power of the IRS, the INS, the Justice Department, the DEA, the SEC — what you have effectively done is put these guys’ names up on ‘Wanted’ posters in government offices.

Olsen’s specific mention of “the power of the IRS” is in retrospect a pithy omen.

If these entreaties to spy on behalf of the administration had occurred in isolation, one might dismiss them as paranoia. That they were more than that is suggested by Jonah Goldberg who writes:

Throughout his presidency, Obama has set a very clear tone. He’s made it clear that people who disagree with him are fevered, illegitimate, weird, creepy, dangerous, stupid, confused, ignorant or some other adjective you might assign to a revamped version of the seven dwarves. He’s explained that he doesn’t mind ‘cleaning up after’ after Republicans but he doesn’t want to hear ‘a lot of talking’ from them. The time for democratic debate is always behind us with an administration that began with the mission not to let a crisis go to waste.

Putting too much faith in an adoring press. Up until recently, despite protestations to the contrary, the mainstream media and leftist commentators were in the president’s pocket. That may still be the case, but for now, the bloom is off the rose. Elite journalists, having found their conscience, are reporting that the White House has been less than forthright in its handling of the facts as they pertain to the Benghazi aftermath, the Justice Department’s violation of the First Amendment protections enjoyed by the Associated Press, and the IRS scandal.

But for all the media’s outrage, they remain opposed to the Tea Party, the GOP, and the pro-Israeli lobby, and have said so repeatedly and in unsubtle ways. A catalog of some of the more notable slurs against the Tea Party was compiled by Newsbusters’s Rich Noyes on Aug. 8, 2011, A few will suffice to give the general flavor:

There’s a nihilist caucus which is, ‘Listen, we want to burn the place down.’ I mean, they’re not, they’ve strapped explosives to the Capitol and they think they are immune from it. The Tea Party caucus wants this crisis, and do we want to do this again six months from now? — Bloomberg columnist Margaret Carlson on Inside Washington, July 29

If sane Republicans do not stand up to this Hezbollah faction in their midst, the Tea Party will take the GOP on a suicide mission. — New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, July 27.

Tea Party budget-slashers … were like cannibals, eating their own party and leaders alive. They were like vampires, draining the country’s reputation, credit rating and compassion. They were like zombies, relentlessly and mindlessly coming back again and again to assault their unnerved victims, Boehner and President Obama. They were like the metallic beasts in Alien flashing mouths of teeth inside other mouths of teeth, bursting out of Boehner’s stomach every time he came to a bouquet of microphones.
— New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, August 3 column

Let me finish tonight with this bad experience we’ve all just been through. What we saw, what I saw at least, was one guy with a knife and the other trying to avoid being cut. It was a thug attacking a victim. It was a mugging. Now, the good news — relief is a better word, I suppose — is that the victim did get through it. The bad news is that the mugger got what he wanted. He got the wallet…. The mugging continues, again and again and again. The people who perpetrated this assault on the President will come back to do it again.
— Chris Matthews talking about the debt talks on MSNBC’s Hardball, August 2

Knowing the general attitude of the media toward the Tea Party and their long-standing readiness to bury any news that reflected badly on the administration, why wouldn’t Obama assume he had a carte blanche to deal with these miscreants in any way he saw fit?

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Howard Portnoy

Howard Portnoy

Howard Portnoy has written for The Blaze, HotAir, NewsBusters, Weasel Zippers, Conservative Firing Line, RedCounty, and New York’s Daily News. He has one published novel, Hot Rain, (G. P. Putnam’s Sons), and has been a guest on Radio Vice Online with Jim Vicevich, The Alana Burke Show, Smart Life with Dr. Gina, and The George Espenlaub Show.

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