What difference does it make: GOP needs to answer that question

What difference does it make: GOP needs to answer that question

The IRS scandal, in which bureaucrats at the agency unfairly targeted conservative groups for special restrictive treatment as they applied for tax-exempt status, is worse than Watergate, wrote the Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Henninger recently:

The IRS tea-party audit story isn’t Watergate; it’s worse than Watergate.

The Watergate break-in was the professionals of the party in power going after the party professionals of the party out of power. The IRS scandal is the party in power going after the most average Americans imaginable.

But here’s another reason why it’s worse than Watergate: Nixon didn’t need the break-in, whatever its goal, to win. As it was, he won every state except Massachusetts and the District of Columbia and over 60 percent of the popular vote in what is considered a landslide victory over George McGovern.

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By contrast, President Barack Obama’s margin of victory over Mitt Romney was only around 4 percent, with the president winning about 51 percent of the popular vote.

Would Barack Obama have won re-election if it had been revealed prior to November 2012 that the IRS had unfairly targeted his opponents? It’s within the realm of possibility, which is why the Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto suggests that Obama should be viewed in the same way as athletes whose use of performance-enhancing drugs muddies their records of victory:

No one can deny that Lance Armstrong and Mark McGwire were highly skilled athletes. But their accomplishments are forever tainted by their use of banned performance-enhancing drugs. The use of the Internal Revenue Service’s coercive power to suppress dissent against Obama is the political equivalent of steroids. The history books should record Obama’s re-election with an asterisk to indicate that it was achieved with the help of illicit means.

And that leads me to my question for Republicans on the various oversight committees looking into this scandal. To paraphrase our former Secretary of State: What difference does it make? Right now, the hearings seem to be a fog of rancor (congressional Democrats push this effect with their bickering with committee chairs), with little value to the average American.

Don’t get me wrong. I applaud GOPers who — despite disinterest from a media eager to pounce on any Republican infraction, real or not, despite the Democrats’ mind-boggling decision to rise to the defense of what is probably the most-loathed federal agency in a long list of disliked bureaucracies — continue to pursue this. But we have to ask: To what end?

As far as I can see, there should be three goals of any investigation:

1. Bring light and heat on those who have transgressed: Sending a Lois Lerner to jail, if it’s discovered she did, in fact, commit a crime, would have an effect on potential wrongdoers of the future. They’d think twice about using their position for political advantage.

2. Reform the bureaucracy involved: Whether it’s the VA scandal, the Benghazi scandal, the Fast and Furious scandal or whatever, Americans are tired of seeing a parade of bureaucrats hauled on the carpet in front of Congressional committees…and nothing happens. Bonuses still get paid, pensions doled out, and those who were supposed to be served and/or protected by the agencies still suffer. Reform civil service, GOPers. Now.

3. Go after the president: Watergate, for those who lived through it, wasn’t really about reforming how elections are run or how the White House could operate. It was about bringing Richard Nixon down. And if Republicans think this needs to happen with Barack Obama because his White House is tied to an egregious abuse of power, they have to have the courage to do it, to go after this White House hammer and tong. I know there’s skittishness about this after the debacle of the Clinton impeachment. And it should only be done if abuse of power can be proven. But if it can be shown that Barack Obama’s White House used power to stay in power–he deserves to be pulled from that power.

I worry that Republicans run the risk of looking like nothing more than Victorian ladies on the verge of collapsing on their fainting couches: Horrors! Another scandal! Are there witnesses I can question?

If they don’t bring something of substance from these hearings, and do so with deliberate speed, they might as well not pursue them at all.

Libby Sternberg

Libby Sternberg

Libby Sternberg is an Edgar-nominated novelist whose works include humorous women’s fiction, young adult fiction, and historical fiction. Her political writings have appeared at Hot Air, the Weekly Standard, Insight, the Wall Street Journal, and Christian Science Monitor.


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