There may be no evidence linking the Obama White House to the IRS controversies, but that didn’t stop Bill O’Reilly last night from teaming up with Republican Trey Gowdy to suggest one anyway. For good measure, he gratuitously tied the matter to Benghazi (just like Neil Cavuto did) and the NSA controversy.
After a Talking Points commentary in which O’Reilly claimed that the Obama administration is stonewalling on all fronts (hinting that they are hiding some kind of massive, Nixonian wrongdoing), out came Gowdy to give it the Congressional imprimatur. “Congress must (investigate). We can’t rely on the FBI, the CIA, the IRS or anybody else in the federal bureaucracy to tell us the truth,” O'Reilly intoned gravely. Even worse, according to O’Reilly, there will “have to be” special prosecutors and, “By the time we know what really happened, President Obama will be finishing up his second term. So you can see the strategy here.”
Yes, we can, Bill, but not the one you had in mind. What O’Reilly was teeing up here is a call for impeachment or at the least a ratcheting up of the rabid scandal-mongering going on at Fox. He “asked” Gowdy, “What is your opinion on what is really going on with the IRS? I mean, we now know that it’s into the Washington bureaucracy, it’s not a Cincinnati deal. Do you think this was orchestrated by the Democratic Party or the White House?”
Gowdy: Well, I don’t have any evidence to support that but I can tell you this: one place we ought to be looking is the Obama/Biden re-elect, not just the White House. …I like to deal in evidence; I can’t prove to you that it goes to the White House. I can tell you this: I don’t think two rogue agents in Cincinnati concocted this scheme on their own.
O’Reilly massaged it along for Gowdy:
So somebody concocted what you call the scheme to target the Tea Party and other conservatives and criminally leak out some IRS private information to enemies of those people. That’s a criminal offense. Where do you go from here? …Somebody’s going to have to advance the story and I’m wondering where that’s gonna come from. How are you going to find out who concocted the scheme?
Notice that O’Reilly takes it as a certainty that there is a “scheme” without a scintilla of evidence beyond the fact that the so-called targeting of conservatives involved Washington officials. As Media Matters notes, however, the actual evidence points to nothing nefarious about what happened in Washington:
"(I)t is not improper for IRS officials to review the applications of groups seeking non-profit status - in fact, that is their job. The reason the IRS has been criticized is because they used politically slanted criteria to select conservative, but not progressive, groups to receive additional scrutiny. Specifically, the IRS gave additional scrutiny to groups with "tea party," "patriot," and "9/12" in their names. And that criteria was developed by a screening agent from the Cincinnati office, according to excerpts from a congressional interview included in a memo from the Democratic staff of the Oversight Committee.
...(former Washington-based IRS official) Paz further testified that when her superior, Lois Lerner, the Washington, D.C.-based director of exempt organizations, became aware that the Cincinnati office was using an improper set of key words to select groups for additional review, Lerner ordered the process stopped.
But Fox News wants impeachment more than it wants the truth.
As of today (Tuesday), there was an important breakthrough in the IRS matter, probably trumping everything that Congressman Issa has tried to drum up about it. Congressman Cummings, after having warned Issa about releasing only a few cherry-picked quotes from the transcripts of his interviews, finally released a single transcript at 205 pages. This transcript shows very clearly that Issa’s cherry picking was intentionally deceptive and in direct contravention of what the interview subjects were saying. Cummings chose to only release one of the transcripts as a gesture of bipartisanship toward Issa, who had erupted last week when Cummings threated to release ALL of the transcripts.
Issa has been regularly stating, as has Gowdy and Chafetz, that there is some kind of dark conspiracy behind this whole matter. Except that the actual transcript we’ve seen shows that this was exactly what the IRS has said it was. It was a situation of IRS bureaucrats dealing with a flood of new tax exemption applications and choosing the wrong way to take care of it. Nothing more complicated than that. But if you listen to Trey Gowdy in this article, or if you listen to the bizarre statements of Issa and Chafetz, you’d think that President Obama was directly supervising the sorting of the exemption applications in the Cincinnati office. Which we can now show was completely false.
So how did Fox News deal with this bombshell? Remember, they’re supposed to be the “fair and balanced” network. So if there’s something that won’t prove the case of the GOP spin machine, they should be open to admitting it. Did they? Of course not. Bill O’Reilly’s show and Hannity’s show completely ignored the transcript release – pretending that it never happened. Except that both of those shows were perfectly happy to cite Issa’s selections when they helped support the GOP agenda.
Greta’s show did mention Cummings’ release, but did so in a really sleazy manner. Greta brought the matter up over halfway through her show, buried in the back end. She quickly discussed the release with GOP-friendly guest Rick Klein and she even held up the transcript in question. She admitted that Issa had been misleading in his selections. But then she took the “a plague on both your houses” approach and accused Cummings of the same thing. Somehow, she would have us believe that Elijah Cummings is trying to spin the situation because he didn’t release every single transcript of every IRS interview. And of course Klein totally agreed with that idea. Except that nobody talked to Cummings about it. Cummings was interviewed by other media, including by Chris Matthews, and I’m sure he would have been happy to discuss this with Van Susteren. But nobody asked him. And Van Susteren, after quickly dismissing the importance of this release, went back to the canard of “just asking” why the IRS planted the question in a presser that put the story on the national map in the first place.
What she and her guest failed to acknowledge is that the IRS clearly knew this was a bombshell and they were trying to get ahead of it. Not the first time or the last time that this has happened with any governmental agency and it’s more than a little disingenuous to hear Greta van Susteren claiming ignorance of it. Following this, Darrell Issa has gone on yet another unsubstantiated witch hunt of anyone he could, hoping that some of the mud he was throwing around would stick to the White House. Unfortunately for Issa, this is only the latest example of the emptiness of that political strategy.
Granted, President Obama’s poll numbers have dropped as a predictable result of the accumulated “scandals” of the last month. And those numbers will slowly come back up over the summer as the various matters are shown to be of little consequence. Benghazi is already off the radar again after Issa’s latest failure to substantiate his charges. The AP matter was acknowledged to be a non-issue. The James Rosen matter has dropped away as there was very little substance to it – and the more anyone dug into it, the more clear it was that this was bad practices by Rosen which may have had disastrous consequences in Korea. The NSA matter is one that may be celebrated by the left and by far-right government/Obama haters, but even Fox News is having trouble hanging on to the story. (It’s obvious that they’re only doing so to see if it can help gin up animosity toward Obama) And now the IRS matter is shown to be just another matter of Darrel Issa wildly overplaying something.
Then again, when did BillO need anything as trivial as “evidence” to support his BS? (The only people that BillO deems to need “evidence” are liberals/progressives making accusations against right-wingers—such as those who accuse BillO of having a bias against liberals/progressives. BillO wouldn’t accept any of the evidence, of course.)