By the way, the IRS "scandal" died this week
In the wake of this week's news tsunami - high court rulings on voting rights and gay marriage, President Obama's executive actions to combat climate change, the semi-passage of immigration reform, the Texas abortion battle, a Democratic win in the Massachusetts Senate race, Edward Snowden as Where's Waldo? - it was easy to overlook the news that Darrell Issa's phony IRS-Obama scandal died with a whimper.
Last Monday, lest we forget, newly-surfaced IRS documents made it abundantly clear that the Republican scandalmonger's central premise was a fraud. Issa had repeatedly alleged that Obama (or his White House minions, or his '12 campaign team) had commanded the IRS to unfairly target conservative groups. But now it turns out that the Cincinnati IRS office targeted liberal groups just as often, using key words like "progressive" and "Occupy" and "medical marijuana." Turns out, the IRS office took these shortcuts because it wanted to determine whether blatantly political groups - on the left and right - were trying to mask themselves as apolitical in order to get tax-exempt status.
But wait, didn't the original IRS inspector general's report single out the agency's targeting of conservative groups? Why did it fail to mention the targeting of liberal groups? This week, we learned the answer. According to a spokesman for the inspector general, Issa himself specifically told the IG to "narrowly focus on Tea party organizations."
So let's review: The Cincinnati IRS office targeted liberal as well as conservative groups, Issa asked for a report that cherry-picked only the conservative groups, and he falsely insisted for weeks that Obama had plotted the whole thing. How do we know he was lying? Because the key Cincinnati IRS supervisor - a self-described "conservative Republican" - stated in sworn testimony that he never heard a peep from the Obama brass.
Q: "Do you have any reason to believe that anyone in the White House was involved in the decision to screen tea party cases?"
A: "I have no reason to believe that."
Q: Do you have any reason to believe that anyone in the White House was involved in the decision to centralize the review of tea party cases?"
A: "I have no reason to believe that."
Naturally, Issa never told the public about that guy's testimony. Democrats on his scandal-hunting committee had to put it out. Issa then insisted that the conservative Republican's sworn testimony "did not provide anything enlightening." But if you think that spin is hilarious, get a load of what he said this week.
Surfacing on CNN, he discussed the IRS' targeting practices and actually uttered this sentence: "I've never said it came out of the office of the president, or his campaign."
Orwell must've rolled over in his grave. He wrote in 1984 about a government that likes to flush inconvenient truths down a "memory hole," but fortunately, in 2013, thanks to stuff like video, there's no such thing as a memory hole. Here's Issa in May (albeit semi-coherently): "This was a targeting of the president's political enemies, effectively, and lies about it during the election year so that it wasn't discovered until afterwards." Here's Issa in June: "This administration is still trying to say there's a few rogue agents in Cincinnati when in fact the indication is they were directly ordered from Washington...and we're getting to proving it."
It doesn't take a master's degree in communications to divine what Issa was alleging. And he never sought to contradict Hal Rogers, his powerful House colleague, when Rogers said (albeit incoherently): "Of course, the enemies list out of the White House that IRS was engaged in shutting down or trying to shut down the conservative political viewpoint across the country - an enemies list that rivals that of another president some time ago." Nor did Issa ever dispute the Fox News pundettes, one of whom said last week: "Of course the direction came from the White House."
But wait, there's more from this week's CNN interview. Scant minutes after Issa insisted that he'd "never" suggested a link between Obama and the IRS practices, he did it again: "For years, the president bashed the tea party groups. He was very public against these groups. And on his behalf - or perhaps not on his request - the IRS executed a delaying tactic against the very groups that he talked about."
I love his new rhetorical qualifier: "or perhaps not." As Issa grudgingly sifts the ashes of his imploded probe, I guess that should count as progress.
Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1