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Blue The Nation | August 28, 2014

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Half of America Thinks the White House Was Involved With the IRS Scandal

Half of America Thinks the White House Was Involved With the IRS Scandal
Jonathan Nathan

So apparently the IRS scandal isn’t as dead as it seemed to be. You’ll recall that last week, news surfaced that pretty much torpedoed the Republican/media narrative that there had been some sort of political witch-hunt targeting Tea Party groups. Even before that, we’d been able to glean, from early interview transcripts, that the scrutiny was almost certainly not a hatchet job. In 2010, a handful of IRS agents, working out of Cincinnati, who were charged with handling the massive influx of 501(c)(4) applications contacted the Washington, D.C. office. Specifically, they contacted the EO Technical unit, a group of tax attorneys whose job it is to interpret and clarify the tax code. The reason the agents contacted the EO Technical unit was that several 501(c)(4) applicants had checked the “political activity” box on their application forms. Ultimately, a list of buzzwords was formulated. An early version of it included phrases like “Tea Party” and words like “Patriot,” although it was later changed to be more nonpartisan.

Then came even more important news: the guy who decided to initiate scrutiny of conservative groups in the first place was, himself, conservative. He identifies as a conservative Republican and said so in his interview. He took 100% of the responsibility (credit?) for the decision to target conservative 501(c)(4) applicant groups because they clearly represented an influx of possible political activity in a supposedly apolitical tax status.

That, it seemed, was the end of the IRS scandal. The Republicans had overplayed their hands again, just as they had with the Benghazi scandal. But just when you thought that not only had the Republicans botched another opportunity, but that they’d also alienated the American electorate…never count out the idiot masses. CNN has just released a new poll showing that half of Americans believe the White House was directly involved with the decision to focus extra scrutiny on Tea Party groups. As in, half of Americans believe Barack Obama is trying to target his political opponents. With the Internal Revenue Service.

You could forgive them their faulty viewpoints if this survey had come out two weeks ago, before the Congressional investigation had begun to turn up clear and irrefutable evidence that there was no political motivation at play. But these poll results are coming out after Americans–if they’re paying attention to the world around them with even a fiber of their brains–should already know better. As CNN itself notes, “The transcript…shows an agency plagued more by bureaucratic ineptitude than partisan political scheming. IRS agents are revealed as politically tone deaf.”

What this proves–aside from the unpleasant reality that most Americans can’t really be bothered to check their facts before forming an opinion–is that the Republicans are, as they so frequently do, winning the narrative here. The Democrats let them get out in front of it, and as a result, the Republicans have again tricked the population into believing a load of bullshit. And it’s twice as hard to dislodge a lie as it is to entrench one. Best get to work.