Nothing stimulates memory like a distinctive smell, and for those who were around back then, watching events unfold, the IRS political targeting scandal—barely three months old—smells more and more like 1973.
Connoisseurs will recall that summer when the Nixon administration’s abuse of power gradually came to light. We can’t guess how high the IRS scandal will reach and we’ll venture no reckless predictions.
But we know what we said May 22, just 12 days after Lois Lerner used a planted question to “admit” a couple of her IRS minions—“rogue” employees in the Cincinnati office—had singled out Tea Party tax exempt applications for improper scrutiny. What we said then looks better all the time:
“Do you know any career federal bureaucrats? If so, do you find they are inclined toward bold, impulsive actions, heedless of consequence? Do you think a government that still maintains a national helium reserve so Navy dirigibles will be able to fight submarines is full of underlings carelessly committing criminal abuse of people’s tax information without first making certain there will be no trouble from upstairs?”
Lois Lerner doesn’t think so, or she wouldn’t have tried taking the Fifth a couple of months ago.
Her decision, if it holds up, appears all the more rational amid disclosures this week and last, of IRS collusion with Federal Election Commission staffers in engineering the harassment of conservative organizations. This takes matters to that mythical place we finally, for the first time ever, think we understand, i.e., “the next level.”
The abuse of power is not confined to the IRS. Multiple agencies have been twisted into weapons for use against the administration’s political opponents. It smells like ’73 and the smell is getting stronger.