IRS keyword targets: Tea Party, Conservative, Patriot, Constitution

Wait…what? Some of this slipped through the cracks as the fault lines continued to erupt over the past many weeks of rolling scandals out of the Obama administration. Even the willing media could only cover so much, and there has been so much. But startling and disturbing as it all is, this is an administration that targets ideological opponents. How did the Constitution get in there?

While this news was available in reports back in May, it hasn’t received much attention.

This should concern everyone. Let’s draw this out:

The IRS started targeting Tea Party members, “Patriots” and similar conservatives starting in 2010.

But the IRS’ harassment of conservatives expanded way beyond those groups.

As United Press International reports:

“U.S. Internal Revenue Service inquiry of conservative groups included those lobbying to “make America a better place to live,” new details emerging about the IRS investigation indicated. That lever goes beyond what the IRS admitted Friday, which was that it targeted groups with “Tea Party” or “patriot” in their names, several media outlets reported Monday, based on draft findings from disclosures to congressional investigators by the Treasury Department’s inspector general for tax administration…

“At various points over the past two years, the Cincinnati IRS office, which is in charge of evaluating applications for tax-exempt status, focused on groups making statements that “criticize how the country is being run” and those involved in educating Americans “on the Constitution and Bill of Rights,” the draft report cited by The Washington Post indicated.

By June 2011 some IRS specialists were probing applications of groups focusing on “government spending, government debt or taxes [and] education of the public by advocacy/lobbying to ‘make America a better place to live,‘” the report cited by the Journal indicated.

What?!?! Yes, they targeted groups that simply criticized the government, a time-honored American right and tradition.

At various points over the past two years, Internal Revenue Service officials targeted nonprofit groups that criticized the government and sought to educate Americans about the U.S. Constitution, according to documents in an audit conducted by the agency’s inspector general.

What does this administration have against Americans or groups of citizens who want to educate and learn more about the U.S. Constitution? That’s a key question I haven’t heard anyone ask.

Some top notch journalists at least pointed it out. But it hasn’t been explored or exposed as fully as it should have been, or should be now. What is the thinking that targets “nonprofit groups that…sought to educate Americans about the U.S. Constitution”? By implication, that not only suggests but means that administration officials, who traditionally reflect the president’s ideology, see the U.S. Constitution as somehow in conflict with their goals, standards and/or practices.

That demands attention. That, and so much else.

For now, I’ll let Elizabeth Scalia’s vent speak for me. Especially where she gets to this point:

It’s worth noting that the press has already abandoned the IRS story, and it never even bothered with the Sebelius shakedown story which was, I grant you, nowhere near as scandalously corrosive to our trust in government as the IRS story. But dead is dead, you know; the PRISM story is currently being adjusted. The press still controls the national conversation, and these stories that would have them screaming bloody murder and rolling up their sleeves to investigate (and inviting layfolk in to crowdsource for them) if only this administration had an R after it? Poof! Gone the way a good magician makes anything disappear while misdirecting the audience’s attention.

I thought of one more question: Journalists got really, really mad at the administration when it was discovered that it was scouring phone records of the Associated Press, and that it was criminalizing reporters like James Rosen, for doing their jobs. They were so incredibly furious that they gave the story perhaps ten days of outraged-and-then-increasingly-perfunctory coverage…before dropping the whole matter altogether on the strength of the White House saying, “why of course we respect you! Of course we would never, never want to see you prosecuted! We don’t want you too intimidated to do your jobs! We love you! You’re vital to the nation, yessiree!.

My question is, will the mainstream media remain in their Stockholm Syndrome or will they actually get upset enough by the (Sharyl) Attkisson story…and begin to chase the administration?

Or — and this has to be considered, you know — will they pipe down, not to protect the president, not anymore, but to protect themselves?

It’s still, as they say, a breaking story. Stay tuned.

Who are these non-Democrats?

First, the Republican Party had to show a healthy respect and appreciation for the Tea Party for not going off and forming an official third party in a two-party system, siphoning off voters en masse and messing up the whole election mainstream Americans have long-awaited. Then, the media had to figure out what hit them.

It took until the eve of the elections for elite media to give more than grudging respect to the force collectively known by that name ‘Tea Party’, though no one has a grip on it…which makes it an intriguing sort of renegade movement of commoners.

So I have to take my favorite ‘newspaper’ (or magazine, to non-Brits) to task for some of their recent coverage. But affectionatly, because The Economist does a great job of covering it all well, albeit with their own built-in preconceptions (one of which is the pervasive over-indulgence of praise or credit to President Obama for imagined achievements).

Last week, in anticipation of the invevitable Republican landslide, The Economist did a cover story on Angry America, a premise I disagree with, though it’s their meme and they’re sticking with it. The Leader in that issue is worth a commentary itself, but you know what they say about ‘day old newspapers’… I’ll let my notes on that one pass now that it’s a week on, except for this:

Mr Obama seems curiously unable to perceive, let alone respond to, the grievances of middle America, and has a dangerous habit of dismissing tea-partiers and others who disagree with him as deluded, evil or just bitter. The silver tongue that charmed America during the campaign has been replaced by a tin ear…

Whatever the reason, he does not seem to feel America’s pain, and looks unable either to capitalise on his administration’s achievements or to project an optimistic vision for the future.

True, except his achievements have been overstated by many foreign media and certainly, many fawning but fading American media.

So in that same issue, on the eve of the election, the wise columnist Lexinton ran this polite look at The good, the bad and the tea parties. Ever so right to make that plural.

The Washington Post spent months trying to contact every tea-party group in the nation. Having got through to 647 out of 1,400 it had identified, it found that some consisted of only a handful of members, if they existed at all.

So go back to how Lexington began this seemingly polite commentary.

IT IS not hard, if you really try, to find good things to say about America’s tea-partiers. They are not French, for a start. France’s new revolutionaries, those who have been raising Cain over Nicolas Sarkozy’s modest proposal to raise the age of retirement by two years, appear to believe that public money is printed in heaven and will rain down for ever like manna to pay for pensions, welfare, medical care and impenetrable avant-garde movies. America’s tea-partiers are the opposite: they exhale fiscal probity through every pore…

The tea-partiers do not just have less selfish motives than the pampered French. They also have better manners. Let the French block roads and set things on fire: among tea-partiers it is a point of pride that their large but orderly rallies leave barely a crumpled candy wrapper behind them.

And Lexington makes this apt point:

America’s pontificating class is not yet sure how to take the measure of this strange new movement.

True of all of them (the pontificating class). Here’s what Lexington came up with…

Not French, not fabricated and not as flaky as their detractors aver: these are the positives. Another one: in how many other countries would a powerful populist movement demand less of government, rather than endlessly and expensively more? Much of what is exceptional about America is its ideology of small government, free enterprise and self reliance. If that is what the tea-party movement is for, more power to its elbow.

And power it had last Tuesday, in the 2010 midterm elections. So I was eager to see how The Economist would handle that. Take a look at this cover story. When it arrived in my mailbox, I had to stop and appreciate the full amount of energy that went into creating just the art alone, putting the faces of Sarah Palin, John Boehner, Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee on the faces of a cowboy posse charging into Washington. Cute.

But here’s the rub. They acknowledge this:

The mid-term elections on November 2nd saw the biggest swing to the Republicans for 72 years.

However, editors seem to go into a snit about it all after that.

Yes, this was hardly an enthusiastic vote for his opponents, more a howl of rage against incumbents from citizens struggling after the worst slowdown since the 1930s. And he has a string of legislative achievements to his name.

It actually was an enthusiastic vote for his opponents, and it’s unfair to call it a “howl of rage”, which is beneath the level of respect those voters deserve. Furthermore, I’d like to hear a reasoned case of what those legislative achievements are. Mandates rammed through a Democratic Congress do not constitute legislative achievements, in some reasoned opinion.

Furthermore…

Whether [presumptive Speaker of the House] Mr. [John] Boehner decides to work with Mr Obama or against him, voters will accord him a share of the blame if things continue to be miserable.

Hold on. Flip it. What about Mr. Obama working with Mr. Boehner and the House? And his accountability and share of the blame if by not doing so, things continue to be miserable?

Okay, a couple more things…

No red-blooded conservative will touch defence expenditure at a time when America’s troops are in combat and the country faces toner-wielding terrorists and a rising China.

What about a red-blooded American liberal?

And then there’s this (and note that it’s a parenthetical statement, cueing the reader to give it less attention):

(Of course, Mr Obama has no credible plan to deal with the deficit either. But at least by backing a stimulus now he has a cogent answer to the immediate problem of the stuttering recovery.)

The Economist has thus declared the pork-laden economic stimulus spend-a-thon to be a cogent answer to economic crisis.

So in the end, realistic analysis:

Mr Obama could extend more help to small businesses, offer tax reforms that would make commerce simpler and generally do more to show that he understands how wealth is created. The Bush tax cuts, due to expire at the end of this year, could be extended and a short-term stimulus agreed upon…

Deadlock over the Bush tax cuts will see them expire, letting taxes rise sharply by default. Without further help from the federal government, cash-strapped states will sack employees and cut benefits next year. It is in everybody’s interest that Sheriff Obama and the Republican posse work together.

To grab once again at an overused and time-worn stereotype of American grit. But they have to start somewhere in trying to figure out the new reality that has just descended on Washington. They may have the posse right, but the sheriff has yet to earn his badge.

Non-establishment America

What is the Tea Party, who do they represent, what do they stand for, and are they here to stay?

The media are newly interested, on the eve of the elections now undeniably shaped by this band of brothers and sisters, bound in common cause. How to pin that down…?

Here’s Peggy Noonan’s effort.

Two central facts give shape to the historic 2010 election. The first is not understood by Republicans, and the second not admitted by Democrats.

The first: the tea party is not a “threat” to the Republican Party, the tea party saved the Republican Party. In a broad sense, the tea party rescued it from being the fat, unhappy, querulous creature it had become, a party that didn’t remember anymore why it existed, or what its historical purpose was. The tea party, with its energy and earnestness, restored the GOP to itself.

In a practical sense, the tea party saved the Republican Party in this cycle by not going third-party. It could have.

Really, seriously. The establishment GOP was headed for this crash course.

That establishment, composed largely of 50- to 75-year-olds who came to Washington during the Reagan era in a great rush of idealism, in many cases stayed on, as they say, not to do good but to do well. They populated a conservative infrastructure that barely existed when Reagan was coming up: the think tanks and PR groups, the media outlets and governmental organizations. They did not do what conservatives are supposed to do, which is finish their patriotic work and go home, taking the knowledge and sophistication derived from Washington and applying it to local problems…

Part of the social and cultural reality behind the tea party-GOP establishment split has been the sheer fact that tea partiers live in non-D.C. America. The establishment came from America, but hasn’t lived there in a long time.

Welcome to mainstream America again.

Finally, the tea party stiffened the GOP’s spine by forcing it to recognize what it had not actually noticed, that we are a nation in crisis. The tea party famously has no party chiefs and no conventions but it does have a theme—stop the spending, stop the sloth, incompetence and unneeded regulation—and has lent it to the GOP.

Back to the points at hand…

The second fact of 2010 is understood by Republicans but not admitted by Democrats. It is that this is a fully nationalized election, and at its center it is about one thing: Barack Obama.

It is not, broadly, about the strengths or weaknesses of various local candidates, about constituent services or seniority, although these elements will be at play in some outcomes, Barney Frank’s race likely being one…

This election is about one man, Barack Obama, who fairly or not represents the following: the status quo, Washington, leftism, Nancy Pelosi, Fannie and Freddie, and deficits in trillions, not billions.

Everyone who votes is going to be pretty much voting yay or nay on all of that. And nothing can change that story line now.

Public Discourse sees it as the confrontation of the Intellectuals and the Masses.

It happens again and again. Liberal intellectuals revile the conservative masses and popular spokespersons for their fear and hate, yet their own comments seethe with fear and scorn.

Their visceral blindness to their own animosity indicates, once again, something beyond political disagreement. The rise of a decentralized, amorphous grass-roots association and voting bloc lacking pilots from credentialed intellectual circles seems to have stirred the intellectual identity against itself, to draw some darker impulses into the light. Social thinker Eric Hoffer explained the tendency 50 years ago in a piece entitled “Intellectuals and the Masses.” In it, he began with the historical fact that up until the modern era intellectuals always stood with those in power, “a governing elite,” and remained “indifferent to the fate of the masses.”

Ah, but…

The Tea Party violates the rule. The people who comprise it have managed to reject incumbents and Establishment favorites in Alaska, Nevada, Utah, Delaware, and elsewhere, forming a volatile political force that has befuddled Democrat and Republican leaders alike. More pertinently, they have marched out in front of intellectuals working in newspapers and media, academia, foundations, and public offices. They seem not even to care about the good opinion of their intellectual betters. An Ivy League credential doesn’t much impress them, nor does long service in public office or a segment on CBS News. They shrug at the lines on the resume that intellectuals care so much about and strive all their lives to compile.

And so some intellectuals see Tea Partiers as an affront, not an ideology, a denial of their own character. Nothing stings them more than disregard, and when the masses have the power to ignore them and not be ignored themselves, the intellectuals are stymied.

What a great observation, that. Here’s a perfect example:

Last year, Glenn Beck sat down for a 45-minute interview with Katie Couric of CBS. They had an amiable conversation, for the most part, but at one point (around 12:40 in the taping) she admitted to him that when her Twitter followers heard of the upcoming interview, “some people couldn’t believe that we were even giving you a platform because they feel that you are bad for America.” Beck didn’t bother to answer Couric’s correspondents. He simply delimited their authority: “You wouldn’t believe how many people Tweeted me this week and said, ‘I can’t believe you’re sitting down with Katie Couric—she’s bad for America!’”

They aren’t used to the comebacks. To the unblinking disregard for their sheer elitism.

Alas, the Tea Party….in spite of the sniffing and snorting indifference by the ‘ruling class’, regardless of the indifference to the ‘legitimacy’ conferred upon them by the cultural hierarchy…is prevailing in common wisdom and determination. Or so it appears.

Wise intellectuals step back from their hostility and return to the virtues they espouse. The more they disdain different social and political groups, the more they appear as but another social and political group. As intellectuals previously were identified with king and church and Party (in Communist nations), so today they are identified with “elites.” This is the opposite of intellectualism in a democratic society. There, intellectuals should be, above all, independent—independent of power and independent of any particular acculturation. They should be universal. They should tell the truth . . . but not get too confident of their apprehension of it. They should disagree with others . . . but not ridicule them. They should refine the common taste, not censure it. They should elevate public discourse, not echo its cheap coinages. We shall see on November 2nd where reactions will go next.

Shifting political labels

Before this year, it was already an intriguing question to wonder what the reference point was for left and right on the political compass, the question of what constituted center. Whatever the answer was, it has certainly changed.

As state primaries continue to lead into the Fall mid-term elections, more and more observations like this are popping up.

Republicans are energized, Democrats are not (right now), and the economy is hardly humming — all of which are a recipe for significant Republican gains in November. But when we head into the 2012 presidential election, when the electorate expands, you got to wonder if a Republican Party that doesn’t have room for a John McCain of 2001-2007, a Charlie Crist of 2007-2008, or a Lisa Murkowski of 2010 can reclaim the center of American politics and the presidency, even if they gain control of Congress in the fall. Then again, the center will judge the GOP on not just how it conducts itself if they get the majority, but on the results.

Reclaim the center of American politics? From whom? Democrats don’t control that turf. Many self-identified moderates believed Barack Obama represented a new era of post-partisan reasonableness. They’ve been joining disenfranchised conservatives in the burgeoning populist movement to reform government, loosely aligned under the Tea Party tent. Or just looking for someone to believe in, wandering in the political desert. Which is quite expansive at the moment.

And btw….let’s recall that the Democrats didn’t have room for a Robert Casey of 1992, a Joe Lieberman of 2006, an Evan Bayh of 2010 or a Bart Stupak of 2009….among others.

Who’s stoking racism?

In the past two week, racially charged arguments and accusations have been heating up the air waves. Allegations are out there about the Tea Party movement, the New Black Panthers, the NAACP, the Congressional Black Caucus, and certain members of the Obama administration. What’s going on here?

We’re supposed to be ‘post-racial’.

The election of Barack Obama, America’s first black president, was supposed to be a sign of our national maturity, a chance to transform the charged, stilted “national conversation” about race into a smarter and more authentic dialogue, led by a president who was also one of the nation’s subtlest thinkers and writers on the topic.
Instead, the conversation just got dumber.

And a lot angrier.

Fox News often stars a leather-clad New Black Panther, while MSNBC scours the tea party movement for racist elements, which one could probably find in any mass organization in America. Obama’s own, sole foray into the issue of race involved calling a police officer “stupid,” and regretting his own words.

Since that was written, however, Obama has at least secondarily figured into another flareup, the Shirley Sherrod fiasco.

The ex-official spoke following a whirlwind 48-hour period in which the Obama administration completely reversed its position toward Sherrod. The former Georgia director of rural development was compelled to resign Monday after a brief video surfaced showing her telling a story to an NAACP audience about how she once withheld support to a white farmer. Vilsack said he, not the White House, urged her to resign. The NAACP also initially condemned her…

The NAACP later rescinded its earlier statement and on Wednesday both Vilsack and the White House apologized, calling the incident a “teachable moment.”

Yes, it is. So what have we learned?

Now, that the facts have come to light, we have another one of those teachable moments that keep piling up without, apparently, teaching us anything.

The conservative wing of the media (on the internet, talk radio and Fox News) ran way too quickly with a story that seemed to support the narrative of reverse discrimination in the Obama administration — particularly coming on the heels of questions regarding the Justice Department’s handling of a caught-on-tape alleged voter intimidation case involving the New Black Panthers.

On the other hand…

Here’s one, for those who cringe at the very mention of the Tea Party movement…The leftist organization Think Progress has created a video allegedly demonstrating racism by Tea Party demonstration participants — except that at one of those shown was plucked from another video which clearly shows the clown being shunned by the other demonstrators.  It was a fact that didn’t seem to matter to the video’s creator — and clearly casts doubt over the validity of the overall piece.

Charges and counter-charges have been fast and furious.

If we were all to actually learn something from this incident (doubtful) it might be to slow down and think before reacting to the latest video that happens to support the narrative we have come to believe (and, therefore, are always looking to corroborate).

I happened onto a conversation Dr. Alveda King was having about the current flareup of racial allegations and the longterm civil rights cause, and she and Pastor Stephen Broden gave the best commentary and analysis on this I’ve heard. May calm heads, and hearts with honest intent, prevail.

Obama ridicules the Tea Party

Really. The President of the United States, whose party controls both houses of Congress, who has enjoyed unqualified support and adoration from America’s elite media, who had the raw political power to drive an extremely unpopular healthcare plan into law, used one of his high profile fundraising occasions to take a cheap shot at the grassroots people’s movement known as the Tea Party.

How unpresidential.

“I’ve been a little amused over the last couple of days where people have been having these rallies about taxes,” the president said, noting the numerous tax cuts pushed by his administration. “You would think they’d be saying thank you.”

That was a jaw-dropper. First, since the House Ways and Means Committee has calculated that we’re facing $670 billion of tax increases over the next four years. And, as reputable newsman Chris Wallace said the next day, “I’m no Obama-basher, but that was the height of condescension, an effort to marginalize a major grassroots movement in America.”

So in spite of efforts to discredit the movement The Economist, among others, called ‘the most dynamic political movement in America right now’, the Tea Party grows exponentially by its appeal to a broad spectrum of disenfranchised citizens no longer comfortable in either of the two political parties. And they brought their message ‘home’ to the ‘people’s house’ on Tax Day in America. The degree to which their organization threatens the power elite is evident in the efforts to belittle or besmirch it.

Referring to recent reports about a website called CrashtheTeaParty.org – which encouraged liberals to pretend to be tea partiers, attend rallies and voice fringe sentiments to marginalize the movement (the website appears to have been stripped of its content) – Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) said he welcomed any infiltrators.

“I’m hoping that you’ll learn something,” he said from the stage at the FairTax/Tea Party Express rally. “And I’m hoping that you realize and come clean that the only misbehavior that you’ll see at a tea party rally is caused by infiltrators and not members of the tea party.”

It is a growing and dynamic force, this movement identified in the latest polling data as “generally representative of the mainstream public at large.” It is beneath the dignity of the office of the President of the United States to take a derisive swipe at a large swath of maistream Americans…Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, all races and religions and no religion…who find energy and synergy in their common interests and political goals.

It’s also indicative of how challenged he and his party leadership must feel by their swelling ranks.

In meetings before and after different rallies, veteran political strategists tried to channel the movement’s energy from street theater to boiler-room organizing. The Tea Party movement, which is strongly against taxes and big government, has no national leader and is not aligned with either major party.

Used to the Saul Alinsky method of naming enemies and isolating them, Mr. Obama seems to feel he’s losing the level of control he has enjoyed…until now.

Tax day in America

Lots to talk about. I’ll be guest-hosting the Drew Mariani Show on Relevant Radio Thursday, and hope you can join in as much of it as you can, whether on dial or online, because we’ve got some great guests lined up!

Looking forward to talking with the founder of the Tea Party movement; Ambassador Alan Keyes; Heritage Foundation’s healthcare policy expert Dr. Robert Moffit; Acton Institute’s Fr. Robert Sirico’ Liturgical Institute’s Dr. Denis McNamara; and Fr. Frank Pavone, the legendary warrior behind Priests for Life.

Time flies, always. It’s going to be a particularly fast three hours. Take time to join the conversation. Open forum!