Some Off The Wall Thoughts About Benghazi And The IRS

Political scandals aren’t really up my alley, but the Benghazi and IRS affairs are too juicy to pass up completely.

I will leave it to others much wiser than I to decide if what happened in Benghazi was of great import or just a bad case of bureaucratic bumbling – both before and after. What intrigues me is the dynamic being created between the two powerhouses of the Democratic Party – the houses of Clinton and Obama. In a perfect world the Obama team would find a head to deliver to Congress and the press. That head should have no connections to the White House and preferably wouldn’t come from the intelligence community (those guys are better left alone). So that obviously leaves the State Department (forget blaming any branch of the Armed Services, they’re untouchable). In a perfect world the head of the State Department at the time Benghazi occurred  would be a distinguished public servant who enjoys public admiration, has since retired from the position and could probably be fairly confident that falling on a sword wouldn’t do more than slightly dent a sterling reputation. Heads can be served up in such a case, not necessarily the Secretary’s but someone high enough to placate the press and Congress, which reflects on the former Secretary but only results in the aforementioned dent.

Fits the current description of someone, doesn’t it? Except that person just might have some aspirations in 2016, is part of a political family that doesn’t like to roll over very much and can cause the President lots of grief between now and the end of his term. That’s President Obama’s dilemma. In a different reality this would be easily finessed. That’s not the one he now inhabits. Piss off the Clintons and you have a machine that however rusty is still formidable. Besmirch Hillary and you lose a goodly part of the press that has been solicitous to a fault up to now, and face the next three years with a party splitting into camps. Don’t think the Republicans are unaware of this dynamic. For them it’s a chance for a two-fer. Damage a potentially formidable candidate and split off a big part of the President’s support. Gotta love politics.

Now as for that IRS scandal, I tend to believe that this is pretty minor stuff. Should we all be shocked that a bunch of bureaucrats decided to make life difficult for some people who don’t like them. Come on we’re all adults here. Now, it appears as if there might be more bureaucrats in Washington who were in on the game, but, once again, should we be that surprised. That this would reach anywhere into the White House or Treasury is doubtful, after all no President or his functionaries would be stupid enough to engage in something like sicking the IRS on his enemies or engaging in some sort of bungled burglary or anything else similarly stupid, would they.

All that aside, I think there is something a bit disturbing about this little episode. Assuming it doesn’t become a “high crimes and misdemeanors” sort of situation, the whole kerfuffle does represent a disturbing trend in American governance. Specifically, the seemingly expanding assumption among the government worker class that they can and do make policy, write and administer as they choose the rules of the game. Here is a bit from Foseti [1] responding to Senator Susan Collins comments.

Susan Collins has been a Senator for 17 years and she apparently has no idea how government works.  Worse, she believes that government employees would be just as likely to target progressives as they would be to target conservatives and that they might actually be fired for working to help progressives!

In fairness, I should point out that the article goes on to note that some higher level officials may have known about this problem a couple years, but the officials are still a couple levels down from anyone that’s politically appointed.

Indeed, the most salient facts of the case are: 1) that the IRS was used to target Republican groups and no one directed the IRS employees to do this; 2) the employees’ managers may have known but probably agreed with their decisions and certainly didn’t object; 3) no one that is appointed to the IRS by the President knew or probably could have stopped it – in other words it doesn’t matter who wins any given election, this behavior is “above politics”; and 4) no one is likely to lose their job because of these actions.

Now ask yourself, given these facts, who’s in charge of whom?

That Dear Reader is the reality of government as we now have it. A bureaucracy with European powers but lacking the Europeans’ pride in at least paying lip service to professionalism over partisanship. Therein lies the real danger inherent in this IRS transgression.

1. Foseti is blogs anonymously and represents himself to be a mid-level employee of the Federal government. I take him at his word much as I do The Epicurean Deal Maker. I read Foseti for much the same reasons that I subject myself to Ezra Klein. It’s a reality check on your notions.


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