by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
“Congressional investigators are fuming over revelations that the Internal Revenue Service has lost a trove of emails to and from a central figure in the agency’s tea-party controversy.”
That’s the opening sentence of the Associated Press story on the IRS’s claim that it lost an unknown number of e-mails over two years relating to the agency’s alleged targeting of political groups hostile to the president.
But note how the AP casts the story: The investigators — Republican lawmakers — are outraged.
Is it really so hard to imagine that if this were a Republican administration, the story wouldn’t be the frustration of partisan critics of the president? It would be all about that administration’s behavior. With the exception of National Journal’s Ron Fournier, who called for a special prosecutor to bypass the White House’s “stonewalling,” and former CBS correspondent Sharyl Attkisson, it’s hard to find a non-conservative journalist who thinks this is a big deal. …
… In the June issue of Commentary, Noah Rothman notes that the mainstream media initially treated the IRS story as a very big deal. ABC’s Terry Moran dubbed it a “truly Nixonian abuse of power by the Obama administration.” But as Rothman notes, the media were just as quick to buy the story that this was a minor bureaucratic screw-up being whipped up into what the president called yet another “phony scandal.”
More recently, Obama proclaimed there was not even a “smidgen” of corruption at the IRS, despite the fact that his administration’s own investigations are still underway. Obama’s assurance seemed good enough for most of the media.
This is one of the great public-relations turnaround stories of all time. Liberal groups successfully spun the incident as a well-intentioned mistake by a government agency trying to deal with a deluge of new applications from right-wing crazies let loose by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. The “real” story was — again — Republican overreach.