Rude and bullying, Rep. Darrell Issa silenced the microphone of Rep. Elijah Cummings during a congressional hearing into the IRS’ targeting of tea party groups. “Mr. Chairman,” the Democrat fumed as Republican Issa walked away, “what are you hiding?”
Issa didn’t answer. “He’s taking the Fifth, Elijah,” Democratic Rep. Gerald Connolly joked, a reference to the committee’s reluctant witness, former IRS official Lois Lerner, who refused again to explain the agency’s actions, citing her constitutional right not to self-incriminate. Partisans rejoice!
- Conservatives are applauding Issa for shutting down a Democrat. Without evidence, the Right has convicted Lerner, the IRS, the White House, and President Obama of abuse of power.
- Liberals are applauding Cummings for standing up to Issa. Without evidence, the Left exonerated everybody. The fact that liberal nonprofits also were targeted is relevant, but not conclusive.
To the rest of the country, the “investigations” of the IRS — self-serving inquiries conducted separately by the GOP House and the Obama administration — are partisan jokes. We still don’t know the facts. We still have no reason to trust the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, the IRS, Congress, or the White House.
Rather than a political circus like the one disguising itself as a House Oversight and Government Reform hearing Wednesday, a credible Congress would jointly agree to:
1. Grant immunity to Lerner for her sworn testimony about the IRS’s targeting of political groups. What was done, why, and under whose orders?
2. Demand from the administration every IRS and White House document pertaining to the IRS tea-party probes, including emails, text messages, meeting notes, and diaries. If the White House has legal grounds to duck its promise of transparency, a joint Democratic-GOP demand would create insurmountable political pressure.
3. Embrace the new rule for 501(c)(4) nonprofits. The root of this controversy is a law that says nonprofits needs to “exclusively” focus on social welfare to be tax-exempt. The IRS inexcusably ruled that social welfare must be the groups’ “primary focus,” creating a loophole that both parties have abused. Groups such as Crossroads GPS, created by former George W. Bush adviser Karl Rove, and the liberal-leaning Patriot Majority are blatantly political — to the point that they are replicating, if not replacing, the traditional roles of the Democratic and Republican parties. Now that a chastened IRS is trying to close the loophole, partisans on the right and left are objecting.
4. Stop lying. Both sides are distorting the facts for political gain, but Issa is the worst abuser. As Dana Milbank pointed out in his Washington Post column:
Earlier in his capricious tenure, he banned Democratic witness Sandra Fluke from a panel about birth control, leaving an all-male slate of witnesses and giving his Republican Party a major embarrassment. His hearings have been chaotic affairs in which he talks over members of his panel, and he has often discredited his committee’s investigations by making incendiary accusations that turn out to be unfounded.
His latest: speculating at a fundraiser last month about why Pentagon assets were not mobilized to protect American facilities in Benghazi, Libya, when they were attacked in 2012 because Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton “told them to stand down.” But the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee found that there were no such orders. “Well,” Issa told Fox News’s Chris Wallace when pressed about this on Sunday, “the use in answering questions in a political fundraiser, that was in response to a question, the term ‘stand down’ is not used in some sort of an explicit way.”
On the IRS, similarly, Issa had said that it was “the targeting of the president’s political enemies effectively and lies about it,” and that he would prove it was directed “out of Washington headquarters.” But Issa found no such proof, and on Wednesday he acknowledged that “roads lead to Ms. Lerner.”
Milbank is right: Issa has found no proof, and he should be held accountable for suggesting otherwise. But it’s almost as dishonest for Democrats to claim that there is no proof. We don’t know what a full and fair investigation would yield. We don’t know the truth. It’s been silenced.
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Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.
Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”
Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."
In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-expected primary battle behind her, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) is no longer going on the air in upcoming primary states. “Team Clinton hasn’t spent a single cent in … California, Indiana, Kentucky, Oregon and West Virginia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “campaign has spent a little more than $1 million in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone backer in the Senate, said the candidate should end his presidential campaign if he’s losing to Hillary Clinton after the primary season concludes in June, breaking sharply with the candidate who is vowing to take his insurgent bid to the party convention in Philadelphia.”
The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."