Watergate's lessons are as fresh today as 40 years ago

2013-05-16T00:00:00Z Watergate's lessons are as fresh today as 40 years agoGeorge F. Will Washington Post Writers Group Arizona Daily Star

'He has, acting personally and through his subordinates and agents, endeavored to ... cause, in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens, income tax audits or other income tax investigations to be initiated or conducted in a discriminatory manner."

- Article 2, Section 1, Articles of Impeachment , adopted by House Judiciary Committee, July 29, 1974

WASHINGTON - The burglary occurred in 1972, the climax came in 1974, but 40 years ago tomorrow - May 17, 1973 - the Senate Watergate hearings began exploring the nature of Richard Nixon's administration. Now the nature of Barack Obama's is being clarified as revelations about IRS targeting of conservative groups merge with myriad Benghazi mendacities.

This administration aggressively hawked the fiction that the Benghazi attack was just an excessively boisterous movie review. Now we are told that a few wayward souls in Cincinnati, with nary a trace of political purpose, targeted for harassment political groups with "tea party" and "patriot" in their titles. The Washington Post has reported that the IRS also targeted groups that "criticized the government and sought to educate Americans about the U.S. Constitution." Credit the IRS operatives with understanding who and what threatens the current regime. The Post also reports that harassing inquiries have come from other IRS offices, including Washington.

Jay Carney, whose unenviable job is not to explain but to explain away what his employers say, calls the IRS' behavior "inappropriate." No, using the salad fork for the entree is inappropriate. Using the IRS for political purposes is criminal.

It remains to be discovered whether the chief executive is guilty of more than an amazingly convenient failure to superintend the excesses of some executive branch employees beyond the Allegheny Mountains. Meanwhile, file this under "What a tangled web we weave":

The IRS official in charge of the division that makes politically sensitive allocations of tax-exempt status said Friday that she learned of the targeting of conservatives from news reports. But a draft report by the IRS inspector general says this official was briefed on the matter two years ago.

An emerging liberal narrative is that this tempest is all the Supreme Court's fault: The Citizens United decision - that corporations, particularly nonprofit advocacy groups, have First Amendment rights - so burdened the IRS with making determinations about who deserves tax-exempt status that some political innocents in Cincinnati inexplicably decided to begin by rummaging through the affairs of conservatives. Ere long, presumably, they would have gotten around to groups with "progressive" in their titles.

Liberals, whose agenda is enlargement of government, suggest, with no sense of cognitive dissonance, that this IRS scandal is nothing more sinister than typical government incompetence.

Time was, progressives like the president 100 years ago, Woodrow Wilson, had the virtue of candor: He explicitly rejected the Founders' fears of government. Modern enlightenment, he said, made it safe to concentrate power in Washington, and especially in disinterested executive branch agencies run by autonomous, high-minded experts. Today, however, progressivism's unambiguous insinuation is that Americans must be minutely regulated because they are so dimwitted they will swallow nonsense. Such as: There was no political motive in the IRS targeting conservatives.

When the IRS story broke, The Washington Post led the paper with it, and, with an institutional memory of Watergate, published a blistering editorial demanding an Obama apology. The New York Times consigned the story to Page 11 (its Page One lead was the umpteenth story about the end of the world being nigh because of global warming).

If Republicans had controlled both houses of Congress in 1973, Nixon would have completed his term. If Democrats controlled both today, the Obama administration's lawlessness would go uninvestigated.

Email George Will at georgewill@washpost.com

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Activate

Latest Fitz Report video

More

Fitz studio: How to draw the President

In this video tutorial, Star cartoonist and columnist David Fitzsimmons teaches you how to draw the Preside…

Latest Newsmakers video

More

Newsmakers interview: Daniel Hernandez Jr.

Sarah chats with Daniel Hernandez Jr., president of the Sunnyside Unified School District board, about chan…

Featured businesses

View more...

Deals, offers & events

View more...

Event Calendar

Today's events | Add an event

Most viewed: