The recent IRS flap shows an obvious double standard in Washington’s reactions to Bush era and Obama era misconduct.
As your kindergarten teacher probably told you, two wrongs do not make a right. But the discrepancy in reactions to wrongs does, indeed, show how Washington so often serves the interests of the political right.
That’s one of the big – if deliberately ignored – takeaways from the reaction to news that the Internal Revenue Service allegedly targeting conservative organizations for extra scrutiny in their larger review of political groups’ tax exempt status. In the last few days, the allegations have generated a wave of national headlines, a congressional investigation, federal legislation and ever-louder calls for impeachment.
Considering the gravity of the allegations against the Obama IRS from the Treasury Department’s inspector general, congressional scrutiny is certainly warranted. However, there’s just one problem: most of the lawmakers and pundits today decrying the use of public resources against a White House’s political opponents had little – if anything – to say about equally troubling revelations about the Bush administration’s deployment of public resources against its opponents. In fact, conservatives said so little back then that Fox News apparently doesn’t even know (or is pretending not to know) the Bush administration used the IRS in the same way the Obama adminstration allegedly did.
And here’s the even more incredible thing: the Bush cabal didn’t just use the IRS for its political hackery – it mounted a full-scale government-wide assault on its enemies, marshaling disparate agencies in its smear efforts.
Bush’s use of the IRS was but one part of that larger assault. As my Salon colleague Alex Seitz-Wald notes today in greater detail, in 2005, Bush’s IRS began what became an extensive two-year investigation into a Pasadena church after an orator dared to speak out against President Bush’s Iraq War. Not coincidentally, the Los Angeles Times reports that the church targeted just so happened to be “one of Southern California’s largest and most liberal congregations.” That IRS church audit came a year after it launched a near-identical attack on the NAACP after the civil rights organization criticized various Bush administration policies.
That is not where the story ends, however. The Bush administration’s crusade against its enemies moved from the IRS into the Secret Service.
Under the Republican president, that law enforcement agency was repeatedly deployed to physically block suspected antiwar activists from attending public presidential events. As the San Francisco Chronicle reported, the scheme eventually targeted some peaceful antiwar activists for arrest for the alleged crime of “holding up small handwritten protest signs outside the designated zone” of free speech (yes, the Bush White House cemented the precedent that the right to dissent is no longer a fundamental right, but is instead only allowed in certain “free speech zones”). Ultimately, in a case dealing with a man who was arrested for simply telling Vice President Dick Cheney that his “policies on Iraq are disgusting,” the Republican-dominated Supreme Court upheld the Bush administration’s use of “retaliatory arrests” against the administration’s ideological critics.
Then, in 2010, we learned that Bush’s targeting operation was also operating inside the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Recounting findings from the Justice Department’s Inspector General, the Washington Post reported that “the FBI improperly investigated some left-leaning U.S. advocacy groups after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks…citing cases in which agents put activists on terrorist watch lists even though they were planning nonviolent civil disobedience.”
A year later, we learned that along with the IRS, Secret Service and FBI, the Bush administration may have also been using the Central Intelligence Agency against its political enemies. As the New York Times reported, “A former Central Intelligence Agency officer who was a top counterterrorism official during the administration of President George W. Bush, said the White House at least twice asked intelligence officials to gather sensitive information” on prominent Iraq War critic Juan Cole. That story had an eerie similarity to the Bush administration’s effort to out CIA operative Valerie Plame as retribution for her husband’s criticism of that same war.
Unlike the noisy outrage that met today’s allegations of IRS misconduct under President Obama, these earlier – and well-documented – revelations of systemic IRS, Secret Service, FBI and CIA misconduct were met with a collective shrug of the shoulders in Washington. Sure, a few newspapers wrote about them, and a few Democratic lawmakers tried to raise questions about the Bush administration’s actions, but compared to today’s sound and fury over the IRS allegations, there was veritable silence. Indeed, as alluded to before, so little outrage was voiced about this kind of thing during the Bush years that a Fox News’ headline this week summarizing a Karl Rove interview blared: “What if IRS Under President Bush targeted liberal groups?” – as if that never actually happened…even though it most certainly did.
What explains this obvious double standard in the reactions to Bush era and Obama era misconduct? Partisanship, expectations and ideological bias.
In terms of partisanship, Republicans now screaming bloody murder over the IRS allegations clearly don’t care about the principles of equal protection, nonpartisan public services or impartial governance. We know this because most of them had nothing to say about the Bush administration’s actions against the GOP’s ideological opponents. In the context of that record, the GOP is really saying it is outraged when government resources are aimed at its friends, but more than happy to have those resources aimed at its enemies.
That context, though, hasn’t been publicly referenced by most Democrats. Indeed, other than Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), most Democratic lawmakers have not dared to mention that the problem of politicized government goes back many years.
That gets to expectations and ideological bias – simply put, the expectation in a Washington where both parties and most media outlets tilt to the right is that conservative groups should never be treated the same way liberal groups so often are. Why? Because conservative causes (say, the anti-tax movement) tend to be aligned with the interests of the transpartisan moneyed establishment while liberal causes (say, the anti-war movement) tend to be at odds with those interests.
Thus, when conservative groups happen to be treated like liberal groups, the Washington Outrage Machine turns the noise up to 11 – even though when liberal groups were targeted, that Outrage Machine remained dormant. And with today’s national press corps reoriented around amplifying – rather than challenging – power, this double standard is then predictably reflected in a corresponding discrepancy in coverage.
Taken together, the lesson should be straightforward: according to Washington, politicized government is perfectly fine when it is punishing liberal forces that challenge the status quo, but totally outrageous when it is targeting conservative groups that preserve the status quo.
Neither should be acceptable, of course. But that truism is ignored by a hypocritical political culture whose unquestioned assumptions so obviously favor the right.
- Meet the group the IRS actually denied: Democrats!; Although Tea Party applicants got unfair IRS scrutiny, only one known group had status revoked. They’re Democrats … the focus on Tea Party groups is wrong, but two-thirds of the groups reviewed had no Tea Party ties — and only a Democratic group had its status denied. This story is more politically complicated than the right lets on … | Salon
- Obama’s unfortunate scapegoat; The only thing that would appease the Washington scandal gods was human sacrifice, so Wednesday evening, President Obama announced that he had requested and accepted the resignation of IRS Acting Commissioner Steven Miller … Miller is a scapegoat in the most pure and classic sense. The acting commissioner was not running the IRS at the time employees improperly targeted Tea Party groups — that would be Bush-appointee Doug Shulman, who resigned as commissioner last year … there is no evidence that Miller was in any way responsible, involved or even aware of the inappropriate targeting…
I’m going back to Ohio for my little brother’s high school graduation from the 22-27 of May. My best friend just texted me this:
Kayaking adventure in Hocking Hills when you get here? :)
This is, of course, after she’s already planning a trip to Cedar Point. God I miss this girl. She knows me too well.
Native American Leaders Walk Out of Meeting With State Department Unanimously Rejecting Keystone XL Pipeline ⇒
The State Department, still with “egg on its face” from its statement that Keystone XL would have little impact on climate change, sunk a little lower today as the most respected elders, and chiefs of 10 sovereign nations turned their backs on State Department representatives and walked out during a meeting.
The statement released by the tribal elders is below:On this historic day of May 16, 2013, ten sovereign Indigenous nations maintain that the proposed TransCanada/Keystone XL pipeline does not serve the national interest and in fact would be detrimental not only to the collected sovereigns but all future generations on planet earth. This morning the following sovereigns informed the Department of State Tribal Consultation effort at the Hilton Garden Inn in Rapid City, SD, that the gathering was not recognized as a valid consultation on a “nation to nation” level:
Nez Perce Nation
And the following Oceti Sakowin (Seven Council Fires People):
Ihanktonwan Dakota (Yankton Sioux)
Rosebud Sioux Tribe
Oglala Sioux Tribe
Standing Rock Tribe
Lower Brule Sioux Tribe
Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe
Crow Creek Sioux Tribe
The Great Plains Tribal Chairmans Association supports this position, which is in solidarity with elected leaders, Treaty Councils and the grassroots community, and is guided by spiritual leaders. On Saturday, May 18, the Sacred Pipe Bundle of the Oceti Sakowin will be brought out to pray with the people to stop the KXL pipeline, and other tribal nation prayer circles will gather to do the same.
Pursuant to Executive Order 13175, the above sovereigns directed the DOS to invite President Obama to engage in “true Nation to Nation” consultation with them at the nearest date, at a designated location to be communicated by each of the above sovereigns. After delivering that message, the large contingent of tribal people walked out of the DOS meeting and asked the other tribal people present to support this effort and to leave the meeting. Eventually all remaining tribal representatives and Tribal Historic Preservation Officers left the meeting at the direct urging of the grassroots organization Owe Aku. Owe Aku, Moccasins on the Ground, and Protect the Sacred are preparing communities to resist the Keystone XL pipeline through Keystone Blockade Training.
This unprecedented unity of tribes against the desecration of Ina Maka (Mother Earth) was motivated by the signing on January 25, 2013, of the historic International Treaty to Protect the Sacred Against the Tar Sands. Signatories were the Pawnee Nation, the Ponca Nation, the Ihanktonwan Dakota and the Oglala Lakota. Since then ten First Nations Chiefs in Canada have signed the Treaty to protect themselves against tar sands development in Canada.
The above sovereigns notify President Obama to consult with each of them because of the following:
The nations have had no direct role in identifying and evaluating cultural resources.
The nations question the status of the programmatic agreement and how it may or may not be amended.
The nations are deeply concerned about potential pipeline impacts on natural resources, especially our water: potential spills and leaks, groundwater and surface water contamination.
The nations have no desire to contribute to climate change, to which the pipeline will directly contribute.
The nations recognize that the pipeline will increase environmental injustice, disproportionately impacting native communities.
The nations deplore the environmental impacts of tar sands mining being endured by tribes in Canada. The pipeline would service the tar sands extractive industry.
The nations insist that their treaty rights be respected⎯the pipeline would violate them.
The nations support an energy policy that promotes renewables and efficiency instead of one that features fossil fuels.
The nations regard the consultation process as flawed in favor of corporate interests.The sovereigns of these nations contend that it is not in America’s interest to facilitate and contribute to environmental devastation on the scale caused by the extraction of tar sands in Canada. America would be better served by a comprehensive program to reduce its reliance on oil, and to invest in the development and deployment of sustainable energy technologies, such as electric vehicles that are charged using solar and wind power.
If the Keystone XL pipeline is allowed to be built, TransCanada, a Canadian corporation, would be occupying sacred treaty lands as reserved in the 1851 and 1868 Fort Laramie Treaties. It will be stopped by unified resistance.
Thousands of these prisoners are incarcerated for life or for 20, 10, or 5 years under mandatory minimum crack cocaine sentences imposed prior to the passage of the Fair Sentencing Act. More than 80 percent of federal prisoners serving crack cocaine sentences are black. In fiscal year 2010, before the passage of the Fair Sentencing Act, almost 4,000 defendants, mainly black, received mandatory minimum sentences for crack cocaine.- A new federal court decision blasts racial disparities in drug sentencing as akin to slavery and Jim Crow. (via think-progress)
The Senate in Puerto Rico this week approved legislation that would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in housing, employment, public accommodations and government services. The bill will now move on for consideration by the House of Representatives.
This seems to be one of a series of steps aimed at improving the climate for LGBT people in Puerto Rico:
The bill’s passage comes three days after San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz mandated the Puerto Rican capital’s police department to equally apply the island’s current domestic violence laws, regardless of the reported victim’s sexual orientation. She also signed a second executive order that bans discrimination against the city’s municipal employees based on their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.
Pedro Julio Serrano of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, lesbian New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and others repeatedly criticized former Gov. Luís Fortuño for not doing enough to curb rampant anti-LGBT violence on the island following the 2009 murder of gay teenager Jorge Steven López Mercado.
Every single piece of legislation makes a difference, even if it takes a while. Here’s hoping this one makes it through.
When Disney tried to trademark “Dia de los Muertos” for their new movie merchandise inspired by the Mexican holiday, Latinos went online and turned things back around. For this week’s “News or Noise?” Latino USA guest host Luis Antonio Perez speaks with Kety Esquivel, digital media strategist and Vice President for Fenton, about how Latinos online retaliated against the entertainment giant.- DIA DE LOS TRADEMARKS, “NEWS OR NOISE?” : Latino USA (via aboriginalpressnews)
To speak with an incarcerated loved one for just an hour a week would cost $240 a month — and that’s on top of the regular phone bill.- Step Up FCC: Lower the Cost of Prison Phone Rates, Free Press. (via futurejournalismproject)