Congratulations, folks! When it comes to the IRS audit scandal, you are about to get three apt historical comparisons in a single post.
The background, of course, is the cascading downpour of news stories revealing that the IRS deliberately audited Tea Party groups, patriot groups, small government groups, and pro-Israel groups. The auditing started in 2010, but reached a crescendo during Obama’s campaign for re-election. The result was that several groups hostile to Obama and his policies were completely broken or rendered paralyzed during key moments in the Obama administration. Obama’s responsibility, and the reaction to this true witch-hunt made me think of three historic parallels.
1. Obama and Henry II. I’m willing to bet you never thought of Obama in connection with Henry II (1133-1189). Henry was the lusty, rowdy, all-conquering (at least initially) 12th century English king who married Eleanor of Aquitaine, the richest, most beautiful woman in Europe; ruled large sections of France; fathered sons who went off on crusades and set put a signature to the first “rights” document ever written; and generally set the stage for England’s prominent role on the world stage for so many centuries.
Obama is the exact opposite — not lusty, not rowdy, terrified of conquest, married to a woman whose primary claim to beauty is her arms, etc. And yet, there’s a thread that binds them. I thought of it when I read about the defense Obama-ites are offering when it comes to the really horrible scandal about the IRS targeting conservative groups and Jewish groups, essentially disabling them during Obama’s first term and, especially, in the lead-up to the election.
According to Obama’s defenders, even if one concedes that what the IRS did was a bad thing, Obama shouldn’t be touched by the scandal. It was not Barack’s fault. Leave Barack alone!! The IRS’s version of events is that “low level” employees committed these tyrannical acts. The New York Times goes so far as to blame the whole thing on the GOP (and certainly wins the George Orwell “1984” Reporting Award for doing so). Message: this is not Obama’s fault. Barack Obama himself has gone on record as being surprised and dismayed.
You know what? This may be true. I’m perfectly willing to believe that Obama didn’t personally order these audits. But I can’t help thinking of Henry II. Once upon a time, early in his reign, Thomas Becket was Henry II’s closest friend. The relationship lasted right up until Henry elevated Becket to be Archbishop of Canterbury. It was then that Becket, who had been a priest for years, finally had his “come to Jesus” moment. He began opposing Henry vigorously on government policies that affected the Church, so much so that he became a thorn in Henry’s side.
Eventually, goaded beyond bearing, Henry cried out rhetorically “Will no one rid me of this turbulent (or meddling) priest?” (or, perhaps, the wordier “What miserable drones and traitors have I nourished and brought up in my household, who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born cleric?”). It’s important to note that Henry never ordered Becket’s death. He just whined about the fact that Becket’s existence interfered with his goals. Four of Henry’s knights heard these words and decided to help out. They rode to Canterbury and stabbed Thomas to death inside the Cathedral itself.
Although the facts made it impossible to hold Henry guilty for having ordered Becket’s death, everyone understood that his attitude caused it. Henry was castigated throughout Europe. Four years after Becket’s death, he donned a sack-cloth and walked barefoot through Canterbury’s streets as eighty monks flogged him with branches. Henry then spent the night in the martyr’s crypt. Henry also promised the Papacy that he’d go crusading in Becket’s memory, although never did so. As it happened, Richard I, Henry’s oldest son, more than made up for his father’s broken promise.
Obama has made it plain in almost every speech he’s given that Republicans must be destroyed. He has not treated them as partners in governing America. Through straw men arguments, slanders, and insults, he has painted them as the other and made it clear that the only way for him to achieve full greatness is for his enemy to be wiped out. Small wonder that party loyalists, whether at the upper level of the IRS or in the Ohio office too him seriously.
Even if Obama is not practically culpable, he is morally culpable, just as Henry was for Becket’s death.
2. Obama and Martin Niemöller. The IRS scandal has been brewing for a long time. Conservative bloggers and pro-Israel groups have been complaining for years about their targeting. The mainstream media completely ignored these complaints, or, alternatively, contended that they occurred because the GOP politicized everything, so every conservative organization was political. The media and the White House would have happily continued along this path if Lois Lerner, for reasons that are still unclear, hadn’t blown the story wide-open by admitting that targeting happened.
The Obama administration’s and the media’s responses, reminded me forcefully of Pastor Martin Niemöller’s famous statement after WWII, when he was strongly regretting his Nazi past:
First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.
Then they came for the socialists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Catholic.
Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.
3. Obama and Al Cap0ne. The press has been ignoring Benghazi as much as possible. They’re starting to wake up a little bit to the fact that they were played (or rather, they let themselves be played), but it’s been a slow boil, one that took eight months and enormous pressure from the GOP, conservatives generally, and the families of those who died. Even the recent hearing haven’t gotten them too excited, as they try to exculpate Hillary and Obama, downplay the credentials of the whistle-blowers, and generally hew to their “nothing to see here; move along” attitude. Most reasonable thinkers admit that, while embarrassing for Obama, nothing that has yet been revealed about his defalcation and cover-up will justify legal action or impeachment claims against him.
It’s been different with the IRS scandal. Once it couldn’t deny the story any more, the media has really gone after it. Even Morning Joe, one of the normally complacent Obama Administration shows on MSNBC, was upset by this tyranny. We now know what really puts the fear of Gaia into Leftists: They’re not worried about terrorist attacks; they’re afraid of an IRS audit. That’s pathetic, of course, but there’s a good side. If the IRS audit scandal exposes the corruption running deep and wide through the Obama administration, I guess that’s good, with the end (the administration’s downfall) mattering more than the means to achieve it.
All of which made me think of Al Capone. He was the biggest mob boss in the 1920s. In addition to the direct hits he ordered, one cannot count the numbers of lives lost to the moral degeneration and violence that flowed throughout American society because of Capone’s rum running and prostitution businesses. The problem for the Feds was that Capone kept his fingerprints off these grossly illegal and immoral activities. Everybody knew he was involved, but prosecutors couldn’t prove it. What they could prove, though, was that Al Capone lied on his tax returns — and that’s how he ended up spending years in federal prison. Capone emerged from Alcatraz broken, broke, and rotting inside from the syphilis that eventually killed him.
Thinking of Al Capone, there is some irony to the fact that it might be taxes that bring down one of the most corrupt administrations in American history.
(This post has been updated to clear away a totally embarrassing typo that saw me confuse Richard I’s and Richard III’s numerical designator.)