They thought Obama wanted them to crack down on the Tea Party:
In the report, the investigators do not find evidence that IRS employees received orders from politicians to target the tea party, and agency officials deny overt bias or political motives.
But the report says the IRS was at least taking cues from political leaders and designed special policies to review tea party applications, including dispatching some of them to Washington to be vetted by headquarters.
“As prominent politicians publicly urged the IRS to take action on tax-exempt groups engaged in legal campaign intervention activities, the IRS treated tea party applications differently,” the staff report concludes. “Applications filed by tea party groups were identified and grouped due to media attention surrounding the existence of the tea party in general.”
Well, why wouldn’t they have thought so? After all, recall that four years ago, the president “joked” about auditing his enemies.
It’s worth re-reading what I wrote at the time the “phony” scandal was breaking:
After the Supreme Court ruled against the administration in Citizens United (the case that some defending the IRS are claiming was the cause of the new scrutiny, despite the fact that it started before the caseloads began to increase), President Civility lectured them, a captive audience at the State of the Union speech, lying about the ruling to their faces (well, all right, to be fair, he may not have been lying — President Constitutional Scholar may have just been ignorant on the nature of the ruling). This undoubtedly made many in his government think that it gave them license to fight the ruling in the trenches against the sudden growth in enemies of the state it had spurred, since their president had said it was wrong.
Let me (as the president would say) be clear. I will be in no way shocked if emails are discovered showing that the White House actively ordered IRS officials to go after Tea Party groups, while green lighting his political allies. My only point is that, sadly, it wouldn’t have been necessary for them to do so.
When the Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket was murdered in 1170, it wasn’t done at the direct order of King Henry II. It didn’t have to be. All it required was for the monarch to muse, aloud, “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?”
But sadly, while we have badly needed a better president for over four years, the real problem isn’t the men and women running the system, and it wasn’t a failure of the system — it is the system itself.
And that’s the most worrisome thing. It may require a major reform of the civil service to fix it.