I Saw Goody Lerner With The Devil

At last, Republicans trying to make a scandal out of supposed IRS discrimination against Tea Party groups have a smoking gun. Lois Lerner, the supposed dragon lady who managed the department charged with deciding if claimants to 501c4 status qualified for tax breaks, has been revealed to have said in private emails to colleagues that the country might have less to fear from “alien terrorists” than from “our own crazies.”

It is interesting that Republican Members of Congress immediately assumed they were the crazies she had in mind. How dare she suggest such a thing? Dave Camp (R-MI) said this email and another describing some on the fringe right as “assholes” proved that Lerner had “deep animus towards conservatives” and “personal hostility toward conservatives.”

Injudicious remarks, for sure. But not for public consumption. One supposes many Members of Congress, even Dave Camp, may in private express harsh views of those who don’t share their views. Just recall the things they have called the sitting President of the United States if you doubt it.

Doctors, lawyers, merchant chiefs probably consider many people they deal with to be crazy or boorish, but it doesn’t mean their private views influence their professional behavior, prompting them to behave with malice. Do Republican surgeons let their Democratic patients die on the table or conservative lawyers deliberately give their liberal clients faulty representation? Of course not. Only political zealots think political disagreements demand scorched earth and impute similar behavior to others.

But before Camp and friends get too exuberant, a glance at the timeline might be in order. The burgeoning number of Tea Party groups applying for 501c4 tax status during 2009 and 2010 caused the IRS to begin considering them as a class and scrutinizing some with care. Politician motives have been imputed, but the law is meant to apply to groups engaged in social welfare work and has long been abused and stretched to accommodate organizations that may not be strictly qualified. The Republicans claim more Tea Party groups were examined than Democratic political groups, but more Tea Party groups applied.

Interestingly, the emails in question did not occur during the period when Lerner was supposedly discriminating against the right but when the Republicans were raising a ruckus claiming she had. In other words, a witch hunt had already begun, so the alleged witch might have been expected to notice.

However, the “wacko wing of the GOP” that Lerner addressed was not the McCarthyite Members of Congress who had taken to calling the president a Kenyan socialist, to pretending the Tea Party was a social welfare group, to calling for the abolition of the Federal Reserve and the IRS. No, Lerner was specifically describing talk radio loons like Limbaugh and Beck seeing dark conspiracies everywhere, counseling listeners to stock up on ammo in order to resist the coming totalitarian takeover of the government by Kenyan progressives.

Lerner was not discussing elected loons conducting their own conspiracy to neuter a twice-elected president (and now getting ready to try another impeachment). Fair-minded folks may be inclined to conclude the Tea Party is more like a political movement than it is like the Red Cross, St. Jude’s or the Little Sisters of the Poor. They may be inclined to believe some on the right are indeed crazies and wackos.

Call me old fashioned, but fair-minded people may even believe that one may have political views other than those of Republicans without being denied employment or treated as a pariah. But we have had loyalty oaths and blacklists before, and there is no doubt some on the right would like to bring them back. To them it is inconceivable that one could be a loyal American without being a Republican zealot, but it actually happens all the time. They should get out more.

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