“I have a hunch that a lot more is going to come out, frankly.”
-- Sen. Max Baucus in a May 17 interview with Bloomberg News about the targeting of conservatives by the IRS.
Suppose you are an IRS agent who targeted Tea Party groups, sending them nastygrams that strongly suggested you thought that they weren’t just some Constitution-loving citizens, but rather liars who were just funneling money from well-heeled corporate backers into elections.
You spent years harassing these folks, searching for the smoking gun that would prove the Koch Brothers or whomever was funding these grassroots groups and that there was no “public welfare” component to their work.
Handing out pocket Constitutions to kids and holding public meetings to oppose President Obama’s health insurance law doesn’t sound like much public welfare to you, a Democratic donor, a career civil servant and member of a government-worker union.
And just as your effort to unravel the conspiracy against the president was getting interesting – Wham! – Washington gets cold feet and tells your office to stop the hunt for the wrongdoers. You had been cautioned before, but now you’ve been told to stop altogether. Politics, they said.
A few weeks later, word of your efforts starts to seep into the news, and suddenly, within a matter of days, the work you did to ferret out corruption and abuse of the political system has been turned into the biggest news story in the country. And they’re calling it a “scandal.” This isn’t just some small-government Internet froth, either. This is the main story for everyone. Even MSNBC is on the story. Even MSNBC!
Then you get to watch as your boss, your boss’s boss, your old boss and the guy who signs your paycheck all take turns saying that it is your fault! They told you to be aggressive and find phony groups, so that’s what you did. And now they want to tell the world that you are a rogue agent, a renegade or an incompetent. You, a highly trained, exceptional federal law-enforcement agent. You, who got sterling reviews and a promotion for your work. Now you’re a crook or an imbecile.
Even Obama, whose initiatives you were trying to protect from Koch & Co.’s nefarious plans, whose righteous re-election you had helped assure through your vigilance against the corrupting power of money in politics personally throws you under the bus. He makes a few murmurs about the dangers of money in politics and a lamentation about the state of campaign finance, but every time the guy opens his mouth it seems like he’s trashing you.
He might not even be president today if it weren’t for what you and your team did to protect the political process. You may not have found the smoking gun, but your vigilance helped keep billions from buying the election for Romney.
And what about all that stuff he and other Washington Democrats said about the need to watch these groups? What about the letters to the IRS from top Democrats? The repeated warnings – even a daggone campaign ad -- Obama made about funneling Chinese cash into elections? He scolded the Supreme Court in person! And now, you’re just some slug who either willfully broke the rules or didn’t understand them. You’re just another bad-apple bureaucrat.
What in the name of John L. Lewis is going on in this world when a person builds a successful record, works hard, plays by the rules, shows initiative and still gets smeared by his own president, one he helped elect? Those guys down the hall who don’t do anything but look at lunch menus and surf the Web, they never got bashed in a Rose Garden press conference with the prime minister of Turkey. And you, for doing things the right way, have been made an international scapegoat.
Now, agent, suppose that some congressional investigators have come down to Cincinnati to talk to you. What will you tell them?
The union has helped – somewhat. You’ve had your representative present during the internal investigation and your shop steward has made it clear that you will not be a fall guy. In fact, you have even talked about filing a grievance for all of this. And at least you know that your job and pension are safe forever, unless they find you knowingly broke the law. Which you did not do. You followed the law. You championed the law.
And Obama, because he is too afraid of those wing nuts in Congress, sold you out for it. Those corporate shills who don’t understand the law one-tenth as well as you are waving papers and pounding their desks about harassment and political bias. Whatever, Congressman Teabag.
Now, agent, suppose that some congressional investigators have come down to Cincinnati to talk to you. What will you tell them? Will you plead the Fifth like your old boss Lois Lerner? Will you become forgetful as your old boss Douglas Shulman? Will you be facile and willfully obtuse like his replacement Steven Miller?
You’ve got a pension in the bank, sure, but those three are high-rolling, politically connected big shots. They are or will be rich. They’re just covering their behinds at your expense.
What will you say, agent? Will you stand up for yourself or will you skulk in the shadows?
It is on the answers to those questions that so much depends. It is your turn to have your say. It is your turn to set the record straight. And if you are the standout, standup guy or gal you’ve always known yourself to be – the very qualities that got you this sensitive, complicated, exacting job in the first place – you’re not going to get pushed around by Congressman Teabag and his lackeys.
You’re going to stand your ground and tell the truth, consequences for the kiester coverers above you be damned.
And Now, A Word From Charles
“The farce here is that this whole exercise is about making the administration accountable. The way to be accountable is to speak on the record. So everybody has a look at what you say, see if it's true, to make it off the record, of course, defeats entirely that purpose.”
-- Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”
Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News, and his POWER PLAY column appears Monday-Friday on FoxNews.com. Catch Chris Live online daily at 11:30amET at http:live.foxnews.com.
Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as digital politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he serves as the host of "Power Play" on FoxNews.com and makes daily appearances on the network including "America Live with Megyn Kelly," "Special Report with Bret Baier," and "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace." Most recently, Stirewalt provided expert political analysis during the 2012 presidential election.