Obama, the IRS and Casablanca
By Michael Goodell
When President Barack Obama weighed in today on the rapidly unfolding IRS scandal, I was reminded of the classic film, “Casablanca.”
“If in fact IRS personnel engaged in the kind of practices that have been reported on and were intentionally targeting conservative groups, then that’s outrageous,” declared the scandal-plagued Obama. “And there’s no place for it.”
You may recall the scene, when Major Strasser’s Jack-Booted Crooners went head to head with Victor Laszlo and His Ragtag Band in the popular mid-war reality show, “The Axis Has Talent.” After coming up short in the crucial Nationalist Anthem Sing Off, a petulant Strasser ordered Captain Renault to close Rick’s Café Americain, “At once.”
“But everyone’s having so much fun,” Renault protested. Strasser would not be dissuaded. Dutiful as ever, Renault blew his whistle and ordered the Café closed. “On what grounds?” an outraged Rick Blaine demanded.
“I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!” Renault roared, just before a flunky approached him with a wad of bills. “Your winnings, sir,” he announced, much to Renault’s dismay.
That’s pretty much the tone Obama took when denouncing allegation that the IRS targeted conservative advocacy groups with extremely vigorous, and often illegal scrutiny. Naturally, the most politicized president in American history had no inkling that this was going on. Nevertheless, he wants it stopped, immediately, and if in fact it was going on, his determination to fire low-level IRS functionaries is impressive to behold.
There are a couple of key phrases to keep in mind. One of them is “If in fact IRS personnel engaged in (these) practices . . .” This is very similar to Obama’s reaction to Bashar al Assad’s use of chemical weapons against his revolting citizens. You may recall not too long ago Obama described such an act as a “Red Line,” which must never be crossed, “a game changer.”
When first the Syrian rebels, and then the Israelis claimed Assad had done just that very thing, Obama remained unmoved. When the English and French made the same claim, he didn’t respond. Finally, when the American intelligence services confirmed the many previous allegations, Obama was forced to act. And act he did. He condemned such behavior, “if in fact it did take place,” in the strongest terms, and called upon “the International Community” to investigate.
Which is kind of like asking the State Department to investigate whether anyone in the State Department changed talking points concerning the terrorist attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. This is a case of lie after lie after lie. It was clearly a cover up, and then a cover up of the cover up. Either Obama was truly in the dark about Benghazi, or he, too, joined in the festival of lies.
Which brings us to the second key phrase in Obama’s statement today, which was that the first he knew about the IRS crimes was on Friday, when he saw it on the news. This is the sort of thing which, if Obama were a Republican, would have Democrat Senators, Representatives and Media Personalities asking, “What did he know, and when did he know it?” It doesn’t take much to shake a story as weak as, “I just happened to catch it on MSNBC.” If, that is, anyone is interested in looking into it.
The IRS scandal may have legs which all the other scandals lack. The IRS is an entity about which every American is inclined to think the worst. This might well resonate the way Benghazi or Syria never could.
Now, in the president’s defense, it is entirely possible that he had no idea about using the IRS as a cudgel to intimidate his political enemies. He has proved to be rather detached from the day-to-day workings of government. It is plausible that he was on the golf course while all this went down, that it was a couple of clerks in Cincinnati who decided on their own to punish people for the crime of loving their country.
By most accounts, Obama is not the worst golfer ever to Occupy the White House. One thing that is certainly clear though, the strongest part of his game is improving his lies.