Bush Used the IRS, FBI, CIA and Secret Service to Go After Opponents -- Where Was the Fox and GOP Outrage?
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Unlike the noisy outrage that met today’s allegations of IRS misconduct under President Obama, these earlier – and well-documented – revelations of systemic IRS, Secret Service, FBI and CIA misconduct were met with a collective shrug of the shoulders in Washington. Sure, a few newspapers wrote about them, and a few Democratic lawmakers tried to raise questions about the Bush administration’s actions, but compared to today’s sound and fury over the IRS allegations, there was veritable silence. Indeed, as alluded to before, so little outrage was voiced about this kind of thing during the Bush years that a Fox News’ headline this week summarizing a Karl Rove interview blared: “What if IRS Under President Bush targeted liberal groups?” – as if that never actually happened…even though it most certainly did.
What explains this obvious double standard in the reactions to Bush era and Obama era misconduct? Partisanship, expectations and ideological bias.
In terms of partisanship, Republicans now screaming bloody murder over the IRS allegations clearly don’t care about the principles of equal protection, nonpartisan public services or impartial governance. We know this because most of them had nothing to say about the Bush administration’s actions against the GOP’s ideological opponents. In the context of that record, the GOP is really saying it is outraged when government resources are aimed at its friends, but more than happy to have those resources aimed at its enemies.
That context, though, hasn’t been publicly referenced by most Democrats. Indeed, other than Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), most Democratic lawmakers have not dared to mention that the problem of politicized government goes back many years.
That gets to expectations and ideological bias – simply put, the expectation in a Washington where both parties and most media outlets tilt to the right is that conservative groups should never be treated the same way liberal groups so often are. Why? Because conservative causes (say, the anti-tax movement) tend to be aligned with the interests of the transpartisan moneyed establishment while liberal causes (say, the anti-war movement) tend to be at odds with those interests.
Thus, when conservative groups happen to be treated like liberal groups, the Washington Outrage Machine turns the noise up to 11 – even though when liberal groups were targeted, that Outrage Machine remained dormant. And with today’s national press corps reoriented around amplifying – rather than challenging – power, this double standard is then predictably reflected in a corresponding discrepancy in coverage.
Taken together, the lesson should be straightforward: according to Washington, politicized government is perfectly fine when it is punishing liberal forces that challenge the status quo, but totally outrageous when it is targeting conservative groups that preserve the status quo.
Neither should be acceptable, of course. But that truism is ignored by a hypocritical political culture whose unquestioned assumptions so obviously favor the right.