Former US President George W. Bush thanks US President Barack Obama during a dedication ceremony at the George W. Bush Library and Museum on the grounds of
As your kindergarten
That's one of the big -- if deliberately ignored -- takeaways from the reaction to news that the
Considering the gravity of the allegations against the Obama IRS from the Treasury Department's
And here's the even more incredible thing: the Bush cabal didn't just use the IRS for its political hackery -- it mounted a full-scale government-wide assault on its enemies, marshaling disparate agencies in its smear efforts.
Bush's use of the IRS was but one part of that larger assault. As my Salon colleague Alex Seitz-Wald notes today in greater detail, in 2005, Bush's IRS began what became an extensive two-year investigation into a Pasadena church after an orator dared to speak out against President Bush's Iraq War. Not coincidentally, the Los Angeles Times reports that the church targeted just so happened to be "one of Southern California's largest and most liberal congregations." That IRS church audit came a year after it launched a near-identical attack on the NAACP after the civil rights organization criticized various Bush administration policies.
That is not where the story ends, however. The Bush administration's crusade against its enemies moved from the IRS into the Secret Service.
Under the Republican president, that law enforcement agency was repeatedly deployed to physically block suspected antiwar
Then, in 2010, we learned that Bush's targeting operation was also operating inside the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Recounting
A year later, we learned that along with the IRS, Secret Service and FBI, the Bush administration may have also been using the Central Intelligence Agency against its political enemies. As the New York Times reported, "A former Central Intelligence Agency officer who was a top counterterrorism official during the administration of President George W. Bush, said the White House at least twice asked intelligence officials to gather sensitive information" on prominent Iraq War critic Juan Cole. That story had an eerie similarity to the Bush administration's effort to out CIA operative Valerie Plame as retribution for her husband's criticism of that same war.
Unlike the noisy outrage that met today's allegations of IRS misconduct under
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
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.
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