In recent news from the hog wallow of politics, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, basically accused IRS Commissioner John Koskinen of lying about the notorious missing emails.
“Sitting here listening to this testimony, I don’t believe it,” he said, “That’s your problem. No one believes you.”
As IRS officials are not sympathetic figures, rating somewhere near naked mole rats in the public affection, this was not a brave statement. But it channeled the dyspepsia of the moment, not for the purpose of advancing the truth but as a means to express frustration.
And perhaps frustration was warranted, although the House Ways and Means Committee hearing shouldn’t have been turned into a bear-baiting pit for the occasion. The revelation that the IRS lost thousands of emails that may have been pertinent to a congressional investigation would turn the most credulous person into a cynic.
But here’s my problem: While my suspicions are aroused that the IRS had something to hide, this doesn’t mean that I immediately assume the worst and think that the IRS decision to investigate Tea Party groups and others (including progressive groups, contrary to the favored narrative) was a diabolical plot directed by the White House.
After all, sometimes people just mess up. Incompetence is more common than conspiracy in this life and requires less intelligence.
Basically, I have allegation fatigue. I have been told too much nonsense to believe what Mr. Ryan and his friends want me to believe. I think millions of Americans feel the same.
When I read about Mr. Ryan and his pals torturing the IRS commissioner or whoever else from the administration may be called to be the scapegoat du jour, I don‘t see an honest quest for the truth. What I see is political theater — an opportunity to impugn character, interrupt testimony and make speeches instead of ask questions.
Mr. Ryan, et al., here’s your problem: No one believes you. OK, that’s a bit too broad -- no one who is reasonable believes you.
Why would anybody believe you? From the moment President Barack Obama entered office, your fellow conservatives began their search for a scandal. The founding premise of this desperate search was that the president was not a true American. He was born in Kenya, he was a Marxist, a socialist, a community organizer — and, for goodness sakes, nothing is less American than an organized community.
So these critics immediately went merrily down the road to Crazyland even while the president was still trying to find the executive bathroom. This led to the Tea Party being founded quicker than you could bring a kettle to the boil. Just in case birth certificates would not feed the hunger for outrage, manufactured scandals were offered until something better came along.
Remember czars? Mr. Obama had czars! Every recent president has had czars, but only Mr. Obama’s had pointy-toed slippers because he was from Kenya. Remember teleprompters? Every modern president has had teleprompters, but there’s never been the desperate need for some to claim the current president is dumber than his predecessor.
Now that the administration is in its second term, the Law of Messing Up has worked its magic. (This law holds that the longer something continues, the greater the chance that mess-ups will occur.) So we now we have more substantive scandals, substantive in this context meaning that they are not entirely fictitious although fiction plays a part.
The IRS scandal is in this category and so is Benghazi, which can be best described by paraphrasing Winston Churchill: “Never in the field of human conflict has so much been made by so many about so few.” (No disrespect intended, because four good men died, but 3,000 died on 9/11 with fewer political recriminations.)
Readers schooled in talk radio-speak may ask: “So you think President Obama is a great truth-sayer, do you?” Actually, no. I think Mr. Obama, although he means well, is not scrupulous about the truth, and you can keep your insurance if you don’t believe me. In his casual approach to the truth, I think he resembles George W. Bush, more’s the pity.
On the subject of perpetrating falsehoods, Vice President Dick Cheney has been trying to blame Mr. Obama for the disintegration of Iraq. Pinocchio himself wouldn’t dare to try this, lest his nose knock over the TV camera.
No party has the monopoly on virtue. But Paul Ryan brought it up and he happens to be of the party that currently is the worst offender. No lie: It’s hard to sell a scandal when your own behavior is scandalously indifferent to anything but the pursuit of political advantage. In this wallow, everyone’s a hog. Now that’s a problem.
Reg Henry: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1668