IRS and the Beckett protocol
Liz, a great historical analogy for the allegedly spontaneous decision of so many "low level" IRS agents to join the Obama 2012 oppo research team occurred to me last night. Unfortunately, Erick Erickson beat me to the punch and used it this morning. (I knew I should have stayed up later and kept writing last night!)
Call it the Beckett Protocol, after Thomas Beckett, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who got hacked to bits by a death squad of English knights after King Henry wailed in far-away Normandy, "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?"
It was one of history's first great examples of "plausible deniability" for a top leader. Why, the King never ordered Beckett's murder! He was just bellyaching, and his subordinates decided to make him happy. Everyone knew what he wanted. He didn't have to give anyone a direct order.
Erick reviews Obama's many statements, stretching all the way back to the 2008 campaign, which portray his political opponents as dangerous or illegitimate, while encouraging his fervent supporters to "get in their face" and "fight" or "punish" them. There's never been a Presidency more deeply immersed in the "paranoid style of American politics." Obama allows for no legitimate disagreement with his agenda - every dissident is the tool of some shadowy conspiracy, or a malicious knave. Remember, at the end of the 2012 campaign, he openly encouraged his wavering supporters to view voting for Barack Obama as an act of "revenge" against their hated enemies.
With that in mind:
Like Henry II, Barack Obama never specifically asked that tea party groups and conservative be targeted. But by both his language and the “always campaigning” attitude of his White House, he certainly sent clear signals to Democrats with the power and ability to fight conservatives to engage as they could. Given his rhetoric against his political opponents, it is no wonder sympathetic Democrats in the Internal Revenue Service harassed and stymied conservative groups and, though little mentioned, pro-Israel Jewish groups and evangelical groups.
I would add to Erick's theory that IRS agents - including the higher-level officials we've learned were aware of the politicized audits - might have a tendency to view small-government types as enemies of a system they serve and protect. A modest, properly limited Constitutional republic would have no need of a gigantic IRS, which grew considerably larger to enforce the disastrous health-care reform that conservative groups vigorously oppose. IRS jobs will be lost if ObamaCare is repealed.
Still, there was so much of this outrageous IRS abuse that I'm not sure the Beckett Protocol is a satisfying explanation. Some degree of coordination seems to have been taking place, and those upper-level officials kept mum about the whole thing until they began worrying about exposure and scandal. And let's not forget that Senate Democrats were openly demanding IRS harassment of Tea Party groups in 2010 and 2011... including Max "Train Wreck" Baucus, the same guy who now says he wants the Senate Finance Committee he chairs to investigate the scandal! There may yet be a "smoking gun" document or two, linking this outrage to some people who will have to be removed from office before they can be prosecuted.