Comparing the unfair advantage of the IRS targeting conservative groups to professional athletes taking illegal steroids, James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal believes Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign deserves the mark frequently associated with sports’s most dubious record breakers: the asterisk. (Roger Maris not included)
As Taranto said:
“No one can deny that Lance Armstrong and Mark McGwire were highly skilled athletes. But their accomplishments are forever tainted by their use of banned performance-enhancing drugs. The use of the Internal Revenue Service’s coercive power to suppress dissent against Obama is the political equivalent of steroids. The history books should record Obama’s re-election with an asterisk to indicate that it was achieved with the help of illicit means.”
Taranto also was quick to scold political journalists and offered their “coverage” of the IRS scandal as further proof of a desperate fan base:
“One thing we have learned from the IRS scandal is that sports journalists are morally superior to political journalists. Whereas the former understand that cheating is an assault on the basic integrity of the sport, the latter all too often treat it as if it were just part of the game.”
In one example, Taranto cites Nobel Prize winning “economist” and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman’s take on the emerging political scandals:
“Former Enron Adviser Paul Krugman took a few minutes out of his vacation to write on his New York Times blog that ‘it seems that there weren’t actually any scandals, just the usual confusion and low-level mistakes that happen all the time, in any administration.'”
In contrast to Krugman’s dismissive attitude (shared by many other other political journalists) is the example of retired Associated Press reporter Steve Wilstein.
Wilstein, who in 1998 first introduced the world to McGwire’s brown bottle of Androstenedione–at the time “perfectly legal in baseball but banned in the NFL, Olympics and the NCAA”–kept on the steroid story not because he wanted to destroy the man but because he wanted to protect the game and its integrity.
Twelve years later, Wilstein was vindicated when McGwire finally decided to “talk about the past” and admitted using steroids. In a statement, McGwire said it was time to “confirm what people have suspected.”
Afterwards, Wilstein opined at CNN:
“McGwire chose the wrong path years ago and stayed on it — making the mistake of all public figures who try to stonewall their way out of trouble, from Richard Nixon to Tiger Woods. In the end, everybody knows and many will forgive, but the guilty have to live with the consequences of their transgressions.”
Although he expressed sympathy for McGwire on a personal level, Wilstein, nevertheless, still condemned McGwire’s cheating, lying, and juicing. His reason was the same as before: “But for those of us who also love baseball, the damage he did was too deep and his further threat to the integrity of the game is too great to justify his return.”
As the IRS scandal unfolds and more becomes known, political journalists covering the story will ultimately have to decide what is more important–the player or the game.