For those who still can’t forgive Chris Christie for his misplaced gushiness toward Barack Obama for making a per forma publicity cameo in New Jersey following superstorm Sandy, the governor’s current snafu might seem like a much-deserved comeuppance. Nevertheless, Bridgegate (apologies to Kevin Whiteman) and the so-called “phony scandals” of the Obama administration are different in several important respects.
James Taranto noted a couple of interesting distinctions in Thursday’s “Best of the Web Today”:
Its sheer pettiness is what distinguishes the GWB scandal from the ObamaCare and IRS ones. The ObamaCare fraud was in the service of an ambitious ideological agenda, and as we have argued, the 2012 election was close enough that it is possible the IRS’s suppression of opposition was necessary to secure the president a second term. Christie, by contrast, is not much of an ideologue and was cruising to an easy re-election.
In the latter regard, the bridge shenanigans look more like the Watergate burglary — a gratuitous misuse of power. ‘Reporters will eventually demand to know … what Christie knew and when he knew it,’ observes conservative blogger Sean Davis. ‘None of the defenses now available to Christie–intentional deceit or intentional ignorance–paint him in a favorable light.’ That’s especially true if voters two years from now are looking for a corrective to the corruption and deception of the Obama years.
The media scandal of choice for comparison with Christie’s bridge lane closures has for reason become the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups. National Review Online’s Andrew Stiles notes this trend, but hastens to add that the mainstream media’s handling of the two scandals is radically different:
The New York Times, for example, ran a ‘Room for Debate’ forum asking contributors to debate whether or not Christie should resign as a result of the bridge scandal….[But] the Times’ coverage in the wake of the IRS-targeting revelations was a bit more nuanced. ‘I.R.S. Focus on Conservatives Gives G.O.P. an Issue to Seize On,’ read the paper’s A1 headline on May 13, 2013, just days after the scandal broke. Other outlets seized on similar storylines. ‘IRS scandal: GOP looks to seize election opportunity,’ wrote CBS News. USA Today ran with: ‘GOP seizes on IRS scandal to press agenda.’
On May 15, New York’s Frank Rich called the IRS targeting a ‘White House mishap.’ Republican seizers-on were ‘the Boys Who Cried Wolf.’ The ‘GOP overreach’ angle caught on quickly. ‘Will Republicans Screw Up Again? Some Are Already Overreaching,’ pondered Roll Call’s Stu Rothenberg on May 20. ‘The IRS is a good political issue for Republicans. But are they in danger of overreaching on it?’ asked the Washington Post.
Whatever else might be said about the similarities and differences between the two scandals, it is not just the media that are jumping all over one malicious act while excusing another. The government has also relegated the investigation of the IRS targeting to a back burner. Fox News reports that eight months after the IRS scandal made headlines, the FBI has contacted only a handful of the conservative groups directly affected by the agency’s misconduct:
Jordan Sekulow, a lawyer representing 41 organizations in 22 states in a federal lawsuit, told FoxNews.com that very few of his clients have been approached by FBI investigators to date.
‘We’re talking single digits right now,’ Sekulow told FoxNews.com. He said they were only approached recently.
Sekulow echoes the frustrations of those who say the government is biding its time following allegations last spring that the IRS had targeted conservative groups applying for non-exempt tax status.
It is very likely that the feds are taking their sweet old time because of the media, or lack of pressure therefrom.
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