Quiet Day For the IRS

One thing you can say about the NSA “scandal:” it’s sure obscured the IRS “scandal” for a moment. The only “IRS story” out there today is a claim by the ranking Democrat on Darrell Issa’s House Oversight Committee, Elihan Cummings, that yet-to-be-disclosed testimony from IRS officials shows the whole mess originated with a self-described conservative Republican IRS employee in Cincinnati.

But make no mistake, Republicans will find a way to use the NSA issue to draw attention back to the IRS if it’s at all possible. In a long, meandering post that wound up suggesting millennials just can’t be trusted (an indiscretion he blamed on fatigue and poor proofreading in an update), RedState‘s Erick Erickson argued that the IRS “scandal” had so fatally undermined confidence in government that even a theoretically defensible NSA program probably needed to be reined in:

How can we be sure that this one department, unlike the largely nonpartisan IRS, is not engaging in an abuse of data? How can we be sure the NSA will not leak the private details of American citizens to political groups as the IRS did? With the government expanding its reach into the lives of every American with the implementation of Obamacare, how can we be sure that the metadata that suggests someone may be having a medical issue is not flagged, leaked, or otherwise abused? For now that’s a reach. But a year ago most Americans thought it was a reach to claim the IRS was willfully and maliciously targeting conservative groups.

I don’t know if it’s significant that Erickson’s now referring to the IRS “scandal” in the past tense (not to mention treating allegations as matters of established fact), but it’s got to be tough right now for a would-be commissar like him to exert the message discipline he craves.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.