Blaming Bush: Out. Blaming Woodrow Wilson: In. Apparently.
When it comes to the IRS targeting scandal, the president has been trying to rewrite history for some time now. At first contrite, he’s been increasingly cavalier and dismissive of the scandal over time.
And now he’s taking that to a whole new level.
Earlier this week on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” the president spoke about the scandal, in a way remarkable not just for the callous tone, but also for his strange new excuse to deflect any responsibility. To Stewart, he said:
“When there was that problem with the IRS, everyone jumped, including you, saying, ‘Look, you’ve got this back office, and they’re going after the Tea Party.’ Well, it turned out, no, Congress had passed a crummy law that didn’t give people guidance in terms of what it was they were trying to do. They did it poorly and stupidly.”
Huh? There wasn’t targeting? Congress just passed a crummy law? What law? When?
This is a bizarre statement for all kinds of reasons. But chief among is that the statute providing the tax-exempt status for the organizations targeted by the Obama administration wasn’t some creation of the new Republican Congress or even the George W. Bush administration. No, you have to dig a little further back than that . . . like to 1913.
Yup, the Revenue Act of 1913, sponsored by Alabama Democrat Oscar Underwood and signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson, provided the exemption for 501(c)4 organizations that is still used today. “Nothing in this [income tax] section shall apply to,” the 102-year old law says, “any civic league or organization not organized for income of states, profit, but operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare.”
Ugh, stupid 63rd Congress.
So what about the president’s claim that this “crummy law” didn’t “give people guidance” about how to interpret it?
We’ll grant the president this one: The IRS regulation interpreting the law for exempt organizations is bit more recent. It’s only been around since . . . 1959. And somehow every administration was able to carry it out objectively until this one started targeting conservatives.
And let’s be clear, documents show that there was no confusion about the law. Conservative groups were in fact held to different scrutiny solely because of their political beliefs. Lois Lerner even admitted so much to a stunned audience. And evidence shows clearly that the orders were coming Washington, not some “back office.”
Rather than taking responsibility for the actions of his administration, the president is now blaming a law written more than 100 years ago. Maybe his dismissiveness helps explain why the IRS is poised to repeat the same mistakes, according to a new government watchdog report out today. Either way, if the president won’t hold his IRS accountable, the Ways and Means Committee will.