If you want government to live up to the ideals under which this country was formed, you’re going to be called names.
Get used to it, because periodically the people who run government grow drunk with power and become a toxic combination of corrupt, cruel and petty. It can happen to a president; it can happen to a dogcatcher; and it can happen to all stripes of bureaucrats in between.
There’s no better example of this than how the federal government treats the tea party.
Sen. Harry Reid, Rep. Nancy Pelosi and President Barrack Obama have all tried to marginalize the tea party movement because it threatens their tax-’n’-spend status quo. Respectively, they have called these citizens “extremists,” “Astroturf” (the opposite of grass roots) and “haters.”
But perhaps the insult that best captures the attitude of government gone adrift came from embattled former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner. She calls them “ass-----.”
Lois Lerner isn’t the first government employee to go sour. And Reid, Pelosi and Obama won’t be the last pompous politicians to forget the power of a country founded upon extending dignity toward every human being, regardless of race, gender, religion, politics, financial status and all such other external means of discrimination.
Every now and again, government needs to relearn that lesson.
The Obama-led government clearly and unfairly hammered tea party groups. The IRS’s own inspector general found that the agency picked organizations to hassle based on whether “tea party” was in the group’s name. But the president assured us that there was not a “smidgen” of evidence that the inappropriate targeting was systemic.
Of course, we’ve come to take the president’s word with a grain of salt these days after his spectacular lie, “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.”
And it appears skepticism is justified. Whatever was going on at the IRS, it was not just a regional problem. It was a discriminatory policy within the Obama government that may have extended to the White House. Couple that with the “Three Stooges” act of the IRS in trying to get its story straight before Congress on whether all of Lois Lerner’s email exists or not, and this episode goes way beyond the “smidgen” threshold for a Washington scandal.
Other related facts: Lois Lerner, a registered Democrat, gave money to President Obama’s election campaign; Lois Lerner aspired to work for an Obama advocacy group; she invoked the Fifth Amendment before Congress; she replied “perfect” when told her internal communications were not retrievable by Congress.
Finally, in response to an IRS colleague complaining about tea party folks demanding fair treatment, Lerner wrote “Great. Maybe we are through if there are that many ass-----.” She then added: “(W)e don’t need to worry about alien teRrorists (sic). It’s our own crazies that will take us down.”
All of that makes it clear that if extending dignity to citizens is the hallmark of greatness in government, then this corner of the Obama bureaucracy has very much lost its way. But instead of jumping on the problem and fixing it, the president circled the wagons around the IRS. That may be the biggest clue of all that there’s more to this than the Obama administration wants known.
Plainly, the Obama administration can do better.
If this makes me an “ass----,” as Lois Lerner so delicately puts it, then fine, I’ll wear that T-shirt proudly. And you should, too.
Redcoat generals no doubt called George Washington an “arse” regularly. The tax collector in Boston cursed the Sons of Liberty when they dumped all that tea into the harbor in 1773. And the assistant city transit chief in Montgomery, Ala., probably had more than a few salty words for Rosa Parks when she refused to sit in the back of the bus.
Sometimes you must risk the name-calling to make government do the right and proper thing. So, fellow ass-----, unite — dump that tea and sit in the front row.
All the tea party people want is for the IRS to treat them fairly. In a country where government is supposed to aspire to greatness, that shouldn’t be such a big ask.
Sherman Frederick, former publisher of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and member of the Nevada Newspaper Hall of Fame, writes a column for Stephens Media. Read his blog at www.reviewjournal.com/columns-blogs/sherman-frederick.