Jonah Goldberg

"Congressional investigators are fuming over revelations that the Internal Revenue Service has lost a trove of emails to and from a central figure in the agency's tea party controversy."

That's the opening sentence of the Associated Press story on the IRS's claim that it lost an unknown number of emails over two years relating to the agency's alleged targeting of political groups hostile to the president.

But note how the AP casts the story: The investigators -- Republican lawmakers -- are outraged.

Is it really so hard to imagine that if this were a Republican administration, the story wouldn't be the frustration of partisan critics of the president? It would be all about that administration's behavior. With the exception of National Journal's Ron Fournier, who called for a special prosecutor to bypass the White House's "stonewalling," and former CBS correspondent Sharyl Attkisson, it's hard to find a non-conservative journalist who thinks this is a big deal.

Let's back up for a moment. In 2013, IRS official Lois Lerner planted a question from an audience member at an American Bar Association meeting. She used her answer to apologize for -- and favorably spin -- the agency's actions, and then later claimed that the apology came as an unprompted response to a question.

Lerner laid the blame for the inappropriate targeting of tea party and other groups to a few low-level bureaucrats in Cincinnati. That was a lie. Senior officials in the IRS knew and helped to coordinate the effort. She said she only heard about the problem when tea party groups protested. The targeting, in fact, had already been under internal and external investigation.

In short, Lerner worked hard at denying her agency's tactics on applications for nonprofit status from groups deemed to be hostile to the president's agenda. According to IRS officials' congressional testimony, agents were told to "be on the lookout" for groups that "criticized how the government is being run." Lerner even joked to colleagues that she should get a job at Obama's activist group Organizing for Action.

President Obama insists he didn't know about any of this until he was briefed on it the way he's briefed on so many issues: from news reports. Nevertheless, we've since learned that White House officials were aware earlier.

Lerner, who was forced to resign, took the Fifth Amendment rather than clear the air.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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