Jonah Goldberg

In the June issue of Commentary, Noah Rothman notes that the mainstream media initially treated the IRS story as a very big deal. ABC's Terry Moran dubbed it a "truly Nixonian abuse of power by the Obama administration." But as Rothman notes, the media were just as quick to buy the story that this was a minor bureaucratic screw-up being whipped up into what the president called yet another "phony scandal."

More recently, Obama proclaimed there was not even a "smidgen" of corruption at the IRS, despite the fact his administration's own investigations are still underway. Obama's assurance seemed good enough for most of the media.

This is one of the great public relations turnaround stories of all time. Liberal groups successfully spun the incident as a well-intentioned mistake by a government agency trying to deal with a deluge of new applications from right-wing crazies let loose by the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision. The "real" story was -- again -- Republican overreach.

Never mind that there was no evidence for such an "uptick" in applications -- Lerner's word. Indeed, evidence suggests that Lerner went looking for that evidence as an excuse for abuses she had already undertaken.

So now the IRS claims that a computer crash has irrevocably erased pertinent emails (an excuse I will remember when I am audited). National Review's John Fund reports that the IRS manual says backups must exist. If emails -- which exist on servers, clouds and elsewhere -- can be destroyed this way, someone should tell the NSA that there's a cheaper way to encrypt data.

The storied City News Bureau of Chicago famously lived by the motto "If your mother tells you she loves you, check it out." The bureau closed down several years ago. Perhaps that kind of skepticism died with it.


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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