Carol Platt Liebau

Democrat Elijah Cummings is seeking to call an end to any investigation of the IRS, quoting from a portion of a transcript w which, he says, demonstrates that a self-described conservative Republican IRS manager in Cincinnati initiated the IRS extra scrutiny of conservatives:

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., released a partial transcript of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform interview with the unnamed manager in the IRS' Cincinnati office. In it, the employee said the extra scrutiny for tea party groups' tax exempt status was an effort to be consistent in reviewing applications and not driven by politics.

"He is a conservative Republican working for the IRS. I think this interview and these statements go a long way to what's showing that the White House was not involved in this," Cummings said.

"Based upon everything I've seen, the case is solved. And if it were me, I would wrap this case up and move on, to be frank with you," Cummings added.

Well, that settles that, I guess.  Move along, folks -- nothing more here to see.  Except that there is.  Just a few points:

(1) Release the Transcript - As the linked piece points out, both Rep. Cummings and Rep. Darryl Issa have quoted from selected portions of the interview transcripts.  You know, the American people can handle the truth.  How 'bout just releasing the full interview transcripts and letting everyone take a look?  After all, if we're good enough to pay taxes (and be audited and harassed), surely we're good enough to get to read transcripts that needn't be classified for national security or other pressing reasons.

(2) Credibility? So far, the supposed conservative manager who ordered scruinty of the Tea Party remains unnamed.  Are we simply to take his word for it about his political affiliations and sympathies?  For now, for all we know, he could be one of the famous "seminar caller" types, who dial in to conservative radio talk shows, claim to be conservative Republicans disgusted with their party, and proceed to recite all the left-wing talking points.  We know nothing about this guy's credibility.

(3) Unanswered Questions - Even IF this one person did initiate the extra scrutiny, and even IF he is a conservative Republican (and yes, Cummings is referring to the person as a "he"), that doesn't explain why so many higher-ups in Washington -- like Lois Lerner -- let this go on for so long.  It doesn't answer questions about why Cindy Thomas didn't respond to all the "red flags" in the system -- and signed off on the release of personal and private information to outside groups. It doesn't explain why people like the now-famous Carter Hull were micromanaging the treatment of conservatives and their groups.  It doesn't explain why Sarah Hall Ingram and Doug Shulman were at the White House so much -- and why none of their visits overlapped.  It doesn't explain how political fixer Stephanie Cutter found her way into meetings with the IRS commissioner.

Indeed, if it were all as simple as one conservative Republican in Cincinnatti, Obama donor Holly Paz wouldn't have felt the need to sit in on the agency interviews with the Inspector General.  There wouldn't have been an issue with everyone simply explaining the source of the error, and there wouldn't have been the mystery, obfuscation and downright dishonesty that has accompanied this scandal.  Nobody would be taking the Fifth.

(4) It's about Big Government - Cummings seems to think the only thing that matters is whether The White House is directly involved in the IRS scandal.  But the fact is that the tone was set -- in many ways -- by The White House itself.  Moreover, as I once tweeted, it's not clear what's worse: Whether The White House directed the IRS to behave abusively, or whether the agency did it on its own.  This isn't the first time the IRS has targeted conservatives.  There is some serious institutional rot in the IRS that requires careful investigation and reform (if reform is even possible).

Finally, as Bill Kristol put it so eloquently, ultimately, this scandal isn't just about Obama, or just about the IRS.  It is about the inherent nature of Big Government -- which may be created and intended to help, but because -- it is only as effectively as the inevitably fallible people who staff it -- ultimately ends up abusing and tyrannizing: A truth the Founding Fathers well understood, and part of the reason they created a government with a federal branch of enumerated powers and plenty of checks and balances. 


Carol Platt Liebau

Carol Platt Liebau is an attorney, political commentator and guest radio talk show host based near New York. Learn more about her new book, "Prude: How the Sex-Obsessed Culture Hurts Young Women (and America, Too!)" here.