"I'll take responsibility for that...[it] was an incredibly bad idea."
Yeah, it was. It was even a worse idea for Lerner to mislead the public about whether the question was planted (the questioner also initially denied any such arrangement). She was the one who planted it, apparently at Miller's behest. Lerner's lies continue to pile up, yet she somehow still has her job. It's also useful to recall exactly what Miller told House Members on Friday. In response to a line of questioning on this narrow matter, Miller's responses were evasive and couched in passive language. He seemed intent on keeping the provenance of the planted question as hazy as possible. Now that the media noose has tightened on the specifics, Miller apparently felt compelled to admit that it was actually his idea all along -- adding obligatory denunciations of his own brainchild for good measure. It was all just another bout malice-free, foolish incompetence, you see. In his testimony today, Miller again insisted that the widespread targeting program was not the product of partisan bias (cough), but rather arose from a desire to be more "efficient." Allahpundit flayed this talking point yesterday:
If the IRS’s big problem circa 2010 was that it was overwhelmed with nonprofit applications (or so the agency falsely claims), why did that lead to unusually onerous demands for information? The typical government response to unmanageable workloads is to cut corners, yet the agency ended up asking Engelbrecht to send them copies of every Facebook post and Tweet that she ever sent, amid hundreds of other questions. That’s odd, no? You would think the big scandal to come out of a glut of tax-exempt petitions is that those petitions were being approved unusually quickly and with little scrutiny. Instead the opposite happened. Go figure.
Basically, the "efficiency" excuse makes no sense because the IRS created more work for itself by pummeling conservative groups with insanely granular, intrusive, and frequently offensive questions and document demands. To recap: Miller told Lerner to plant a question. She did, then pretended she didn't. When that story fell apart, Miller admitted that it had taken place, but danced around questions about who ordered it. When that jig was up, he raised his hand for blame. Both he and his predecessor publicly denied that any targeting was happening, then Miller withheld the truth after he was looped in, even after members of Congress followed-up with additional inquiries. Lerner did the same. But for some reason they expect us to trust them when they tell us there was no partisan motive here, even though they've conceded that no liberal or progressive groups were targeted inappropriately. Media reports and anecdotal evidence bear out the unequal treatment, too. With all that context in place, I'll leave you with Miller's sad-face quotation about public perceptions of the agency he runs -- which he himself said is guilty of "horrible customer service:"
Outgoing IRS commissioner Steven Miller on the perception of the agency after scandal: "It breaks my heart."— Chris Moody (@Chris_Moody) May 21, 2013
I desperately want to believe Pfeiffer. I’ve known him for years. I like him. He’s never lied to me. But Pfeiffer is part of an institution that has demonstrated an inability and/or unwillingness to tell the full truth about the IRS scandal and a spate of other controversies. The White House can’t be trusted. That depressing conclusion (not unique to the Obama White House, sadly) was driven home Monday when spokesman Jay Carney used his daily briefing to announce that presidential advisers knew more about the IRS scandal a bit sooner than previously disclosed...In politics, as in life, when you constantly change your story, even on small matters, you sow doubt about your credibility and competence. In different ways, each of the so-called Obama scandals revolve around the issue of trust (as I wrote here, here, here, here, and here).
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography