No Politics, No Conspiracy

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) - Getty

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) – Getty Images

It was assumed that House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa was refusing to release the full transcript of an interview with an IRS employee because it contradicts his implication that the IRS was in cahoots with the White House, but now we know for sure.

Throughout much of the interview, Shafer describes the mundane bureaucratic challenges of dealing with incoming applications for nonprofit status. He said his team flagged the first tea party application because it appeared to be a high-profile case, and he wanted to make sure all high-profile cases received similar attention.

“What I’m talking here is that if we end up with four applications coming into the group that are pretty similar, and we assign them to four different agents, we don’t want four different determinations,” he said. “It’s just not good business. It’s not good customer service.”

Asked plainly, “do you have any reason to believe that anyone in the White House was involved in the decision to screen Tea Party cases?” Shafer replied, “I have no reason to believe that.” [...]

Interviewers also asked Shafer if he told his screeners to specifically pull Tea Party cases.

“Again, I was not asking them for those kind of cases,” he said. “[I]f I would have directed them to pull our Tea Party cases, little Susie’s Tea Party would have been pulled and it wasn’t.”

Early accusations and indications that politics motivated local IRS agents to apply extra scrutiny to Tea Party groups do not appear to be true, and there is no evidence that the White House had anything to do with it. And from my perspective, I’m not certain you could even describe this as “extra scrutiny” rather than a poorly-conceived formality.

I realize that the safest action any politician can take when an apparent scandal breaks is to hastily condemn any wrong-doing in the harshest terms, but I wish they wouldn’t.

When members of congress and even the president himself raced to condemn the politically-motivated actions of IRS agents, they couldn’t have known at the time that politics didn’t play a role in their decision, but the implication that it did was enough to penetrate the public consciousness and become an accepted fact.

With their loud protest, they lent an air of credibility to a theory that, at this point, doesn’t seem to be supported by the facts.

The same could be said for every other fake scandal that has emerged recently, and it doesn’t just apply to politicians. Journalists, bloggers, and other writers also have a responsibility to reserve judgment unless otherwise persuaded. Skepticism does not make you an apologist.