06/29/2014 07:26 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Conservatives Go on Offense Against IRS, RINOs, Executive Orders. They Winning or Whining?



By Mark Green

Insurgents this week are pushing for regime change... in the U.S. Lowry and Alter clash whether the IRS is a true scandal or not even a "smidgeon" of one. Is Lois Lerner really Nixon? Consensus that the Tea Party is like the U.S. in the World Cup, winning even when losing.

*On IRS. Issa et. al. conclude before evidence is shown that IRS-Lerner is like "Watergate... Tea Pot Dome... crime against democracy." Obama says it's about "two Dilberts in Cincinnati." Is the IRS approach to c4s ripped out of Kerry Washington's scandal or John Goodman's Alpha House (Alter being exec producer of latter)?

Lowry attacks "targeting of conservatives," thinks disappearing emails "don't pass smell test," and mocks an agency that demands citizens retain records when it doesn't. And even if no proven White House involvement, the problem arose because of a "partisan atmosphere at the agency that the Tea Party was a clear and present danger to America."

Alter counters that progressive groups too were looked at because 501c4 social welfare groups were fronts for dark money especially after Citizens United.

Host: Willie Sutton understood why the IRS focused more on ascendant, numerous Tea Party organizations in 2010/11. And it's not clear how the IRS became infested with partisan motives while a Bush holdover was still Commissioner.

Then there's what Alter calls the "crying wolf" affect: viz, cynical Democrats are weary of screeds about scandals that are presumably "worse than Watergate" when Fast & Furious, Solyndra, Benghazi, Bergdahl, IRS generate hearings and headlines... then fizzle. Seen this movie before. Coming soon, Issa to chair hearings that Obama aims to replace football with futbol (with a nod to Andy Borowitz)?

*On Tea Party. While incumbent GOP senators fend off Tea Party challengers recently in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Kentucky (with races in Tennessee and Kansas to come), House Majority Leader Cantor loses to newcomer to his Right and Cochran barely survives in Mississippi.

Lowry is asked whether conservatives view the National Review as RINOs or Tea Partiers. He carefully notes that his magazine is closer to Tea Party views even though they sometimes differ on tactics (e.g., shutting down government) and endorsements. He laments that Mississippi can't elect dynamic conservatives like a Rubio or Cruz and blasts the unsavory tactics that undermined Chris McDaniel in in Ol' Miss. Alter agrees with Joe Scarboro that Tea Partiers are whiners since apparently lawful Black Democratic votes apparently made the difference in that run-off.

While it's a delicious irony that, on the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Acts, Black voters were able to decide a GOP primary in a Southern state, there's agreement that this was more a one-off than a trend. But there's also agreement that the Tea Party is a phenomenon that either can knock off an incumbent or pull the entire party to Right... and, at the same time, enable Dems to win some general elections they should have lost (Akin, Murdock, O'Donnell).

Where are the OWS candidates having same sway in the Democratic Party?

Last, Lowry is asked whether he's worried that Democrats appear largely united behind Obama on big items (immigration, minimum wage) while the GOP is watching a not-very civil war between what President Reagan once called "the far right and the further right"? Rich basically answers - just you wait! The out-party is often splintered without a White House to impose order - "look at Howard Dean's challenge in 2004" - which will happen to Democrats if they lose in 2016. And if they don't?

The Host assumes that this true response implies that, for now, there is a real schism among conservatives. The final test whether the Tea Party is "The Real Thing" or just a passing John Birch Society in 2016 - can it get one of its own as the nominee (Cruz, Paul, Rubio) or at least as number two? Odds against former, for latter.

*On Obama's Executive Orders. Rich condemns Obama for "the unprecedented way he unilaterally rewrites laws," like when he said that Dreamers shouldn't be deported and kept changing the ACA. "Those may be fine things but then pass laws to do them."

Like Neil Cavuto yelling at Michele Bachmann on Fox, Alter wonders where the Republicans were when Bush43 was issuing far more Signing Statements and Executive Orders than Obama, not to mention that the ACA like all regulatory laws needed agencies to enact rules to make it workable. "This is partisanship masquerading as constitutional law," he says of Speaker Boehner's promised lawsuit.

Surely Republicans have a strong legal talking point this week as the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the president misinterpreted "recess appointments" in the Constitution. Of course, his view was shared by a century of his predecessors. Also, when the Senate GOP refused to confirm anyone to the NLRB in order to deny it a quorum and the ability to enforce its statutes, one wonders which party was the lawless one.

Politically, there was some agreement that Boehner was probably shrewd to pursue a legal case when it won't be decided for years even if he gets standing, when it excites the far-right conservative base he wants to vote this fall, and when it's a preferable alternative to the poison of Impeachment which didn't work very well for his party in 1999.

*On Presbyterians and Israel. Rich is dismayed at his former church for being the first Christian denomination to disinvest from the stock of firms doing business in Israel. He and Jonathan agree that, in the context of the Middle East today, it takes real chutzpah if not, in Alter's view, anti-Semitism to say that Israel is the cause of the violence there. Both worry that the divestment movement against Israel could grow.

*On Hillary's Money. There's agreement that HRC's comment that the Clintons were "dead broke... in debt" when exiting the White House was technically true but fundamentally misleading. Does her defensiveness indicate an Achilles Heel in 2016 when she runs as a middle-class champion while financially in the 1 percent? Can she be Romney-ized? Alter doubts it since they got rich lecturing and writing rather than firing workers enroute to paying cap gains on big profits. Still, each thinks the issue might dog her unless there are better answers.

To be successful, political attacks usually have to be largely or partly true. After Romney's 47 percent tape went public, it was unarguable that he saw himself as a 1 percent guy running against the "takers." While HRC has recently led a "privileged, cosseted life" according to Lowry, it's pretty clear that she regards herself as an advocate for middle class values, from Yale Law School to now. Whether she can be tagged as being out-of-touch with middle-class voters turns on how she handles such questions should she become a candidate and how sincerely she appears in discussing these issues.

This IS a sensitive time now as images take root. It as in 1999 and 2000 that Republicans successfully repeated that Al Gore was a phony liar (he invented the Internet!). While phony liar and not-an-American won't be the slurs du jour against HRC, this one could gain altitude unless it's dismissed by word and deed. It appears that the prospective candidate has begun to fight back, using the phrase "the crime of inequality."

Mark Green is the creator and host of Both Sides Now.

You can follow him on Twitter @markjgreen

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