HH: I begin this hour as I do on the Thursdays when we are lucky with Mark Steyn, Columnist To the World. Read everything that Mark writes at www.steynonline.com. Mark, have any low level employees from Cincinnati been bothering you?
MS: From this minor, peripheral branch office of no consequence in Cincinnati? I’ll give an honest answer to that. No, but I have had conversations with persons from other IRS offices.
HH: Just checking, just making sure they hadn’t bothered you. The President got a question today to open his press conference. I want to play you the question, first one out of the box, cut number two:
Reporter: Can you assure the American people that nobody in the White House knew about the agency’s actions before your Counsel’s office found out on April 22nd? And when they did find out, do you think that you should have learned about it before you learned about it from news reports as you said last Friday? And also, are you opposed to there being a special counsel appointed to lead the Justice Department investigation?
HH: Now Mark Steyn, he never answered the second question, and went on for four minutes without saying anything about the first. But this is how he ended, cut number three:
BO: I’m outraged by this, in part, because look, I’m a public figure. If a future administration is starting to use the tax laws to favor one party over another, or one political view over another, obviously, we’re all vulnerable.
HH: Mark, we’re not all vulnerable. We’re vulnerable if we’re conservatives.
MS: Yeah, yeah, and let’s go back to, by the way, that’s a classic disastrous, stupid question. She asked a three part question, that the first two parts of which were unusually interesting for one of the court eunuchs at the palace to ask. And then she spoiled it all by throwing on the thing about the special counsel. If she’d actually just stuck with the bit about nobody in the White House knew before April 22nd, and you didn’t find out until you heard it on the news reports, and by the way, I think that is now the most absurd defense. His defense on everything now is basically it doesn’t really matter whether it was the IRS or it was Benghazi or whatever, is oh, I’m just the president of the United States, and there’s this entirely separate entity called the United States Government that is pulling all this stuff, but it’s got nothing to do with me. Me might happen to have the four words, of the United States in our formal titles, but otherwise, the president of the United States and the government of the United States are entirely separate operating entities. How can they not laugh their socks off he says that stuff? And the Turkish prime minister, by the way, that Turkish prime minister who was sitting next to him certainly doesn’t take that view. That Turkish prime minister is intimately involved in everything the Turkish government does, and is proud of it.
HH: He gets this next question, and this is about, it’s another classic question, cut number four:
Reporter: How do you feel about comparisons by some of your critics of this week’s scandals to those that happened under the Nixon administration?
BO: Well, you know, I’ll let you guys engage in those comparisons. And you can go ahead and read the history, I think, and draw your own conclusions.
HH: Mark Steyn, how do you feel questions are get out of jail free cards in a press conference setting.
MS: Yeah, I know. I know, and they still don’t get it. I mean, if you’re one of the press guys, he’s been bugging you. He’s wiretapping your phones. You can’t go, when you get an interesting off the record conversation with somebody, you can no longer tell your source that’s off the record, don’t worry, they’re never going to find out that it was you who told me this, because he’s bugging your phones. I mean, come on. The difference here is that you’re giving it away for free. That’s why he despises you. Normally, this is like the old CIA line when they thought that Pierre Trudeau was in the pay of the Russians, and the Canadians responded that there was no need to pay a guy who was willing to do it for free. That’s the problem with this press. You don’t have to bribe them. You don’t have to entice them. They’re fawning all over him even as he’s bugging them.
HH: Yesterday, Devin Nunes on this program said look, it’s not just the press. He reached, he snooped inside the House of Representatives, pointing to the press gallery. I think he used the wrong word bugging, but it’s the front page of Drudge today. No one seems to care about that AP sweep, that snooping that went on, Mark Steyn, except the AP. And certainly the White House Press Corps doesn’t care.
MS: Yeah, and again, that’s absolutely fascinating to me, because it changes the nature of the relationship of everything they do. And it’s also, and by the way, I thought that was a fascinating interview you had, because it does raise separation of powers issues. You’ve got here, we do know this, that they wiretapped a telephone in the press gallery at the House of Representatives. That’s one of the telephone lines they were monitoring. Now that is, that’s the executive branch effectively putting a bug on the premises of the legislative branch. At some point, some of this stuff has to be not just oh, well, how do you feel, do you feel kind of hurt when people compare you to Richard Nixon? Does that wound you a little bit, Mr. President? How do you feel about that? They’ve got to get up and do a real job for once.
HH: Yeah, and some of the left are saying they didn’t eavesdrop, they didn’t tape record. But in fact, to snoop is to do the same thing when you get incoming and outgoing phone numbers. It tells you everything you need to know, and they did it on the House property. That’s what’s shocking. Now the comparison to Nixon got legs in my mind yesterday, and I’m an old Nixon guy. I liked the President. I think he did a fine job except for Watergate. But David Axelrod yesterday on Morning Joe mounted one of the classic pro-Nixon defenses that doesn’t wash. Listen to this, Mark, David Axelrod:
DA: If you look at the Inspector General’s report, apparently some folks down in the bureaucracy, you know, we have a large government, took it upon themselves to shorthand these applications for tax exempt status in a way that was, you know, as I say, idiotic, and also dangerous because of the political implications. One prima facie evidence, Joe, that nobody political was involved in this, is that if anybody political was involved in this, they would say are you kidding me? Are you nuts?
HH: That is the classic, Mark Steyn, defense of Nixon that he threw an ashtray across the room because there was nothing to be gained by breaking into Larry O’Brien’s office at the Watergate. Axelrod just channeled that.
MS: Right, right, except I think there is the difference that we are not talking about a couple of nickel and dime no-name burglars. I mean, this idea, this whole sort of branch office of Cincinnati, this is the office that deals with 501c3’s and 501c4’s. So you can’t say oh, wall, the Cincinnati office got a bit out of hand, but the office in Augusta, Maine, and the office in Pocatello, Idaho, are working fine. For this particular aspect of tax law, Cincinnati is the head office in the same way that for international tax treaty tax questions, Buffalo functions as the main office. So in other words, this is the head office of that aspect of law. And it is inconceivable to me, it is inconceivable to me, as we learn more and more about it, that the people will still buy the, you know, a few rogue employees got out of hand here. Either there’s a culture of, either there’s a politicization of the IRS as a whole, or they were under some kind of political direction explicitly within the administration.
HH: Later in the program, I’ll talk to you colleague from National Review, Kevin Williamson, who has blown up the idea of low level employees out of an obscure field office over at National Review. But let me play for you Jonathan Martin from Politico on The Lead with Jake Tapper. Jake’s coming up later as well, and I’m going to ask him about this. Martin is supposed to be the objective journalist. They’ve got Bill Burton on the left, the Obama guy, and they’ve got a right winger, but then, Jonathan Martin is supposed to be the reporter. And he comes on and talks first about the IRS story, and then about Benghazi. Let’s merge them together.
JM: I think for independent voters who may be having that so-called six year itch next year, it’s a matter of not, you know, anything that’s sort of nefarious. It’s more incompetence….And I think politically, you have to separate the IRS story from the Benghazi story. I think the Benghazi story is largely confined to the political right.
HH: So Mark Steyn, the IRS is incompetence, and the Benghazi story is largely confined to the political right. Isn’t that convenient?
MS: Yeah, it’s funny how it works like that. It wouldn’t be that way if it was the other side getting targeted. Look, I think this is serious stuff. I think for a start, the IRS has more powers than comparable revenue agencies in other free societies as it is. So if it’s using those powers to punish its enemies, then that’s something that everybody who fills in a tax return ought to be concerned about. They’re asking freeborn American citizens what books they read, if their relatives are planning to run for office. And if you decline to answer these questions, they’re going to come into your lives and destroy your life. At some point, Americans have to, and these so-called independents, have to decide whether they still wish to live as free people, or whether they’re going to go along with all this stuff, because isn’t it cool to have Obama as president. I mean, those two things are becoming incompatible.
HH: Mark Steyn, thank you. Everyone go to Mark Steyn’s website, www.steynonline.com, to read everything that Mark writes about the IRS, about Benghazi, and about everything else, www.steynonline.com.
End of interview.