On Wednesday, President Obama fired the head of the Internal Revenue Service, the first sacrificial lamb brought down after the alleged “targeting” of conservative political groups by the IRS. Obama declared, “Americans are right to be angry about it.” Call me out of step, but I am angrier that the president is joining the rush to judgment.
All that is known for sure is that some IRS functionaries took a shorthand route to identify partisan political groups that might be pretending not to be political so that they could get the tax-exempt status available to social welfare organizations. The IRS employed various key words, such as “tea party” and “patriot,” and that is how it got into trouble. The IRS now stands accused of singling out conservatives for special scrutiny, even though such groups comprised just a third of the nearly 300 organizations picked out for extra attention.
It is worth noting that, though applications from some...
The revelation that conservative political groups seeking tax-exempt status were singled out for special attention by Internal Revenue Service bureaucrats has given Republicans their best cudgel yet to beat on the Obama administration. But as the outrage revs into high gear, let me offer a contrarian perspective: As inept as the IRS may have been in the way they processed applications for 501(c)(4) status, the bigger scandal is that the IRS grants the tax-exempt designation to so many overtly political organizations, treating them as if they are no more engaged in partisan politics than the Girl Scouts.
The reality is that numerous high-powered political operatives for both Republicans and Democrats have formed 501(c)(4) organizations. The GOP’s most prominent political guru, Karl Rove, has Crossroads GPS, a 501(c)(4) entity that spent $70 million during the 2012 campaign encouraging voters to cast their ballots for Republican candidates. Under the guidance of former Obama...
How you feel about Benghazi very likely has everything to do with your political leanings. If you think the Obama administration is covering up a scandal bigger than Watergate, you are almost certainly a Republican. If you think Republicans in Congress are simply trying to gain political advantage by exploiting the terrorist attack against the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, last Sept. 11, you are very likely a Democrat.
A Pew Research Center poll found that 70% of Republicans believe the administration has been “dishonest” about what happened at Benghazi. Only 16% of Democrats feel the same way. But 60% of Democrats believe Republicans have “gone too far” pursuing the issue while 65% of Republicans think their party’s representatives have handled it “appropriately.”
This stark partisan divide is hardly a surprise given the sour state of American politics, but, on an issue of national security, one would wish for broader middle ground in...
Republicans could make an easy hit on the Obama administration by highlighting the State Department’s apparent bureaucratic blundering during and after the deadly terrorist attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, last fall, but they refuse to settle for such a small political prize. Instead, they have got themselves all steamed up and snarling about heinous, impeachable offenses that are figments of their imaginations.
The latest round of House hearings about the Benghazi incident provides a perfect example of how American politics has been warped and gummed up by bombastic, partisan extremism. A cool, methodical inquiry could well uncover serious mistakes and provide remedies so that future incidents can be thwarted before more American diplomats are killed in the line of duty. But the current generation of Republican lawmakers does not know how to do cool. Hot rhetoric more suited to a Glenn Beck tirade seems to be the only way they know how to communicate.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is worried enough about an early death due to obesity that, two weeks ago under a fake name, he checked himself into a hospital and had lap-band surgery on his stomach. It is being reported that having his tummy tied has already cut his food intake enough to help him shed 40 pounds.
The cable news pundit corps immediately questioned whether Christie was dropping weight to prepare for a presidential campaign in 2016, as if staying alive to see his children grow up and have children of their own were not motivation enough. However valid or specious, such speculation carries the clear implication that Americans would not elect a fat man to be president.
Is that true?
According to a recent poll, 76% of voters in New Jersey have a positive view of overweight candidates. It is hard not to think that has a lot to do with Christie’s current popularity in his home state, but it may also indicate that some people are more comfortable with a politician who...
One hundred prisoners held in the American detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are engaged in a hunger strike -- a desperate attempt to get the attention of President Obama, who was elected in 2008 having promised to shut the place down. Not only did Obama fail to close the facility, his administration has neglected to appoint anyone to oversee repatriation of the 86 current prisoners who have been cleared for release.
Among the 166 detainees at Guantanamo, some, no doubt, are true enemies of the United States. It is no secret, however, that hapless fringe characters and many completely innocent men were also swept up in the fog of the George W. Bush administration’s "war on terror" and sent to the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo. A Kabul taxi driver who was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time spent a year of his life in detention. One British citizen spent five years imprisoned because he looked like somebody else who was an authentic bad guy. An Afghan who had...
This week, a 5-year-old Kentucky boy was playing with the mini-rifle he had gotten as a gift and ended up shooting and killing his 2-year-old sister. Apparently, even kindergartners have a right to keep and bear arms that shall not be infringed.
For many people, it was a revelation that there are companies that manufacture guns specifically for children. The boy in question had a Crickett rifle, a smaller version of an adult weapon designed specifically for little trigger fingers. The guns come in a variety of happy colors, including pink and even swirls.
Some people think giving guns that shoot real bullets to kids is a rather insane idea, but not folks in the gun culture, where it is perfectly normal. A state legislator in Kentucky, Rep. Robert R. Damron, insisted that the kiddie rifle was not the problem.
“Why single out firearms?” Damron asked, according to the Associated Press. “Why not talk about all the other things that endanger children too?”
The retirement plans of more and more Americans are about as connected to reality as Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Grim is exactly what it is going to be for these folks when, in their 70s, their 401(k)s have petered out, they have no pensions and no income except what they get from the tottering Social Security system.
Financial experts drone on about how today’s younger couples need to be tucking away an ample share of their paychecks into 401(k) plans in order to avert a destitute old age. It’s easy for them to scold. People in their world live at a socioeconomic level where manipulation of exotic financial products turns the manipulators into billionaires, like Rumpelstiltskin spinning straw into gold. Lower down the wealth scale where most Americans live, the tale is not so rosy.
Companies are getting along with fewer employees and asking them to work harder for stagnant pay. Young people withcollege degrees and deep student loan debt are stalled, looking for jobs that...
The hawks are squawking. Congressional conservatives and the right-wing media are blasting President Obama for going soft on the Syrians.
The president insists that there is a "game-changing" red line the Syrian government will have crossed if it is found to have used chemical weapons against its people, but he has bent the red line so far, the hawks say, that not only the Syrians, but the Iranians and North Koreans will conclude Obama is a man with a marshmallow spine whose warnings can be flouted with impunity.
The president has, indeed, added more caveats to his tough talk. In his news conference on Tuesday, the president said if rock-solid proof is found that a gas attack has taken place he would "rethink" what to do next, choosing from an unspecified range of punitive options that might not include military action.
His line got more elastic after last week's ominous but rubbery announcement that U.S. intelligence agencies have found evidence of a possible use of the nerve gas...
The people of Los Angeles would be up in arms if some out-of-town billionaires tried to buy the Dodgers and institute a rule that only right-handers could play on the team. Petitions would be signed, protests would be organized and politicians would rise up to condemn the sale. It would be nice if there were a similar outcry at the prospect of the Koch brothers buying the Los Angeles Times.
After all, as exciting as it may be for a city to have a major league sports team, a good newspaper is a far more valuable asset. Even in these tough days for the journalism business, newspapers remain the core providers of comprehensive news coverage in every town that still has one. Sure, there are local television stations. They are great if all you need to know about is crime, weather and traffic. There’s the Internet, if you are free to spend your day surfing for bits of information that may or may not be true. But the providers of America’s bedrock news reporting are still...
Like finding new friends on Facebook or a great deal on EBay, it is easy to locate fiery, radical Islamist imams on the Internet who will guide the willing toward the path of bomb making, random slaughter and martyrdom. Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the accused Boston Marathon bomber who died in a shootout with police a week ago, seems to have connected with a number of these firebrand theologians in exactly that way.
Tsarnaev did not pick up his militant ideas at his local mosque. In fact, it is being reported that, on two occasions, Tsarnaev interrupted Friday prayer services at a mosque in Cambridge to criticize the speaker for being too liberal and accommodating. At a news conference Wednesday at that mosque, Yusufi Vali, executive director of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, said Tsarnaev’s outbursts did not reach a point that was disturbing enough that mosque leaders felt a need to contact police.
"We thankfully live in a country where freedom of speech is respected, so...
Two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist and columnist David Horsey is a political commentator for the Los Angeles Times.