Video: Former IRS commissioner isn’t quite sure if targeting scheme violated American values
posted at 7:16 pm on May 22, 2013 by Guy Benson
This was one of the odder exchanges from today’s House Oversight Committee hearing. Former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman smugly waved off any responsibility for abuses that occurred at his agency during his tenure. In fact, he pronounced himself “very comfortable” with his job performance, which entailed inaccurately testifying before Congress that conservative targeting was “absolutely not” happening in early 2012 — then failing to correct the record several weeks later, when he says he discovered the truth. Anyway, here’s Shulman responding…bizarrely to a question posed by Ohio Republican Mike Turner:
He just couldn’t bring himself to even express a personal opinion on whether a powerful agency improperly targeting groups of a particular political persuasion is an affront to American and democratic values. He winced, he stuttered, he invoked words like “inappropriate,” but he couldn’t flat-out say it was wrong. Most observers would’ve told him to say “yes, of course,” then move on. But he didn’t, and here’s why: First, it’s still the official IRS line that the targeting/”triage” practices were all about “efficiency” in the face of an avalanche of new applications. That excuse doesn’t jibe with 2010 statistics (when the abusive methods began), nor with the admitted fact that no liberal or progressive groups were caught up in the agency’s political targeting net. But “nonpartisan mistakes” is their story, and they’re sticking to it. After all, how can a simple clerical error be un-American? Second, all of Shulman’s answers were parsed and delivered in practiced legalese. He almost never answered anything with simple assertions, opting for “recollections” and “as far as I can remembers.” In his apparent painstaking efforts to avoid making any statement that might ensnare him in a perjury controversy, Shulman seemed unable to cleanly field simple questions about his opinion. So he hedged and qualified and dissembled — and looked really guilty doing so. Nevertheless, his former colleague Stephen Miller still takes the cake in the category of deer-in-the-headlights, noncommittal awkwardness. He couldn’t render a firm judgment either way on whether the IRS asking an organization about the contents of its prayers crossed the line. What a crew.