Former US President George W. Bush thanks US President Barack Obama during a dedication ceremony at the George W. Bush Library and Museum on the grounds of Southern Methodist University on April 25, 2013 in Dallas, Texas.
May 14, 2013
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As your kindergarten teacher probably told you, two wrongs do not make a right. But the discrepancy in reactions to wrongs does, indeed, show how Washington so often serves the interests of the political right.
Thatâ€™s one of the big â€“ if deliberately ignored â€“ takeaways from the reaction to news that the Internal Revenue Service allegedly targeting conservative organizations for extra scrutiny in their larger review of political groupsâ€™ tax exempt status. In the last few days, the allegations have generated a wave of national headlines, aÂ congressional investigation,federal legislationÂ andÂ ever-louderÂ calls for impeachment.
Considering the gravity of the allegations against the Obama IRS from the Treasury Departmentâ€™s inspector general, congressional scrutiny is certainly warranted. However, thereâ€™s just one problem: most of the lawmakers and pundits today decrying the use of public resources against a White Houseâ€™s political opponents had little â€“ if anything â€“ to say about equally troubling revelations about the Bush administrationâ€™s deployment of public resources against its opponents. In fact, conservatives said so little back then thatÂ Fox News apparently doesnâ€™t even knowÂ (or is pretending not to know) the Bush administration used the IRS in the same way the Obama adminstration allegedly did.
And hereâ€™s the even more incredible thing: the Bush cabal didnâ€™t just use the IRS for its political hackery â€“ it mounted a full-scale government-wide assault on its enemies, marshaling disparate agencies in its smear efforts.
Bushâ€™s use of the IRS was but one part of that larger assault. As my Salon colleague Alex Seitz-Wald notes todayÂ in greater detail, in 2005, Bushâ€™s IRS began what became an extensiveÂ two-year investigationÂ into a Pasadena church after an orator dared to speak out against President Bushâ€™s Iraq War. Not coincidentally, theÂ Los Angeles TimesÂ reports that the church targeted just so happened to be â€œone of Southern Californiaâ€™s largest and most liberal congregations.â€ That IRS church audit came a year after it launched aÂ near-identical attack on the NAACPÂ after the civil rights organization criticized various Bush administration policies.
That is not where the story ends, however. The Bush administrationâ€™s crusade against its enemies moved from the IRS into the Secret Service.
Under the Republican president, that law enforcement agency wasÂ repeatedlyÂ deployedÂ to physically block suspected antiwar activists from attending public presidential events. As theÂ San Francisco ChronicleÂ reported, the scheme eventually targeted some peaceful antiwar activists for arrest for the alleged crime of â€œholding up small handwritten protest signs outside the designated zoneâ€ of free speech (yes, the Bush White House cemented the precedent that the right to dissent is no longer a fundamental right, but is instead only allowed in certainÂ â€œfree speech zonesâ€). Ultimately, in a case dealing with a man who was arrested for simply telling Vice President Dick Cheney that his â€œpolicies on Iraq are disgusting,â€ the Republican-dominated Supreme Court upheld the Bush administrationâ€™s use ofÂ â€œretaliatory arrestsâ€Â against the administrationâ€™s ideological critics.
Then, in 2010, we learned that Bushâ€™s targeting operation was also operating inside the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Recounting findings from the Justice Departmentâ€™s Inspector General, theÂ Washington PostÂ reported that â€œthe FBI improperly investigated some left-leaning U.S. advocacy groups after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacksâ€¦citing cases in which agents put activists on terrorist watch lists even though they were planning nonviolent civil disobedience.â€
A year later, we learned that along with the IRS, Secret Service and FBI, the Bush administration may have also been using the Central Intelligence Agency against its political enemies. As theÂ New York TimesÂ reported, â€œA former Central Intelligence Agency officer who was a top counterterrorism official during the administration of President George W. Bush, said the White House at least twice asked intelligence officials to gather sensitive informationâ€ on prominent Iraq War critic Juan Cole. That story had an eerie similarity to the Bush administrationâ€™s effort to out CIA operative Valerie Plame as retribution for her husbandâ€™s criticism of that same war.
This article originally appeared on : AlterNet