June 30, 2013

Welcome to The Midterms, 2014 Edition. Bereft of Obamacare, Republicans are desperately trying to keep at least one of their scandals alive. Since the IRS is always an excellent enemy to use as a weapon, Fox News was happy to oblige them. John Roberts let Rep. Trey Gowdy go at them, and Lois Lerner in particular, with everything he had, including the suggestion that if he were Jack Bauer, he'd just torture information out of her.

That certainly speaks to the casual attitude these people have toward torture, doesn't it? As bad as that little joke was, the actual segment was worse. Gowdy maintains that Lerner's statement made before she invoked the 5th amendment was actually testimony and so she technically waived her right to remain silent.

But for Gowdy and Roberts, Lerner's reliance on the 5th amendment should be viewed as though she were a criminal defendant.

Testimony before Congress is not a criminal trial, no matter how Fox News and Gowdy want to frame it. It is testimony. A statement before Congress is not testimony. It is a statement. Even if one were to argue that an assertion of innocence is somehow testimony, the 5th amendment protects the defendant from making self-incriminating statements. Saying one is innocent should be viewed just like a plea in court, not testimony.

But again, that doesn't fit the narrative, which Gowdy was very careful to massage. The IRS is not to be trusted because government cannot be trusted." Despite overwhelming evidence that the IRS was simply doing the job they are supposed to do, Fox and the Republicans need a villain, and the IRS will do nicely. The Jack Bauer comment just places that in a context their base will understand.

Strangely, I haven't seen anyone on the morning shows ask any member of Congress about why they allowed student loan interest rates to double, or why the sequester is still in effect when both bodies have passed their own versions of the budget, or why they continue to block the president's nominees for the cabinet. Those are the real scandals, after all.

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