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Born Free

Jun 17, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 38 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
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What is to be done by Republicans in Congress and conservatives outside? Investigate, investigate, and keep on investigating. Hold more hearings. Get the facts. Don’t take seriously the crocodile tears of liberal commentators, allegedly worried that Republicans might overreach. Sure, a few congressmen will say foolish things, and not every hearing will produce witnesses as eloquent and sympathetic as last week’s. But the key is to forge ahead, and to  determine just what happened and just how pervasive the efforts to target inconvenient groups were. 

Nor should Republicans become obsessed with the role of the White House. The notion that a scandal isn’t a scandal unless the president is personally involved is short-sighted. The point is not to indict the president, or some White House apparatchik, personally. The point is to indict the spirit of the Obama administration and of big government liberalism. The point is to defeat the president’s broad project to restore faith in big government and to convince Americans to accept and embrace dependency on government.

Exposing the bureaucratic arrogance that lies beneath the claims of governmental benevolence, lifting the veil on the liberal yearning for domination and mastery that lies behind the expressions of sympathy and concern—these would be the real benefits of laying bare what happened at the IRS. As Evelyn Waugh once said about an attempt at oppression by the British Labour party, “There we have the progressive cat, a great brute of an animal, clear out of the bag.” The IRS scandal is the progressive cat, clear out of the bag.

Many conservatives are worried that the last election suggests a majority of Americans like that cat. We doubt it. One night last week Jay Leno remarked in his monologue, “President Obama says he’s renewing his efforts to close Guantánamo Bay. Guantánamo Bay? How about closing the IRS? Why don’t we do that?” Thunderous applause. Leno continued, “How about shipping the IRS to Guantánamo Bay?” Thunderous applause again. If Republicans proceed with the nerve of Blonde and the wit of Leno, they’ll get the thunderous applause they deserve. They should remember that at the end of the Abduction, a cheerful Blonde goes free, and a thwarted Osmin storms off the stage in impotent rage.

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