- Associated Press - Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Rutland (Vt.) Herald, June 14, 2014

Liberals may be forgiven for chuckles of satisfaction after the surprising defeat of Eric Cantor, the House majority leader from Virginia, who was toppled by a tea party candidate in the primary.

Cantor was the Republican most offensive to many Democrats and liberals - for his smugness, his ideological rigidity, his smarmy self-righteousness. With the look of an undertaker, he sought to bury the liberal agenda. Ordinarily, he articulated nothing more nuanced than the usual mantra: big government, bad.

To many Vermonters, that reflexive hostility to government is alien, identified in the minds of many with the old Confederacy, where the retrograde politics handed down from the Civil War is based on resentment of the federal government.

Despite his consistent tea party-inspired rhetoric, Cantor found himself in his position as majority leader forced to acquiesce to the compromises required to govern. The Republicans have been responsible for a variety of train wrecks, including the government shutdown last fall and the serial budget impasses that have paralyzed Washington. Cantor has happily backed this strategy of confrontation, even while, reportedly, giving House Speaker John Boehner a case of chronic heartburn. It was said that Cantor’s conservatism made him more popular among the insurgent class of new tea party members than Boehner was and that he represented a potential threat to Boehner’s hold on the speakership.

Nevertheless, it became apparent, even to Cantor, that the government shutdown would have to end and that the government would require a budget. In cutting deals to achieve these aims, Cantor joined Boehner and the establishment. But among hardcore tea party types, apparently, anything but destruction of the federal government was unsatisfactory. It sometimes seemed they were seeking to do what Robert E. Lee had failed to do.

Cantor’s growing unpopularity among his constituents may have been owing to these compromises, but observers of Washington have also noted that Cantor had grown into an arrogant, much disliked figure, close to the lobbying establishment and Wall Street.

Satisfaction in Cantor’s defeat may be short-lived, however. If a conservative as extreme as Cantor is forced to give way before the demands of conservatives even more extreme, then polarization in Congress is likely to become even more pronounced. Then again, with the political demise of Cantor, Boehner may become emboldened enough to try to isolate the extreme right, which, according to one interpretation of events, has hobbled him and prevented him from making the kinds of grand bargains with President Barack Obama that are anathema to the right. As the right wing veers farther and farther to the right, it may make itself increasingly irrelevant, except within the conservative districts of people like Cantor. Nationally, the voters have shown themselves to be far more moderate than the tea party likes us to believe.

The rise of figures like David Brat, who defeated Cantor, reinforces the story line being advanced by Democrats that the Republican Party is in the grip of a narrow ideological fringe incapable of governing or of resolving complex issues, such as immigration or economic inequality. Republicans in 2012 showed that they were capable of undermining themselves by nominating offensive, out-of-touch candidates unpalatable to the great mass of voters. This year, supposedly, the GOP establishment was taking steps to reassert itself against the tea party - that is, until Cantor’s loss.

Polls show that the majority of American people occupy moderate terrain on issues such as immigration, gay marriage, economic justice and climate change. Somehow, the GOP has been able to parlay an extreme minority view into a platform that makes politicians in the middle timorous about asserting themselves. Increasingly, however, Democrats have found their voice, asserting themselves on economic inequality, climate change and other issues, where Republicans have abandoned the field by taking up positions on the far right. Cantor’s departure from leadership may end up furthering the process of making Republicans a loud, narrow, shrinking political force.

The Republican American of Waterbury (Conn.) June 20, 2014

Over the last year, there has been a stream of evidence suggesting the Internal Revenue Service’s harassment of conservative groups between 2010 and 2012 was the result of a coordinated plot. Recent developments should remove any lingering doubts.

Until she retired under pressure last fall, Lois Lerner headed the IRS’ tax-exempt division. Lerner, who subjected conservative groups to extra scrutiny while working for the Federal Election Commission in the 1980s and ‘90s, was a key figure in the effort to hamstring organizations critical of President Obama.

After “IRSgate” broke in May 2013, the House Ways and Means Committee, one of several congressional committees investigating the affair, subpoenaed emails sent by and to Lerner. However, last week, the IRS claimed that because Lerner’s computer crashed, it can’t retrieve emails from January 2009 to April 2011. This explanation doesn’t fly.

In a June 14 post, John Hinderaker of the Powerline blog pointed out emails can be retrieved from a server for an indefinite period of time and that “emails are universally backed up in some other medium, often electronic tape, for long-term storage.” According to Hinderaker, an attorney, this is how the IRS system works, and a computer crash wouldn’t preclude retrieval.

The obvious conclusion is the Obama administration is trying to stonewall Congress, so no one finds out how wide-reaching the plot was. The harassment itself outrageously infringed on a quintessential American value, freedom of speech. Now, the administration is encroaching on the checks-and-balances principle. That sets a dangerous precedent and represents more of the sleazy Chicago politicking the president vowed to end.

So what should happen next?

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., called for “an immediate investigation and forensic audit by (the) Department of Justice as well as the (Treasury Department) inspector general” of the email affair. These are executive branch agencies, however, and previous Obama administration investigations were jokes.

Instead, the news media should cover the matter relentlessly, point out the obvious hole in the IRS’ story and force the administration to provide the emails. That, and demands for good government from the American people, are the only options left.

Four decades ago, the Fourth Estate was eager to cover Watergate. The IRS affair is at least as serious - Washington Times columnist Joseph Curl likened the “missing” emails to the notorious 18½-minute gap on Richard Nixon’s Oval Office tapes - and the news media should treat it as such.

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