Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, Virginia Democrat, barely bothered to conceal his disdain for Republicans who wanted to uncover the truth about the targeting of conservative groups and individuals by the Internal Revenue Service when he smugly asked an agency witness giving Capitol Hill testimony Wednesday: Are you a witch?
Apparently, the line of questioning — of the former head of the Internal Revenue Service unit that oversaw tax-exempt applications, Sarah Hall Ingram — was aimed at drawing a parallel between Republicans who dared pursue the truth about tea party groups and conservatives who were denied IRS benefits, and that of accusers during the 1600s Salem witch trials.
Ms. Ingram now leads up the IRS unit that’s charged with enforcing the individual mandate in Obamacare, President Obama’s signature health care reform.
The mocking went forth during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee meeting. And verbatim, here’s how it played out:
Mr. Connolly: “Now let’s get a few things out of the way here. … Have you ever read “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller?”
Ms. Ingram: “I’ve not read it; I’ve seen it performed.”
Mr. Connolly: “And you know what it’s about.”
Ms. Ingram: “Yes, sir.”
Mr. Connolly: “What is it about?”
Ms. Ingram: “Well, I’m from New England, so I’m familiar with the original story. It’s about the Salem witch trial.”
Mr. Connolly: “All right. So let’s get you — you’re under oath. Have you been consorting with the devil?”
Ms. Ingram: “Not to my knowledge, sir.”
Mr. Connolly: “Are reports that you can fly accurate?”
Ms. Ingram: “Ah, greatly exaggerated, sir.”
Mr. Connolly: “Have you been involved in any way in trying to pervert our youth, in Salem or anywhere else?”
Ms. Ingram: “I certainly hope not, sir.”
Mr. Connolly: “You’re sure?”
Ms. Ingram: “Yes, sir.”
A few seconds of silence ensued, while Mr. Connolly stroked his chin and appeared thoughtful.
He then said: “Hm. Well. All right. Um, you received an award in the Bush administration for excellence in public service, the highest award I think for anyone in the IRS. Is that correct?”
Ms. Ingram: “It’s the highest award given for members of the Senior Executive Service.”
Mr. Connolly: “Did the devil have anything to do with that award?”
Ms. Ingram: “I was not part of either the nominating process or the awarding — I can’t say, sir.”
Mr. Connolly: “We now know that the Bush administration manufactured evidence about weapons of mass destruction to justify the invasion of Iraq. Were you involved in that? Because you received an award from President Bush. So there’s a connection.”
Ms. Ingram: “No, sir.”
Mr. Connolly: “Really?” Again, he paused, adopting a thoughtful demeanor. “Hm. All right. If that’s your testimony, Ms. Ingram.”