On Monday night’s edition of “The Rachel Maddow Show,” host Rachel Maddow discussed the “long, hot, stupid summer” we can look forward to on Capitol Hill. With the IRS legally unable to defend itself and subpoena powers in the hands of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), the White House and Democrats can expect to spend most of the next few months gritting their teeth.
The segment began with archival news footage from 1997 Congressional hearings about abuses of taxpayers by the IRS. IRS agents appeared behind screens with their voices altered and told of rampant abuses at the agency.
Maddow called the hearings “a study in melodrama, with horror stories, accusations, altered voices and screens.” They were coordinated by Sen. William Roth (R-DE), who garnered so much media attention that he decided to have them again the next year in 1998.
“And that was the year that Godwin’s Law broke down and wept,” Maddow said.
Godwin’s Law is the Internet rule that all political debates if left to break down along their natural lines will eventually degenerate into invocations of the Nazi Party and World War II. By the second set of IRS hearings, Roth and others were making repeated references to the “Gestapo” tactics of the agency.
The problem with lining up witnesses and calling the IRS the Gestapo, said Maddow, is that the IRS is “constrained by law from defending itself.”
“Any taxpayer can tell the Senate anything they like about the ‘unfairness’ of their treatment by the IRS,” she explained, “but unless the taxpayer gives the IRS permission to discuss his or her case publicly, the IRS can’t say anything in its own defense, even to rebut false charges.”
“If you liked that sort of thing the first time around in the 90s, well welcome to the sequel this summer,” she said. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) asserts that his constituents were targeted by the IRS because they donated money to the presidential campaign of former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA). Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) is telling people that the IRS can use your political beliefs to deny you doctor’s appointments.
Maddow then played video from Monday, when acting IRS director Daniel Werfel appeared before Congress to discuss recent complaints that the group has unfairly targeted certain groups.
“The acting commissioner,” said Maddow, “saying ‘I totally agree that kind of thing shouldn’t happen, but also I can’t defend, describe, or even address what the agency did or didn’t do in that particular case, the law says I can’t.”
Republicans and tea party groups and other entities who believe they’ve been wronged by the IRS are lining up to join in the pile-on, she said. Expect a long, hot “subpoena summer.”
Is any of it true? she asked, “Who knows? Who can say? But it sounds great and conveniently, the IRS is precluded by law from being able to refute any of it. So it sounds even better when you just keep repeating it.”
She warned that we’re potentially plunging back into the “hog wild, anti-Clinton ’90s all over again.”
“We are about to have a whole summer of quite possibly nonsense, unanswered, unproven assertions in all-caps, italic, three inch headlines all summer long,” she concluded. “It is going to be a long, hot, stupid summer.”
Watch the video, embedded below via MSNBC: