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Stanley Crouch: Scandals — Real and imagined

We have known for longer than long how excitable some people are. We also know that no aspect of the federal government draws more consistent scorn than the Internal Revenue Service. Lions and lambs will agree on how hateful it is.

Yes, hatred and fear of the IRS bring people together across classes, boundaries and ideologies. Polluters, con artists, gangsters and Hollywood producers, upper-class citizens who were born in tubs of butter: All revile the IRS for taking money from them and spreading it around to takers.

There are shills on the right who hate taxes for feeding the government, which they call a beast. And there are shills on the left who think the feds more often than not do the bidding of the banks and big corporations, who skate by without paying their share.

It’s the tea party that, these days, is leading the charge on behalf of those who are paranoid about the supposedly oppressive, arrogant and ruthless characters in Washington. The tea party had been laid in a coffin, with unsure mourners and celebrants waiting for it to die, but now it’s up. It’s awake. It’s agitated.

Why? Because, as revealed in an inspector general’s report, IRS bureaucrats subjected tea-party-affiliated organizations and other right-wing nonprofit groups seeking tax-exempt status to more scrutiny than they did left-wing groups.

And, contrary to all the evidence, the conservatives see this not as a mess-up by public servants who made stupid decisions, but as a witch hunt — a concerted effort ordered by people at the very top to terrorize political opponents.

At the very least, they insist, the witch hunt was inspired by those at the top, who winked and nodded and looked away.

Well, now.

It’s not just the rush to find a vast, left-wing conspiracy that’s revealing here. It’s the dynamics of how the IRS and other supposed scandals are interacting.

The Republican inquisitors have clearly sensed that the public is no longer interested in their partisan attempts to make people believe there was a terrible cover-up of the truth about the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi — because the facts, don’t you know, didn’t support those breathless assertions.

It’s ever so convenient that they just found a new case that feeds the same narrative of partisan intimidation and so-called gangster government.

Meanwhile, there’s a more troubling scandal right under our noses that is getting far less attention because, well, it doesn’t fit the Republican template. Nor does the fact that Bush appointees were in charge as the scandal went down, pricking a hole in all the claims that the tea-party organizations were targeted.

The facts of a real scandal stand right before us. Those facts assert that sexual assaults of women — thousands upon thousands of them — are plaguing the military, and some of the high-ranked military men in charge of handling these assaults have even been accused of crossing the line themselves. Uh-oh.

This makes it seem that there is something quite rotten in our armed services. As President Barack Obama said last week: "It is dangerous to our national security. This is not a sideshow. This is not sort of a second-order problem that we’re experiencing. This goes to the heart and the core of who we are and how effective we’re going to be."

No doubt about that dung on the boots of the military, stuck in place and not yet scrubbed off.

And there’s a way out of the mess.

Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Claire McCaskill want a law that will take prosecution of serious sexual-abuse cases out of the military chain of command — to finally break the back of that corrosive, self-protective culture. Some good old boys usually have to go down when fairness is needed in part of American authority and culture, but unfairness has been made part of that identity and is willing to grit its teeth and make a fight as long as possible.

The scandal and the solution are worthy of our sustained attention.

Don’t expect it anytime soon, though, while partisans fulminate about the demons they imagine. That is comfortable snake oil to bathe and swim in, to tout its value, no matter how poisonous to all concerned, or to be within range of the flung stink of irrational scandal, which will dominate one side of partisan claims as long as it can. So be sure to keep your eyes on the prize.

Stanley Crouch can be reached by email at crouch. stanley