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Monday, May 21, 2018
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Henderson: Scandals show D.C. is broken

Who said we could never achieve national unity again?
The half of the country that dislikes President Barack Obama has almost certainly gained allies this week from the half that voted for him.
Between Benghazi revelations, the Justice Department’s clandestine gathering of phone records from Associated Press journalists and the outrageous use of the Internal Revenue Service as a weapon against the tea party, it’s tough to find a part of the Constitution this administration hasn’t spat on.
This isn’t just some game being played out far away on Capitol Hill. The tentacles of this scandal reach to our own backyard. Tea party groups in Tampa say they were the subject of special IRS scrutiny that involved hours of nitpicking paperwork. Their members are rightfully incensed.
First, though, I do wish Tom Gaitens, co-founder of the Tampa Tea Party, would cool it on the hyperbole.
Calling out the IRS for “Gestapo tactics” — as he did in a story by Tampa Tribune reporter William March — was colossally dumb. If he doesn’t believe me, I’m sure any Holocaust survivor would be happy to explain that the Gestapo’s tactics didn’t involve having victims fill out extra forms.
However, the rest of it is fair game, especially the comparisons to Richard Nixon’s policy of deceit and intimidation. Whether you like the tea party or not is irrelevant. The last time I checked, in this country you are allowed to voice opposition to power.
Obama sacrificed the interim head of the IRS for what he called “misconduct” in targeting the applications of tea party groups for tax-exempt status. The detachment-in-chief even looked mad.
It’s not enough. Changing the guy won’t solve the problem as long as government works to serve itself instead of the people.
If I closed my eyes, I might have heard traces of Nixon’s attorney general, John Mitchell, in the clumsy explanation current attorney general Eric Holder used to explain why the Justice Department secretly gathered phone records from AP employees.
“The confiscation of phone records from reporters is a blatant violation of our First Amendment right,” said U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, a Republican whose district includes parts of Hillsborough County.
He’s right. These revelations of misconduct and incompetence should be the last straw for a public fed up with Washington’s parlor game of “destroy the enemy.”
The IRS has the time to make life miserable for political groups the administration doesn’t like (just like it did in Nixon’s day), but it hasn’t done much to stop the identity theft that continues to cause financial havoc for everyday citizens.
The power these people get when they arrive in Washington must be addictive. Combine that with a system rigged for lobbyists, opportunists, power-grabbers and people who don’t think the rules apply to them, and you get what we saw this week.
No wonder people are disgusted. No matter who is in charge, the story never changes.


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