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T.S. Eliot on the IRS Scandal



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I think this kind of thing used to be called an “open conspiracy.” Here’s how it goes:

President Obama jets off to Las Vegas for a campaign speech in which he exclaims innocently: “Will no one rid me of this turbulent Tea Party?” At first there is no discernible response. The Internal Revenue Service sleeps. So he says it again in Des Moines. And again in Grand Rapids, Michigan. By this time he is shouting it and underlining the passage in the press release.

Eventually he is overheard by some senior IRS bureaucrats whose loyalty to their president knows few bounds. They immediately begin bombarding as many Tea Party organizations as they can find with demands for audits, membership lists, minutes of meetings, copies of hymns sung at their Christmas/Hannukah/Eid parties, photographs of committee members, souvenir menus from special occasions, and topographical details of the regions in which they live. When they run out of tea-party organizations, they write to Zionist bodies, temperance groups, Men’s Rights organizations, and other gatherings of a subversive character.

This activity comes to the attention of the Court. Over many months the president’s courtiers discuss whether or not he should be informed of what is happening. But whenever any of them tries to approach him on the matter, he stares hard and says: “How many times do I have to say it? Will no one rid me of this turbulent Tea Party? I mean it’s not very mysterious, is it? Not especially cryptic, wouldn’t you say. Pretty plain if you ask me? WILL . . . NO ONE . . . RID ME . . .  RID ME, UNDERSTAND? . . . OF THIS . . .  NOT THAT, GENIUS BOY . . . THIS . . . TURBULENT . . .  OR I COULD SAY “MEDDLESOME” IN SOME MOODS . . . TEA PARTY! . . .  OKAY? . . . TEA PARTY . . . GOT THAT? . . .  OR DO I HAVE TO SPELL IT OUT?”

But the courtiers are baffled. And they make no connection with the hive of activity they see emanating from the IRS. Then one day it is reported that the IRS has been harassing something called the Tea Party of which they knew nothing with oppressive and unconstitutional demands designed to render it inert and useless, half-dead one might say. This sets all the anchormen, reporters, correspondents, editors, and town criers into a passionate, albeit likely brief, frenzy in which they mutter darkly about abuse of power and such matters.

And the president says: “Tea party? Never heard of it. The IRS? It rings a faint bell. Isn’t there someone there who’s leaving soon. Maybe we should make an example of him so as to encourage other retirees not to abuse their office, if that is what was done. I have no information on the matter, but it would certainly be deplorable if that were the case, and thus probably the responsibility of an earlier administration.”

And in the cathedral of the IRS these words are heard with some trepidation. Many who followed orders to confuse and bamboozle the Tea Party wonder if anything untoward will happen to them as a result. One of their number who has a copy of Eliot’s “Murder in the Cathedral” to hand looks up the words of a bureaucrat of Henry II’s time who similarly acted on a monarch’s throwaway line. That bureaucrat — a knight in archaic lingo — killed an archbishop as a result, but the principle is the same. At any rate he forecast his own fate pretty accurately.

“We know perfectly well how things will turn out. King Henry — God bless him — will have to say, for reasons of state, that he never meant this to happen; and there is going to be an awful row; and at the best we shall have to spend the rest of our lives abroad. And even when reasonable people come to see that the Archbishop had to be put out of the way — and personally I had a tremendous admiration for him — you must have noticed what a good show he put up at the end — they won’t give us any glory.”

And as things now look, the IRS knights certainly won’t get any glory. Indeed, they’ll be quite lucky to spend the rest of their lives abroad.



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