Magazine | June 3, 2013, Issue

Your Firstborn, Too

Second terms are the price a man pays for the hubris of thinking he deserves one.

The Boston Herald, searching for a term to sum up the president’s merry May, chose “Obamagate” as a catch-all for the PR nightmares that erupted with the speed and horror of Black Plague lesions: Benghazi evasions, AP phone records, HHS head Kathleen Sebelius’s shakedown — sorry, nonbinding friendly request for contributions — and, of course, the news that the IRS had given conservative groups a going-over that makes a colonoscopy look like the observation of the moon with a telescope.

At first the IRS inquiries were described as rogue misdeeds from an out-of-the-way Cincinnati office — which was the center for judging such applications, but still, c’mon, Cincinnati. Apparently someone stood up on his desk and cried, “Sweet job we have here, guys — who’s up for putting everything in jeopardy with a partisan investigation of our political enemies?” Sure, sounds right.

Then the wingnut rag “The Washington Post” reported that officials in the nation’s capital got in on the fun as well. Members of the press started to think: Well, looks like nationalized health care is all we’re going to get out of this guy. Time to start thinking about Scoops and Books. Time to rediscover that professional self-interest magically coincides with public interest. Voilà: The lapdogs find their bark again.

The groups that got extra-special lovin’ from the IRS were asking for it, really; anyone who uses words like “patriot” or “liberty” in his organization’s name wants to bring back segregated drinking fountains, and he’s probably funded by Big Porcelain to boot. It’s only sensible to give him a closer look. The targeted groups have released documents that detail the level of scrutiny. It’s like this, more or less:

1. Are you a membership organization? If so, answer the following. How many members do you have currently? How many have mullets? How many ever had mullets? Were they photographed wearing the mullet next to a ’70s muscle car with a Confederate flag painted on the side? Was the paint lead-based? Please request form PR024-444b to request retroactive assessment for your lead-abatement cost. Interest and penalties will apply.

2. Has your organization been in contact with the news media? If so, please detail the nature of these interactions. Examples follow.

a) If you have written a letter to the editor, please provide the text, all correspondence from the editor, and transcripts of any phone calls discussing the changes to your piece to eliminate profanity and strident bigotry. If the letter was published online, please provide an MS-DOS-formatted hard drive containing screen captures of the website.

b) If you gave an interview on TV, please submit a recording in one of the following formats: Beta, Kinescope, flipbook, or Cinerama.

#page#c) If any member of your group has called a talk-radio show, please provide receipts for the telephone purchased to make the call. If the call originated from a phone booth, please attach photographs of the booth, including any graffiti that gave you a number to call for a good time, as well as medical records that might indicate you obtained an STD within a reasonable timeframe after noting the number. If a good time was had, please describe the encounter, along with proof that copies of the requested items have been sent to the vice squad in your locality.

3. Please submit a map of the location of any guns in the homes of your self, staff, relatives, potential relatives, friends, associates, and companion animals who may someday evolve to possess opposable thumbs. Please list the theoretical locations of any guns that could be buried in extraplanetary colonies in the future. If the guns are buried on Earth, please include GPS coordinates and Google Maps directions, as well as ultrasound images to indicate depth and dimension of the cache. If guns are kept in a locked safe accessible only by thumbprint, please include the thumb, drained and cauterized, packed in dry ice, in a container no larger than four inches by two inches.

4. If your organization has had any contact with anyone who was an elected representative at any point in his or her career, and this contact was in an airport restroom where sexual availability was indicated by a “wide stance” or coughing in a way that signaled carnal interest, please attach a notarized account of the meeting. Your report should make it clear whether favors were exchanged for a promise of lobbying activity or the two were completely separate. If the event was later confessed to a priest, include a transcript of the admission, a checklist indicating that penance was duly completed, and a copy of the check from the Koch Foundation buying the priest’s silence. Failure to provide the check will be considered admission of guilt.

5. Photographs shall be provided of all organization officials dressed in sheets with no less than 600-count thread content. The burning cross in the background shall conform to local ordinances concerning such displays, as well as EPA guidelines on particulate contamination.

Devotees of the administration will note that there’s no proof the IRS actions were approved from on high. Well, there’s “The buck stops here,” and then there’s “The dollar borrowed from China flew past the Oval Office window while my back was turned, because I was having my picture taken for the Twitter feed with a school group who represent our nation’s future and remind us why we must invest in education.”

In other words, if any of this matters to you, then you hate kids. And you wonder why Republicans lose elections.

– Mr. Lileks blogs at

James Lileks — James Lileks writes the Athwart column for National Review magazine and is a frequent contributor to the National Review website. He is a prominent voice on Ricochet podcasts.

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