Of course the president deserves some of the blame.
Yes, it's extremely unlikely he ordered the IRS to discriminate against tea party, pro-life or Jewish groups opposed to his agenda (though why anyone should take his word for it is beyond me). And his outrage now -- however convenient -- is appreciated. But when people he views as his "enemies" complained about a politicized IRS, what did he do? Nothing.
Imagine for a moment if black civil rights organizations, gay groups or teachers unions loudly complained to members of Congress and the press that the IRS was discriminating against them. How long would it take for the White House to investigate? Answer honestly: Minutes? Hours? OK, maybe days if there was an attack on one of our embassies that the administration was busy ignoring.
Obviously, it would take longer for President Barack Obama to actually get to the bottom of the accusations and, if true, punish those responsible. But you can be sure that the moment he heard credible allegations of political persecution of liberal groups -- outfits with "progressive" or "civil rights" in their names -- he would have moved heaven and earth to make things right.
But when such allegations came from the right, the response from the president -- and from a press corps that until recently acted like a king's guard -- ranged from smirks and eye-rolling to flat-out lies or virtual applause.
For 27 months, groups with such terms as "tea party" or "patriot" in their names were singled out for deeply intrusive and expensive scrutiny, while groups flying the "progressive" banner sailed through. Drew Ryun gave up trying to get IRS approval for a free market organization after 17 months of bureaucratic stonewalling. But when he applied for approval of an organization called "Greenhouse Solutions" he got the go-ahead in three weeks.
When top Democratic senators pressured the IRS to single out conservative groups not just for special scrutiny but for "caps" on how much money they could spend, President Obama didn't tell Chuck Schumer, Carl Levin or Max Baucus to cool it.
But Mr. Obama's culpability in all of this isn't restricted merely to his sins of omission. Throughout his presidency, Mr. Obama has set a very clear tone.
He's made it clear that people who disagree with him are fevered, illegitimate, weird, creepy, dangerous, stupid, confused, ignorant or some other adjective you might assign to a revamped version of the seven dwarves. He's explained that he doesn't mind "cleaning up after" Republicans but he doesn't want to hear "a lot of talking" from them. The time for democratic debate is always behind us with an administration that began with the mission not to let a crisis go to waste, for as Mr. Obama said in his second inaugural address, "Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time, but it does require us to act in our time."
Moreover, President Obama often insists we live in a country where the "government is us," where there's no need to fear tyranny "around the corner" because we could never be tyrannical against ourselves.
In his 2012 State of the Union address, Mr. Obama lamented that the American people couldn't function more like the military. Soldiers aren't "consumed with personal ambition. They don't obsess over their differences. They focus on the mission at hand. They work together. Imagine what we could accomplish if we followed their example. Think about the America within our reach." Never mind that we have a military to keep us free, not to be a role model. Translation: I wish Americans would fall in line and follow orders.
It's a funny thing. In his address to Congress right after the 9/11 attacks, George W. Bush said, "Every nation in every region now has a decision to make: Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists." For the better part of a decade, many liberals bizarrely insisted that this warning to terror-supporting states abroad was in fact a kind of fatwa encouraging persecution of Mr. Bush's political opponents at home.
And yet, nearly every day, President Obama divides the country between the forces of truth and reason and the forces of deceit and selfishness. He and his supporters are the "ones we've been waiting for," while his opponents, well, we don't need any more talk out of them.
So fine. Mr. Obama probably didn't order the IRS to keep his opponents from talking. But these bureaucrats certainly acted like ones he'd been waiting for.
Jonah Goldberg's column is distributed by Tribune Media Services. He is the author of "The Tyranny of Clichés," now on sale in paperback. You can write to him by email at email@example.com, or via Twitter @JonahNRO.