The New York Times is desperately trying to reduce Republican complaints of the IRS persecution of Tea Party groups and the White House cover-up of the massacre of Americans in Benghazi to cynical GOP campaign ploys trotted out in an election year.
The paper's strategy is exemplified in Thursday's story by Jeremy Peters, "House Vote on Former I.R.S. Official Signals Element of G.O.P. Election Strategy." The House voted 231-178 to hold former IRS official Lois Lerner in contempt for refusing to testify before Congress, and requested a special prosecutor to investigate the agency’s targeting of Tea Party groups. But you would have a tough time figuring that out from Peters's shallow, partisan, politically obsessed reporting, light on details but heavy on suggestions of unfair GOP politics. Peters couldn't even finish his lead sentence without referring to how Republicans hoped to employ the IRS issue, as well as Benghazi and Obama-care, to their advantage in the mid-term elections.
By contrast, the Washington Post treated the Lerner vote as a serious matter, noting Lerner "invoked her Fifth Amendment right during two hearings, frustrating Republicans and Democrats who want answers." The only reference to the midterms by the Post came in a quote from Lerner's attorney.
Peters wrote for the Times:
The House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to hold Lois Lerner, a former Internal Revenue Service official accused by Republicans of abusing power, in contempt,laying bare the bitter divide over which much of the midterm elections will be fought.
It was a moment of high drama, complete with allegations that the White House oversaw a Watergate-style cover-up that helped steal a presidential election, and invocations of Senator Joseph R. McCarthy and his delusions of widespread conspiracy.
Republicans spent much of the day laying out a case for why the Obama administration is politically corrupt and, by extension, why Democrats could not be trusted with power. In doing so they revealed the issues that, in addition to unhappiness with the Affordable Care Act, will form the legs of the stool on which their campaign strategy will rest.
Republican leaders hope that with the series of events they set in motion with the vote, which passed 231-187 along party lines, they will expose a pattern of cover-up and political whitewashing by the White House.
Then there are the accusations of a cover-up. On Thursday the House is expected to approve a resolution to establish a select committee to investigate the fatal 2012 attack on American facilities in Benghazi, Libya. Republicans accuse the White House and Hillary Rodham Clinton, the former secretary of state, of repeatedly lying about what set off the killings and the United States’ response to them.
Peters's partisan obsession was unrelenting.
But Republicans have raised a delicate set of questions and opened themselves up to accusations that they are politicizing a tragedy that cost four Americans their lives and misusing congressional oversight authority for gain in an election year.
Democrats have dismissively branded this “conspiracy week” and said that what Republicans really want to do is damage Mrs. Clinton ahead of 2016 should she decide to run for president.
Republican leaders seem sensitive to that criticism, and they insisted on Wednesday that their interest lay only in exposing the truth of a large administration-led cover-up. “This is not going to be a sideshow. This is not going to be a circus,” Speaker John A. Boehner said. Then, his voice rising in anger, he went through the list of investigations that conservatives have pursued to frustratingly inconclusive ends.
Democrats mocked their Republican colleagues. “It is a circus,” said Representative Jackie Speier of California. “Psychologists will tell you that when somebody says something is not, it clearly is.”
Republicans found themselves on the defensive about why they have attempted to raise campaign funds by invoking Benghazi. The National Republican Congressional Committee has solicited money through petition called “Benghazi Watchdog” on its website, which urges people “Let’s go after Obama and Hilary Clinton,” misspelling the former secretary of state’s first name.