Peggy Noonan gets it almost right

Byline: | Category: Uncategorized | Posted at: Thursday, 23 May 2013

The WSJ’s Peggy Noonan lays out the known facts of the IRS case and concludes that it requires a special prosecutor.  She’s right, and frankly, it’s amazing how in a week, the American media has pretty much come around from the question of if a special prosecutor is needed for the IRS investigation, to how broad should be the limits of the special prosecutor’s investigation?

But here’s where Noonan gets it wrong.  Right in the last paragraph:

“Again, if what happened at the IRS is not stopped now—if the internal corruption within it is not broken—it will never stop, and never be broken. The American people will never again be able to have the slightest confidence in the revenue-gathering arm of their government. And that, actually, would be tragic.”

Actually it wouldn’t be “tragic” if the American people were not to have confidence in this or any arm of their government.  It would be exactly what the Founders called for.

My favorite quotation from the entire 85 editions of the Federalist Papers is this one from Federalist 25 by Alexander Hamilton:

“The people are always most in danger when the means of injuring their rights are in the possession of those of whom they entertain the least suspicion.”

In fact, you could almost sum up the gist of the entire Constitution with that single statement, as the Constitution attempted to set up a system where no branch of government was in sole possession of the means of injuring our rights.  How far we have strayed, however, when the wing of the government that determines how much of our labors are to be taken into the Federal trough also inquires about our associations,  our religious practices, and soon, our medical care.

Peggy, you are right to call for a special investigator.  But you are wrong to assert that it is a tragedy if, as a result of this scandal, we no longer have  confidence in the IRS.  The real tragedies would occur as a result of believing that any branch of government was deserving of our unsuspicious confidence.

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16 Responses to “Peggy Noonan gets it almost right”

  1. lewy14 Says:

    Not a huge fan of Peggy Noonan but I presume she’d be OK with substituting her “confidence” with “health skepticism”.

    The trend is towards an entirely justified paranoia and toxic cynicism.

  2. Rich Rostrom Says:

    Sorry – but Noonan is right.

    Countries where no one trusts any agency of the government are nearly always cesspits of corruption. No one trusts the police or the courts – so people resort to private revenge. No one trusts the taxing agencies. So rather than do business in an open manner, people hide assets and do as much as possible under the table, for fear of being shaken down. No one trusts law enforcement – so people submit to extortion and grafting, rather than file complaints.

    Trust is a fundamental component of social capital. Its lack is very corrosive

    Unthinking credulity is foolish – but reflexive distrust can be worse.

  3. James Hull Says:

    Excellent article. The American public definitely have lost confidence in our government. All three branches of government are reviled for being completely disassociated with the people they are supposed to serve. It will be interesting to see how long we hold out before we embark upon a second American revolution.

  4. Thomas Hazlewood Says:

    Considering that Noonan was a Obama booster, it becomes apparent that she has to be hit with a heavy stick in order make an accurate appraisal of people and situations. How she can be considered as a ‘pundit’ is beyond me.
    A pundit should offer insights not always apparent to others. Noonan offers what is obvious only when it can’t be overlooked. Has she yet issued a mea culpa for Obama’s rise?

  5. Sharc 65 Says:

    “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”

    - Keyser Söze

  6. nadadhimmi Says:

    Peggy Noonan lost all credibility when she became an enthusiastic cheerleader for Obamaism and revealed her girlish worship of “The One”. She was like the Freshman cheerleader that had a crush on the Dreamy Senior quarterback. Her judgement is no longer to be trusted. Her writings must be evaluated with regard to her demonstrated, consistent, long term misjudgment of this President and his Regime.

  7. asdf Says:

    Absolutely true, but this case makes itself. Peggy’s like a David Brooks or Gergen or Frum… her job is mostly to be a Long Time Conservative who just this once sides with the Left on some issue, or at best issues a cautious critique of them that accepts the thrust of their arguments while quibbling over details and tone. TVTropes would call her a flavor of a Strawman Political.

    For now, the Establishment elites like Noonan are only on board insofar as it punishes Obama for his REAL sin (in their eyes), which is investigating a member of the press… the Elite. For the Left, which understands this, the goal is to get out in front of things and contain the damage.

    So let’s not suddenly assume that the Left has found its principles. Peggy’s on board because they are, and not one second longer. At best, she’ll sigh condescendingly and complain about how the radical lying idiots of the extreme right (by which she means the entire conservative movement) screwed up the investigation and lost us. “Overextended” “overplayed their hand” or some such.

    Remember, as bad as this IRS thing is, no Americans have died. Hundreds of people, including two Americans, died in Fast and Furious. Billions were lost in the green jobs fiasco. Obama actually fired an inspector general (Gerald Walpin, for “mental illness”) who identified misdeeds in the administration. The New Black Panther Party was caught on video threatening voters at a polling place– one was a democrat poll watcher, DoJ got a conviction, and then Obama suddenly dropped all charges. The press only sat up and took notice when one of their own got his phone records subpoenaed. The moment they’re satisfied, this stuff becomes Old News again.

    So enjoy Peggy while you have her.

  8. UD Says:

    It’s been a LONG time since I’ve had any confidence in the IRS! … and even less in Congress where the stupid tax laws are written. Unfortunately, it will never happen but term limits would go a long way towards fixing the problem.

  9. Joel Mackey Says:

    Exactly right Mr. Krumm, the entire reason America is in this mess is too much trust and reverence to the Federal government.

    Any elected politician who would side with the establishment bureaucracy against or to implement their will on the multitude of individuals that are America should be removed from office at the earliest opportunity.

  10. teapartydoc Says:

    Rich Rostrum=Fox Butterfield.

  11. ameryx Says:

    If the Federal government is working, then it’s broken. The Founders designed it to be incapable of reaching agreement, except in rare cases in which all the interested parties reach the same conclusion. The House is supposed to guard the interests of the people. The Senate was designed to protect the States. The Supreme Court defends the Constitution. The Executive branch… is supposed, in the main, to execute the decisions of the other branches.
    Nowhere in the structure is faith or trust in government assumed or required. Quite the contrary.

  12. Jim Smyth Says:

    The distinction must be made between confidence in the form of government and the people who currently occupy positions in the government. Confidence in the form of government is absolutely essential for a successful government. I think that Peggy’s point here is that the people who currently occupy positions of power in the IRS and who are connected to this scandal in any way must be cleaned out of the system to restore the confidence of the general public. Failure to do so will generate a lack of confidence in the tax collection system as fair, law abiding agency. This, indeed would be tragic, particularly in the sense that such an attitude would inspire greater lawlessness among the tax paying public.

  13. curmudgeoninchief Says:

    Ameryx is right and Rick Rostrum is wrong. The Constitution is the ultimate expression in fundamental law of the principle of reflexive distrust. Even thought the Constitution itself is written to expressly limit Federal power to a few supra-State things, we still enacted a Bill of rights to further define that the People and the States had all of the power and were lending it to the Feds. Fearing and distrusting the Feds, even during time of war, is the legacy and birthright of every American.

  14. Diggs Says:

    As a professional soldier, I used to be comfortable with staying in my lane, and letting others stay in theirs (mostly, I’ll admit, because I didn’t want amateurs in my lane). To wit, I didn’t care if the average journalist couldn’t tell the difference between a 30 round magazine and Time magazine, even if they were writing about gun control. But it has come to my attention that by 2007 I understood Obama the Socialist and Chicago Thug Politics better than most political journalists. The Gibson Guitar shakedown, the IRS voter intimidation, weapons for al Queda rebels, lack of support for our forces under fire, giving GM to the UAW…all of that I knew to be part of the slash and burn political mindset of the Chicago Dems. So along with a healthy lack of trust in government agencies that believe they are above the law, I also have come to own a healthy lack of trust in the Fourth Estate.

  15. A6 Says:

    Thinking that the government would rather own you than serve you would not be “toxic cynicism”, but healthy skepticism. Thinking that it is just as well for the government to own you as to serve you: *that* is toxic cynicism.

    “Countries where no one trusts any agency of the government are nearly always cesspits of corruption.” No, it’s the other way around: cesspits of corruption are nearly always countries where no one trusts any agency of the government.

    “No one trusts the police or the courts – so people resort to private revenge.” Really? Not in Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia or Pol Pot Kampuchea or today’s North Korea, or any of the presidencies-for-life of Africa. They are not marked by a great deal of private revenge, to the best of my knowledge. Are you thinking of some *other* place where no one trusts the police or the courts?

    “But it has come to my attention that by 2007 I understood Obama the Socialist and Chicago Thug Politics better than most political journalists.” Don’t give yourself airs, soldier boy; to understand that stuff no better than most political journalists, you would have to be stupider than *the elite media thinks* soldiers are. By the way, thanks for your service.

  16. Rich Rostrom Says:

    # Sharc 65 Says: “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” – Keyser Söze

    Not “Keyser Söze”, but the 19th century French poet Charles Baudelaire (in a letter to his mother). The screenwriters of “The Usual Suspects” had heard the aphorism, but didn’t know it had an author.

    A6 Says:
    May 24th, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    > Thinking that the government would rather own you than serve you would not be
    > “toxic cynicism”, but healthy skepticism. Thinking that it is just as well for
    > the government to own you as to serve you: *that* is toxic cynicism.

    Thank you for refuting something I didn’t say.

    The “toxic cynicism” I referred to is the habit of assuming (without
    evidence that “all cops are on the take”, or “all elections are
    rigged”, or “all rich men are thieves”.

    > “Countries where no one trusts any agency of the government are nearly always
    > cesspits of corruption.” No, it’s the other way around: cesspits of corruption
    > are nearly always countries where no one trusts any agency of the government.

    Six of one, half a dozen of the other. How is honesty to be maintained when
    universal dishonesty is presumed?

    > “No one trusts the police or the courts – so people resort
    > to private revenge.” Really? Not in Nazi Germany or
    > Soviet Russia or Pol Pot Kampuchea or today’s North Korea…

    Odd set of choices – extreme totalitarian states. I was thinking of southern Italy, Mexico, Pakistan, Somalia, and such which are far more common.

    Incidentally, Nazi Germany and the USSR maintained public trust for quite a while. The Nazis took over the extremely orderly German state and in 13 years hadn’t completely ruined it. The USSR started with general support and dedicated, even fanatical cadres in charge. It was not until the Brezhnev era that the increasing failures of the state led to widespread evasions of law, corruption, and general breakdown. It became obvious that the state was lying to everyone, including itself.

    > or any of the presidencies-for-life of Africa. They are not marked
    > by a great deal of private revenge, to the best of my knowledge.

    Then your knowledge is lacking – lynchings and vendettas are endemic in Africa.