As Jonathan Chait notes, [Mitch McConnell’s speech to the American Enterprise Institute] is effectively an acknowledgment by McConnell that the IRS scandal has officially moved into its “post fact” phase:
McConnell actually makes this explicit, openly admitting that this scandal, at least as it reflects on Obama, is no longer about the specific behavior — scandalous or not — of living, breathing human beings, and more about something that’s been vaguely institutionalized throughout the administration
“I don’t believe that the president ever actually picked up a phone and told someone over at the IRS to slow-walk those applications or audit anybody. But the truth is, he didn’t have to. The message was clear enough.”
Darrell Issa’s selective release of transcripts, followed by the release by Dems on Issa’s Oversight Committee of full witness testimony that undercut Issa’s claims, seems to have further soured the media on GOP narratives hyping Nixonian presidential wrongdoing. Partly because of Issa’s game-playing — and partly because the very serious concerns raised by the NSA revelations intervened — the political press corps really does seem to have decided that Republican investigators have come up with nothing to tie the IRS targeting to the White House and that those initial leaks were little more than an effort to play them.
For now, at least, the media seems to have moved on. And so Mitch McConnell can now drop all pretenses and speak directly to the base in language only they can understand.
The interesting thing to note about this transition, however, is that in the modern Fox News world, fabricated scandals never actually die. Instead they mutate into quasi-theological “truths” that are shared, savored, recited and recycled in speeches and conversations among the faithful.
In this process their essential character changes. In the initial active phase of a “pseudo-scandal” the particular accusations involved are offered as the “evidence” that proves some proposition about Obama’s character and actions. In the second phase, on the other hand, the now completely accepted conclusions about Obama morph into the “proof” of the initial accusations themselves.
For example, in 2009, the lurid accusations that busloads of minorities had been bused from precinct to precinct to vote again and again for Obama was used as the “proof” that Obama had stolen the 2008 election. By 2012, the “well-known” fact that the Obama forces stole elections made it unnecessary to produce any specific proof that busloads of minorities actually had been herded from precinct to precinct. By 2012 anyone who expressed doubts about the accuracy of this accusation was told “Oh my God, don’t you watch Fox News? They’ve run hundreds of stories on this. And anyway, of course that’s what a socialist like Obama would do. He and his gang don’t believe in democracy.”
As a result, the “well-known” facts that Obama unleashed the IRS on his enemies and cringed and cowered under his bed as the Benghazi attacks unfolded and then tried to cover up his cowardice will now take their place alongside the equally well-known facts about the epic corruption around Solindra and blatant electoral theft of the 2008 election. In 2014 and 2016 they will become a kind of political litany, recited like incantations in every speech and debate. They will no longer be presented as specific facts supported by evidence but as a kind of shared moral vision and perspective. The initiates in this political sub-culture will simply “know” that Obama did these terrible things because they “know” that he is essentially evil and they will simply “know” that he is essentially evil because they “know” he does terrible things like these.