Matt Miller - The Archives

The Washington Post, May 15, 2013

(The Oval Office. September 2010. Barack Obama is alone, reclining in his chair, legs up on the desk. The Communist Internationale plays loudly. The president whistles along while reading a large hardcover book. As camera zooms in, the words "Das Kapital" can be seen on the spine.)

Obama: (aloud, to himself) Man, that Marx had so much of this right....

(His intercom buzzes).

Secretary: Mr. President, your three o'clock is here.

Obama: Send them in, Katie.

(In an athletic gesture, Obama snaps the book shut, opens a bottom drawer and drops the book in with a thud. He taps his iPod, and the music stops. Tim Geithner, David Axelrod and David Plouffe troop in. Obama joins them on the sofas).

BO: So where are we?

Plouffe: It's bad. The midterms look like a blowout. These tea party groups have sprung up like wildfire. They're moaning about a takeover of one-sixth of the American economy.

BO: Hey, that's still leaves them five-sixths. For now. (Laughter all around)

Geithner: Maybe we made a mistake with the bank bailout. The whole idea of saving capitalism from itself still meant saving capitalism.

BO: No, Tim, don't be hard on yourself. We're playing a long game here. The people weren't ready. The correlation of forces wasn't right. But if 2010's a lost cause, we have to lock down 2012. Or else the whole plan will be ruined.

Axelrod: It's getting tougher, Mr. President. After Citizens United. Tell him, Tim.

BO: Tell me what?

TG: Hundreds of right-wing groups are filing for tax-exempt status. It's like nothing the IRS has ever seen. The floodgates have opened, and the big money is rushing in. They're on to us. And now they can pour unlimited funds into these groups and get a write-off.

DA: Plus the ideas they're peddling are sick.

BO: Like what?

DA: Just look at this. (Hands out a one-pager, reads from his). "Patriotism."

TG: "Freedom."

DP: "Making life in America better."

All four, in unison: (shaking their heads in disgust) Yuck!

BO: Typical opium-of-the-people stuff. Next they'll want to educate people on the U.S. Constitution. So what can we do?

DP: Well, there is one thing. But Tim isn't sure it's smart.

BO: What is it?

TG: As it turns out, Mr. President, all the applications go through one IRS office in Ohio. If we applied a little, shall we say, "heightened scrutiny" to their filings, it might send a signal. Scare some of these groups off.

DA: And if they have to use after-tax money, it'll at least cut their firepower in half.

BO: What does extra scrutiny mean?

TG: Asking for more information about donors. And copies of emails they send out on key issues. Plus transcripts of media appearances by the group's leaders, to see if what they're doing is really "political." Stuff like that.

BO: Hmm. We could do that. But it would be wrong. Wouldn't it?

DP: Look, there's wrong and there's wrong. The oppression of the masses by a handful of capitalist overlords? If you ask me, that's wrong. A little brush-back pitch by the IRS to level the playing field while we usher in a dictatorship of the proletariat? Not so wrong. One man's view.

BO: Who would have to do this exactly?

TG: Very low-level civil servants in Ohio.

BO: Can our guys get to them?

DP: No problem. We have very persuasive people in Ohio. And even if it only lasts a few months before the brass at the IRS gets wind of it and shuts it down, it'll accomplish its purpose.

DA: The career people can always say they "acted out of a desire for efficiency and not out of any political or partisan viewpoint."

DP: I love it!

BO: (pulls out and lights a cigarette, takes a deep drag, exhales) I don't need to tell you the big picture here. If we don't win in 2012, we don't implement Obamacare. We don't roll out the "common core" youth indoctrination program we've dreamt of. We don't cut back the military while China continues its buildup. We don't....

DA: We get it, we get it.

BO: Beijing will not be pleased, let's put it that way. This is no time to get squeamish, Tim.

TG: I just don't want my fingerprints on it. The street thinks I'm a commie already and I need a serious payday when this is done. If they find out I really am a commie I'm screwed.

BO: (putting his arm around Geithner) You've done great work for the revolution, Tim. I promise you, it'll be rewarded. That's what vice chairman jobs at investment banks are for (winks).

DA: So what do you think?

BO: Set it up so if anything hits the fan it's when Tim is long gone. Okay boys, you have your orders. What could go wrong?