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hardball
updated 5/13/2013 6:49:58 PM ET 2013-05-13T22:49:58

"Mr. President, I've got some advice. This thing is going to demoralize the good people, give firepower to the far-out. So don't just talk about how 'outrageous' it is. Do something. Act!," says Matthews.

Two big stories tonight: the IRS and Benghazi. The President called one “outrageous” and the other a “sideshow”. Let’s start with the outrageous.

Taxes. If you’re honest and pay ‘em, the best feeling you get after April 15 is, “well, that’s over with!!!” You’ve done what you have to do.

So you try to believe that the system is basically fair – that those progressive rates really mean something – that those IRS people who go over your returns really are looking to keep people honest and they’re fair about. How else can you deal with all this if you don’t have some basic faith in the system?

This, my progressive, independent and reasonable conservative friends is how we live in this country, how we try to be good citizens. And we are the ones furious at this IRS story!

Do these people know what they’ve done to undermine that basic civic faith that we’re not being chumps for being honest at tax time? Do they know what they’ve done to the faith that this republic can perform the way we need it to?

Then, there are the far-right people. They love this baby. They always expect the worst. They get up in the morning figuring they’re about to be picked up by FEMA workers and taken to concentration camps, or the Black Helicopters of the World Order are coming to take their guns!

Yes, this expect-the-worst crowd just got an earful of what it goes to bed at night agitated about. I can only guess what they’re saying about the news that some in the IRS have decided to target right-wing groups. “Knew it all the time,” they’re muttering. This is “The Guvament” they’re telling everyone they can get to listen! “They ought to ‘abolish’ that darned IRS.”

Mr. President, I’ve got some advice. This thing is going to demoralize the good people, give firepower to the far-out. So don’t just talk about how “outrageous” it is. Do something. Act!

Remember what Reagan did when the air traffic controllers broke faith with their oaths and went on strike? He fired the bunch of them!

Guess what! You may not like the rough treatment, but that’s when we realized he was President! That’s when the Bad Guys in the soon-to-be-gone Soviet Union knew this country had a leader!

So do something. I can call something “outrageous.” You can act!!! Find a way to get rid of whoever did this or your enemies will ride this baby right through 2014. Find a way to get rid of these people or Mitch McConnell will ride them right through re-election

Video: Obama calls IRS scandal ‘outrageous’

  1. Closed captioning of: Obama calls IRS scandal ‘outrageous’

    >>> good evening. i'm chris matthews in washington. two big stories tonight. the irs and benghazi . the president called one outrageous, the other a sideshow. let's start with the outrageous. taxes, if you're honest and pay them, the best feeling you get after april 5th , is, well, that's over with. you try to believe the system is basically fair, that those progressive rates really mean something, that those irs people who go over your returns really are looking to keep people honest and they're fair about it. how else can you deal with this? this is if you don't have some basic faith in the system, you can't even do your return. so this, my progressive independent reasonably conservative friends , is how we live in this country. how we try to be good citizens. and we are the ones, we are the ones most furious about this irs story that's just come out. do those people know what they've done to undermine the basic civic faith we've all got about not being chumps, being honest at tax time? to they know what they've done to the faith of this republic and what it can do to keep us who we are? there are the right wing people out there. they love this story. this baby. they always expect the worst. they get up in the morning figuring, well, they're about to be picked up by the fema workers and taken to concentration camps, or the black helicopters of new world order , they're coming to take their guns. yes, this expect the worst crowd just got an earful of what it goes to bed at night agitated about. i can only guess what they're saying about the news that some in the irs have decided to target right-wing groups. knew it all the time, they're muttering. this is the government. they're telling everyone they can listen to. and they ought to abolish the darned irs to start with. anyway, mr. president, i have advice for you. this is going to demoralize the good people. it's going to give firepower to the far out. don't talk about being outraged. i can say that. do something. remember what reagan did back when the air traffic controllers broke fait with their oaths and went on strike. guess what, you might not like the rough treatment, but that's when we realized he was president. that's when the bad guys in the soon to be soviet union knew this country has a leader. you can act. find a way to get rid of whoever did this, or your enemies will ride this baby right through 2014 . find a way to get rid of those people or mitch mcconnell , himself, will ride this right through re-election. and talk about preparing for the worst. howard fineman is the editorial director for the " huffington post ." and joe is a columnist for "time" magazine. joe , you've been writing over the weekend about this and you've been tough.

    >> i thought what the president said today was appropriate, but you're right, people have to get fired over this. the problem is this, we have civil service laws in this country that are 150 years, or 130 years out of date at this point. and it's really hard to fire people down in the bureaucracy who make mistakes. i mean, that's why the veterans administration is such a mess.

    >> what do you call mistakes?

    >> what do i call mistakes?

    >> why do you think this is is a mistake by somebody? it looks to me like partisan prejudice. you don't have to be elected to be a partisan person of prejudice. somebody went out against the right wing. singled them out by name.

    >> i think what they're trying to do is this. there are very complicated tax laws that, you know, that pertain to partisan policy advocacy groups . and in this case, they were trying to figure out, you know, sometimes policy drifts into politics. and it's illegal to use those groups for political purposes. so they had to check it out. it's a new law. this was 2010 . the most activist partisan groups were from the right. they took a shortcut. it was really mega stupid wrong. and, you know, this is a problem that's coming from the bottom up, not the top down. in other administrations like franklin roosevelt and richard nixon , it came from the top down. the president wanting to investigate his opponents. in this case, it's going to turn out --

    >> i don't think you're right yet, joe . i don't think we know it comes from the bottom up. what i'm hearing is these orders came -- they have a special situation where cincinnati, the office out there, the big irs operation that was tasked with this job, it's the main facility of the united states for doing this. it was its job to look around for these non-profits that were abusing the law, especially on the right. and they did it. they did it their way, which got them into trouble. they were tasked with doing it, right?

    >> that's absolutely right. and what's going to happen, now, chris , is going to be, you know, the same sort of thing we're seeing with the benghazi case. we're going to look at all the e-mails and we're going to see how far up the food chain this went.

    >> yeah.

    >> and whether -- and the big issue, i predict, is going to be whether the white house had any hand in keeping this silent in 2011 when it became known to the leadership of the irs .

    >> president obama spoke for the first time, as i said, today, an this story. most important, perhaps, is when he said he first learned of it. this is he, personally speaking. not his white house staff . hard statement by the president today which made me very happy. here he is.

    >> i first learned about it from the same news reports that i think most people learned about this. i think it was on friday. and this is pretty straightforward. if, in fact, irs personnel engaged in the kind of practices that have been reported on, and were intentionally targeting conservative groups, then that's outrageous. and there's no place for it. we'll wait and see what exactly all the details and the facts are, but i've got no patience with it. i will not tolerate it. we'll make sure that we find out exactly what happened on this.

    >> there's two issues here, whether he was involved in it personally, howard, apparently not so because he didn't know about it. the larger issue, he's head of the united states executive branch . he is responsible and he's also leader of the democratic party . and this is fire water for his enemies. this is dine miynamite. they can use this against him through the next five or six elections. this is going to be part of our history. you know, the irs is out screwing the right wing all the time.

    >> the fires on the right are going to be there, regardless. there's no reason to pour gasoline on them by what i thought was a touch too lawyerly approach here today. i wrote that. the white house people were mad at me for saying so. and i understand what joe is saying about civil service and so on. the president learned about it friday. he doesn't necessarily have to wait for a report to find out who did what down in cincinnati.

    >> yeah.

    >> and i think a little more urgency would have been politically warranted today.

    >> why doesn't he say whoever did this is going to get canned?

    >> he should.

    >> by the way, remember george bush , even in the midst of the whole scooter libby thing --

    >> okay. suppose he doesn't fire anybody. five months from now, six months from now. he will be the head of the irs which includes all those people, joe . they will still be there part of obama 's irs . you heard of obama care, this will be obama irs . it will be his.

    >> the supervisor who knew about this in 2011 , she should be writing her resignation letter right now. if not, they should can her. the inspector general's report on this is coming in a matter of days. i think we should wait for that. he has to take aggressive action here. you know, it really is an egregious --

    >> exactly.

    >> -- act.

    >> you know, if he would say something that everybody who's progressive would understand, you know, if i heard a right wing administration had done this to my progressive supporters. then our groups, any one of these new groups was being targeted for audits or harassment, i'd be furious. as president, not just democratic or progressive leader, he should speak the same way.

    >> the real audience for him, chris , is fair-minded people in the middle. exactly. that's what i'm responding to. he did say at some point there's going to be another republican administration. but he put it in a conditional term. he wasn't saying it in a personal way. he didn't sound that personally outraged, at least --

    >> who are these headless nails he can't get out of the government when they commit this kind of malfeasance? i don't buy this idea that civil service protects people who do this kind of stuff.

    >> well, but he said, again, one of his top aides e-mailed me right after i wrote my piece on " huff post " and said, we have to wait for, in fairness to the president, this guy said, we have to wait for the inspector general's report.

    >> it's a matter of a -- i'm always ahead of him in termings of getting agitated, joe . i agree i'm always more agitated than the president. that's why he's president. the simple fact is, if he doesn't get rid of these people, they're going to be thinking about getting rid of him. senate republican leader , mitch mcconnell , who's on fire with pleasure over this, he's up for re-election next year. this is probably his ticket to ride . he tipped his hand today regarding how he and the republicans plan to use this baby to club democrats. he told "bright beitbart news" appropriately, "the recent irs revelations were just the beginning of the story. this is no little thing. this is a big thing. the big news about it is they timely got caught. they finally messed with an agency everybody fully understands when they try to quiet the critics through other agencies, it doesn't get attention. this does. everybody understands the irs and how powerful they are. this is just one example of an administration with wide efforts to silence critics." joe , here he is saying this is an example of the united states government at its worst, but it's also a typical example.

    >> well, yeah. i mean, it's no secret that this hasn't been the best managed administration that we've seen come down the pike in a while, although the president really is proud of his record of noncorruption which this, you know, kind of destroys.

    >> wow.

    >> but i do believe --

    >> he's not connected to it personally, at least.

    >> i do believe that in the end the big issue here isn't going to be the mistake and the stupidity of the mid-level employees who launched this, but it's going to be how much did the white house know and when did it know it? was this scandal, you know, submerged for electoral purposes in 2011 / 2012 ?

    >> right. that's what joe said, i think joe may have used the word over the weekend, nixonian.

    >> yeah.

    >> and rightly so. but what -- joe 's right. the test of whether it truly is nixonian is yet to be seen. what we know about the white house . let me tell you one other thing, chris . i was just duown in kentucky over the weekend where mitch mcconnell is running for election. no democrat wants to challenge him. they can't get anybody in the ring against mitch mcconnell . this plays into kentuckians resentment of government. they're taking up the guns. it's the evil irs . it's the revenuers and all that stuff. you hand that to mitch mcconnell , it's an extra 50,000 votes in rural kentucky. it just is.

    >> so the president, what can the president do, joe , right now, to meet this concern? i think it's a big one. i think this has got some legs. what does he do about the fact he's got, perhaps, bureaucrats, perhaps somebody at the high level of bureaucracy of the irs knew about this two years ago and had to flak it? remember they were denying it a year later after they knew about it in '12. knew about it in '11. denying it in '12. the pr person may have talked to the pr person in the white house . they're always circling the wagons, joe . you know how it works. we have a stinker coming here. you better be ready for it.

    >> in the military, you're responsible for everything that goes on during your watch. that means the director of the irs at the very least is responsible for this, and i think the president really has to make a show of force at this point and just, you know, lop off the head of that agency and move on it because i'm telling you, this is going to be big. even if it doesn't turn out to be significant. but if it turns out that there was any degree of white house knowledge of this, that is going to be a conflagration at a time when we have serious business to deal with in this country like the budget.

    >> we do have more serious things, but on the other hand, go back to the campaign. in that year, or the year before when the head of the irs is up on the hill saying there's nothing going on here. all the tea party groups are complaining. they're all complaining. conservative groups are complaining. the guy comes on to the hill and says, you know, there's nothing to this whatsoever. there's absolutely nothing to this whatsoever. it's hard to imagine that that testimony did not pass the radar screens of the white house . and certainly of the obama campaign . i mean, it's just hard --

    >> your trade craft is showing. this is what you know as a journalist.

    >> those guys are watching that. they're saying, oh my god.

    >> i didn't think the president was as angry about this as he should have been. not just his wording, his body language. when it came to benghazi , he was furious. the difference between his eye set, the way he looked at that "ap" reporter today when the issue was this, was totally dig different than when the issue of benghazi came up. we're about to go to the hottest show you're going to see tonight which is what we're going to talk about for the next ten minutes. this president is furious at what he calls the sideshow of benghazi . up in a minute with that. thank you, howard. thank you, joe klein . great reporting and great reporting over the weekend.

    >>> coming up, we're going to talk to someone who says her conservative group was personally targeted by the irs .

    >>> then later, the other big story , benghazi and what it could mean. president obama , secretary clinton, or the republic chance who spend so much time focusing on it? we'll see who gets hurt. and this is "hardball." the place for

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