Media training experts coach their clients to use a technique called “microscope/telescope” when faced with particularly damaging questions during an interview. “Microscope/telescope,” when used correctly, allows the client to dodge the damaging question and spin the interview to their advantage.
For example: when a business or politician is confronted with a question that implies a large-scale scandal that is very damaging, the client pulls out his microscope and instead focuses the question on a very small portion of the overall problem. Preferably a portion the client can spin favorably.
A current example is the NSA “spying” controversy. Instead of focusing on massive data collection, defenders of the program focus on the handful of instances where the program was able to deter an attack.
When faced with a particular and specific instance that is a problem, the client pulls out his telescope and gives an answer that is broad and diffuses the attack. TSA is a master of this technique. When criticized for molesting the occasional four-year-old girl or insulting the veteran with an artificial leg, agency spokesmen expand the discussion to include all the instances where steely-eyed TSA guards have saved air travel from potential disaster, so the instance in question is only a tiny error in the great scheme of things.
Today, I think we are seeing the first application of “microscope/telescope” in the IRS targeting scandal.
The scandal began when news leaked out, by the IRS of all people, that the agency had targeted tea party and other conservative groups for a TSA-equivalent ideological body cavity search. Conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status were literally asked the content of their prayers, names of donors, what volunteers had done, what books group members were reading, and under what circumstances would they vote for President Obama? (I made the last one up, but you get the picture.)
But today, weeks after the scandal first appeared on the nation’s outrage radar, we are told by new, improved IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel that his probe discovered groups with the words “Israel,” “Progressive,” and “Occupy” were also targeted for that special IRS scrutiny. We’re expected to believe that an office where more than 75 percent of employee campaign contributions have gone to Democrats, has been investigating leftist groups all along?
A scandal that started with tea party and conservative groups, now includes “Progressive” and “Occupy?” Have we left anyone out? Does Lyndon LaRouche already have his exemption?
This is the “telescope” at work. If groups from all across the ideological spectrum were investigated, then this is not a scandal. On the contrary it’s highly motivated IRS employees making sure that tax exemptions are not being abused by any group regardless of their ideological orientation.
Why it’s a victory for our impartial and dedicated civil service employees!
On the other hand the latest developments in the IRS investigations don’t lend themselves to microscope/telescope manipulation. The first is another IRS employee has joined the 5th Amendment club. Greg Roseman refused to testify before the U.S. House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee. He was pointedly asked how a small business called Strong Castle Inc. — formed less than two years ago — was able to land a disproportionate amount of contract work in such a small time?
Roseman replied, in a tradition that dates back to 1957 and Mafia boss Vito Genovese, “I respectfully decline to answer any questions and invoke my Fifth Amendment privilege to remain silent.”
In the other development, the documents are speaking for themselves. IRS government-issued credit cards were used to purchase online pornography, wine, romance novels, and diet pills. Although it’s only fair to note the porno purchases were made on two of the five credit cards “lost or stolen” according to the lone employee issued the cards.
It’s ironic and not a little amusing that the mighty IRS is being brought down by receipts. But it starts being a lot less humorous when you remember they are spending and being paid with our money.
Michael Reagan is the son of President Ronald Reagan. He is the president of The Reagan Legacy Foundation. Read more reports from Michael Reagan — Click Here Now.
© Mike Reagan