"I don't know." "I don't remember." "I'm not familiar with that detail." "It's not my precise area." "I'm not familiar with that letter."
These are quotes from the Internal Revenue Service officials who testified this week before the House and Senate. That is the authentic sound of stonewalling, and from the kind of people who run Washington in the modern age—smooth, highly credentialed and unaccountable. They're surrounded by legal and employment protections, they know how to parse a careful response, they know how to blur the essential point of a question in a blizzard of unconnected factoids. They came across as people arrogant enough to target Americans for abuse and harassment and think they'd get away with it.
So what did we learn the past week, and what are the essentials to keep in mind?
We learned the people who ran and run the IRS are not going to help Congress find out what happened in the IRS. We know we haven't gotten near the bottom of the political corruption of that agency. We do not know who ordered the targeting of conservative groups and individuals, or why, or exactly when it began. We don't know who executed the orders or directives. We do not know the full scope or extent of the scandal. We don't know, for instance, how many applicants for tax-exempt status were abused.