If you’ve ever been a baseball fan – I was, before the tide of “woke” overtook it – you’ve probably wondered why, given that umpires never, ever reverse a call, managers persist in leaping out of the dugout, racing to confront the ump, and arguing about it, often resulting with their ejection from the game. When I was much younger, my father explained it to me quite succinctly:
It’s not perfectly lucid until you factor in that umpires know that they’re sometimes wrong. Sometimes they know a call is wrong immediately after they’ve made it. However, their status as irrefutable / no-appeal absolute monarchs requires that they not admit that on the field. That impels them toward a stance that would seem irrational to any less magisterial authority. If the ump knows he was mistaken, he can oh-so-quietly agree to “miss one in the other direction” at a later point in the game.
To make this work – it doesn’t, really, but that’s a separate subject – managers and players must oh-so-quietly accept that no better outcome can be expected. In recent years that tacit agreement has frayed considerably, owing to the increasing number of bad calls umps have been found to make. Some of those bad calls have cost a team more than just a single game.
Whatever might come with the passage of time, for the moment that’s the way the game is officiated – and why umpiring calls are argued.
Which brings us to the curious case of reporter Matt Taibbi and the recent intrusion into his home and privacy by an agent of the Internal Revenue Service.
Taibbi is one of the journalists in whose probity Elon Musk has trusted to air the Twitter censorship controversy before the public. While his personal opinions are left-of-center, he’s regarded as an honest journalist who will reliably report the facts without prejudice. While many on the Left have claimed otherwise, it appears to this commentator that he’s done so in this highly visible case.
Those facts make the federal government look pretty bad: averse to open conversations about matters touching its less popular actions and policies, willing to use intimidation to suppress them, and extremely unhappy about having the covers pulled off its machinations for all to see.
Regardless of how unhappy the Establishmentarians are about it, the damage has been done. The Twitter censorship scandal, and Washington’s role in it, are matters of public record. So the gray eminences of the Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Omnibenevolent federal government have decided to “argue for the next one:” they’ve dispatched the IRS onto the field to discourage Taibbi and anyone who might be similarly minded from ever again doing anything so indecorous. While it’s not what most would call a subtle move, it’s arguably less blatant than a raid at 4:00 AM by armed agents of the FBI while CNN stands by with reporters poised and cameras rolling. That having been said, it does lend further support to the Right’s charges about the “weaponization of government.”
Here’s what the editors of the Wall Street Journal had to say:
Typically when the IRS challenges some part of a tax return, it sends a dunning letter. Or it might seek more information from the taxpayer or tax preparer. If the IRS wants to audit a return, it schedules a meeting at the agent’s office. It doesn’t drop by unannounced.
The curious timing of this visit, on the heels of the FTC demand that Twitter turn over names of journalists, raises questions about potential intimidation, and Mr. Jordan is right to want to see documents and communications relating to the Taibbi visit.
There’s more to the thing than the novelty of it, of course. Tax year 2018 is more than four years distant. The IRS rarely holds a case open for that long. Atop that, Taibbi hadn’t heard a word about his 2018 return since he first filed it. So this development is exceptional in several ways.
But they who play the political long game are in something of a lather. Owing to the recapture of the House of Representatives by the GOP, and its – rather surprising – follow-through on its promises to probe the Twitter censorship scandal, much is coming to light that the political Establishment had hoped would never be exposed. “This one,” they must have said to one another, “is already called and lost. Now we have to fight for the next ones. Let’s make it plain that any further unfriendly revelations will have unpleasant consequences for the revealer.”
This is of a piece with the “lawfare” tactic in which an accuser strives to impoverish and exhaust a target in a court case he cannot win on the merits. “The process is the punishment.” There are several processes available to inflict pain and expense on him who dares to embarrass the Deep State. In particular, its ability to intercept supposedly private communications gives it power well beyond the law. That’s why it’s become a watchword among the acute that one should never say or write anything one would not wish to have presented in court.
Matt Taibbi has rendered the public a significant service. Let’s hope the Deep State doesn’t manage to extract the pound of flesh nearest his heart in reprisal.