If you believe that congressional Republicans are acting in good faith in their investigations of the IRS, then yesterday's spectacle was an utter failure for the GOP, a moment when they squandered the opportunity to focus attention on Lois Lerner by drawing all the attention to themselves:
Darrell Issa, chairman of the House committee leading numerous investigations of the Obama administration, found a new way to silence Democratic critics who question his actions: He shut off the microphones....The hearing got us no closer to the truth about the IRS approach to nonprofit groups. No previously uncertain voter was persuaded yesterday that crimes were committed by Lois Lerner or any of her colleagues. In fact, voters who hadn't previously focused on this issue watched the clip yesterday and saw Issa acting like a self-aggrandizing tyrant.
Issa ... didn't let his Democratic counterpart speak after Lerner had declined to testify.
"Now you're turning me off?" [Representative Elijah] Cummings said, incredulously, as Issa pressed the silencing button.
Issa must have realized it didn't look good for him to be standing and holding the mute button while the ranking Democrat spoke. He briefly sat and allowed Cummings to speak, but then stood and silenced the microphone again....
So this was a failure on his part -- right?
Nahhh. It seemed like a failure only if you think Republicans care about persuading the unpersuaded, or about getting to the truth. They don't care about the unpersuaded because they're working toward a midterm election, and midterm elections are about firing up the base, not persuading swing voters. And while I suppose they'd love to uncover shocking truths about the IRS, I think they prefer having lots and lots of sustained smoke instead of locating an actual fire. They seem not to want this investigation (or the Benghazi investigation, for that matter) to come to a head. They just want these things to go on and on forever, firing up the base perpetually.
The base watched what happened yesterday and got a fresh jolt of hate-adrenaline directed at Democrats -- specifically, at a black Democrat who defied their hero. Rush Limbaugh, you will not be surprised to learn, charged Cummings with faking it, because Democrats are pure evil, of course:
Elijah Cummings was faking his anger, faking his outrage to make the story of the hearings about Issa and not Lois Lerner. The objective was to make this all about the mean, intransigent Republicans and to take the focus off the fact that Lois Lerner didn't have the guts to answer any questions about what she did regarding the IRS. Lois Lerner is up there stonewalling and trying to keep everybody from learning what she and her underlings did.So Republicans had a great victory yesterday, as far as they're concerned. The dittoheads came away from yesterday hating Elijah Cummings as much as they already hated Lois Lerner.
Elijah Cummings' purpose was to take the spotlight off her and transfer it to these mean, evil Republicans. He'd use the War on Women meme if he could. He was, no doubt, coached to do that. The only question is whether he needed to be coached, or whether his instincts as a liberal enabled him to do it without being coached.
As long as this kind of voter motivation works in every non-presidential election -- in other words, as long as right-wing outrage generation turns the GOP base out in midterm elections and state elections, while Democrats and swing voters stay home -- histrionics of the Issa variety will continue to be effective. (And if you've wondered why the fight between the tea party and establishment Republicans doesn't motivate one bloc or the other to give up on voting GOP, this sort of bonding exercise, repeated over and over again, is why.)
So if you believe what Issa did was outrageous, vote against some Republicans in November. But, of course, that's unlikely to happen. By November, non-Republicans will forget about what happened yesterday. Republicans won't.
AND: I should have added above that Republicans know they're never going to uncover anything earth-shattering regarding the IRS or Benghazi -- and they're response is not to drop the subjects but to try to sustain as long as possible the impression that the unmasking of Pure Evil is just around the corner. They can keep this up forever, and True Believers will continue to believe, and remain fired up.