Sometimes even the best joke is out of place when told by the wrong person. A trial judge probably shouldn't indulge in electric chair humor from the bench. Layoff humor is unwise for CEOs of struggling companies. And whole classes of professions should stay away from the rich vein of death humor.
President Obama jokingly said he would have the IRS audit the Arizona State University board of trustees after they failed to vote him an honorary degree. Not everybody appreciated the joke:
Made by Jay Leno it might have been funny. But as told by Mr. Obama, the actual president of the United States, it's hard to see the humor. Surely he's aware that other presidents, most notably Richard Nixon, have abused the power of the Internal Revenue Service to harass their political opponents.
Of course, Nixon was a piker compared to a President considered a role model for the current one:
One of the most brazen instances of a political vendetta during a Presidency was the Roosevelt Administration's attack on Andrew Mellon. No historian has been able to determine why Mellon so enraged F.D.R., but there is speculation that the New Deal President saw the millionaire who served as Republican Treasury Secretary from 1921 to 1932 - a time of Wall Street excesses followed by the Great Depression - as the symbolic enemy. Nor has a document emerged that directly links Roosevelt to the decision to go after Mellon.
Elmer L. Irey, head of the criminal division of the Treasury's tax enforcement branch in Washington from 1919 to 1946, acknowledged in his 1948 autobiography that Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau Jr. ordered him to develop tax charges against Mellon even though he, Irey, knew that the former Treasury Secretary was innocent.
The world could use more humor, but President Roosevelt probably spoiled the IRS audit joke catalog for his successors.
And more from Althouse, with a good comment discussion.
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