At this point we might as well divulge our suspicion that the Internal Revenue Service’s illegal harassment of the president’s political foes was ordered by the president himself. Proving such a portentous claim is difficult when a key figure in the scandal is pleading the Fifth Amendment and essential documents are missing, but that only makes it all the more suspicious, and after so many presidential lies and scandals we no longer feel obliged to make a presumption of innocence.
The explanations offered for the missing e-mails that might have proved our suspicions is dubious at best. We are to believe that two years of essential correspondence were lost to a computer crash, and that the hard drive was then destroyed for recycling purposes, which is an alibi that would not past master with the IRS if any audited company of individual taxpayer were desperate enough to offer it. It seems strange, too, that the computer crash not only deprived congressional investigators of the e-mails sent by Lois Lerner, the aforementioned Fifth-Amendment-pleading key figure in the case, but six other important players, one of whom was a frequent visitor to the White House during the time the harassment was taking place. That the crash occurred just 10 days after the IRS had received a letter from a congressman who was inquiring about reports of harassed “tea party” organizations and other conservative groups seems stranger yet.
It seems very much like criminal obstruction of justice at worst and a damning confession of bureaucratic incompetence at best, and in either case it is the sort of thing no agency would do unless there was something even worse that they didn’t want known. There is now no doubt that the president’s political foes who applied for tax-exempt status were subjected to a punitive degree of scrutiny at far higher rates than their more administration-friendly counterparts, which has been acknowledged and apologized for by the agency, so all the is left to be hidden is the identity of those responsible. After initially expressing his outrage at the scandal, and claiming that he’d only become aware of it by reading media reports, the president has since referred to the matter as a “phony scandal” and insisted there wasn’t a “smidgen of corruption” involved, but if he’s reading the same media reports we are it might have also occurred to him that the only person worth protecting by such risky and impeachable means is the president. His apparent disinterest in the matter of the missing e-mails that might have put such suspicions to rest, and the disinterest of his thoroughly politicized Justice Department, also seems strange.
A patriotic respect for the office of the president leaves on uneasy harboring such grave suspicions, but the same respect requires that we hold the occupants of the office to the highest standards and give due consideration to such well-grounded suspicions. The current occupant’s long history of disregard for the law, even the ones he lobbied for and signed, along with his outspoken disdain for those who dare disagree with him, as well as a long-established style of political combat learned from Saul Alinsky’s no-holds-barred “Rules for Radicals,” make those nagging suspicions all the more plausible. Forgive our skepticism, which the president would surely deride as the “cynicism” that prevents the public from embracing his leadership, but we just wouldn’t put it past the guy to sic the IRS on those “tea party” groups and pro-Israel organizations that he so clearly reviled.
At this point in the Watergate scandal, which ended with President Richard Nixon resigning rather than face the charge that he had unsuccessfully “endeavored” to use the IRS against his political foes, much of the media were already screaming “Guilty.” We’ll hold off on that, and eagerly await the slow trickle of damning revelations that are sure to come over the summer, but we will admit to being darned suspicious. Maybe we’re wrong, but we’d interested to hear the president make the case why we are. Perhaps the exculpatory evidence was in those e-mails that went mysteriously missing, but if so a sweet irony will prevent him from the proof.
— Bud Norman