Let’s do something for the IRS they practically never do for us. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. Let’s assume when they announced last Friday that Lois Lerner’s computer crashed in 2011, that’s what happened. We all remember Ms. Lerner. She was head of the IRS “Exempt Organizations Division” during the time the IRS was illegally impeding efforts by certain organizations to receive tax exempt status. We recall when she was called to testify concerning her conduct during that time she refused to answer questions because her testimony might tend to incriminate her.
Let’s assume the alleged 2011 computer crash destroyed any potentially incriminating emails that might shed light on Lerner’s culpability as well as any culpability of possible co-conspirators.
Let’s assume, further, that the IRS is telling the truth when they say that all the king’s horses and all the king’s men can do nothing to recover the data that was on Lerner’s hard drive.
Now, let’s cut them some more slack. Let’s assume the IRS is plagued by an unbelievably embarrassing and inconvenient series of coincidences. When they announced earlier this week that the computer crash wiped out not only Lerner’s emails, but the emails of another six IRS employees, let’s assume it’s nothing more than a case of incredibly bad luck.
Let’s assume the IRS had a really good reason for withholding from Inspector General and congressional investigators the details of this “oh-so-inconvenient” computer crash until this very moment. Let’s assume there’s nothing willfully underhanded about the timing of these announcements. Let’s give the IRS the benefit of any doubt and assume they are as interested in getting to the truth is we are.
But let’s not stop there. As long as we’re at it, let’s accept the president’s statements about the situation at face value. Let’s assume he learned about the IRS abuses when the facts broke in the public media. This requires us to believe that his closest advisers were also in the dark or that they knew what was about to break and decided, for whatever reason, to keep these important facts from the boss.
Let’s assume when the president said he was “outraged,” that he really was. Let’s assume when he told the American public he intended to get to the bottom of things, he really meant to. Earlier this year, when he said there wasn’t a “smidgen” of corruption associated with the “targeting scandal” let’s assume he believed that.
Now let’s assume he knows, like the rest of us, about this computer crash and these lost emails. Let’s assume he has intelligence and judgment enough to know how suspicious this looks. Let’s assume he’s a principled man who is determined to keep his promise to “get to the bottom” of this, find out who’s responsible and hold them accountable. Let’s assume these are not empty words delivered for purely cosmetic purposes.
Now let’s assume our president is a capable problem solver. Let’s assume his conscience forces him to spend some time figuring out how to reassure the American public that there’s no cover-up going on; no sinister conspiracy to conceal evidence; no intent to deceive the American public with a “cock-and-bull” story about mysterious computer crashes. Let’s assume he’s not counting on the public to be intentionally gullible because they really want to believe their president — this time.
If all these assumptions are true, the IRS is innocent but plagued by bad luck; the president is honest and capable and committed to keeping his word. What would be the president’s next step? He knows Lerner’s emails were transmitted to other members of the executive branch. He knows the most potentially damning emails are those that might have been transmitted to the FBI, the FEC, other IRS branches, employees of the Justice Department and representatives of the White House.
A capable, principled president would issue a blanket order directing any federal employee in any of these agencies who sent or received emails from Lois Lerner or any other IRS operatives whose computers crashed to immediately notify Congress about the existence of those emails and start the wheels in motion to reconstruct those missing messages. Surely there’s sufficient power in the office of the president to accomplish this task — assuming the president really wants it accomplished.
Unless we’re lulled, once again, into a state of passive apathy, we’ll know, very soon, whether we are justified in extending the benefit of the doubt to the IRS and the president. Or we’ll know whether we are, once again, being taken for a population of fools. I’m Hink and I’ll see ya.
MIKE HINKLE is a retired attorney and Edmond resident.