President Obama’s key IRS lackey, Lois Lerner, heads the IRS division accused of targeting conservative groups and individuals in the run-up to the 2012 presidential elections. Yesterday she was required to attend a hearing of the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee. She did so reluctantly, looking and outfitted like any senior bureaucrat in Stalin’s USSR. Her demeanor and stance left little doubt about which party she votes for in any national election.
‘I have not done anything wrong’, Ms. Lerner told the committee, in an opening statement. Nevertheless, she declined to answer questions under oath, invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.She stated that she would not testify because lawmakers had accused her of making false statements to Congress about IRS targeting of conservative groups. This statement alone – which arguably constituted a waiver of her Fifth Amendment right – may constitute grounds for recalling Ms. Lerner and requiring her to testify before the Committee at a later date.
Although pleading the Fifth is not itself conclusive evidence of misbehavior, it is widely regarded as such. It is commonplace in criminal trials involving Mafia dons and other low-lives who mingle criminal with non-criminal behavior. Increasingly, the Imperial Presidency is morphing into the Cosa Nostra as it engages in threatening behavior right on the edges of the law. Middle range enforcers such as Lois Lerner are usually the first to fall before the FBI reaches upwards to those right at the top of the pyramid.
Like Cosa Nostra, the White House has developed a convenient strategy for evading ultimate responsibility for such behavior:
“President Obama’s former senior adviser, David Axelrod, told MSNBC recently that his guy was off the hook on the IRS scandal because ‘part of being President is there is so much beneath you that you can’t know because the government is so vast.” ‘The Unaccountable Executive’, The Wall Street Journal, May 23,2013
President Nixon once used the same defense. However, once all the president’s men collapsed like dominoes, as the investigstion advanced, Tricky Dick finally decided to take the fall and boarded Air Force One for one last time, heading out to San Clemente while relying on phlebitis and President Ford to protecty him from further probes.
President Obama may find himself in the same predicament, as his second term stumbles on, unless he chooses to admit wrong-doing and stops playing around on the outer edges of the law.