Readers of this column will recall that I take no pleasure in being right in 2008, 2012 about the ability of Barack Obama to be president.
The truth is that if I was wrong: Iraq would not be in flames, the deficit would be cut in half and unemployment would be back to levels we enjoyed
under President George W. Bush.
Up until recently, my two gripes with Obama were that he was over-his-head and incapable of being the vigorous and aware executive as conceived by the Framers and that the few things he was capable of pulling off were bad policy, such as stalling energy production, supporting the expanded use of marijuana and, of course, that crackerbox palace known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Yes, there were also billion-dollar green energy scams for his friends, running guns to the Mexican drug gangs and a host of other schemes. But, never did I think he was an actual criminal.
High crimes and misdemeanors are committed by high officials in the performance of their official duties—and it is now clear that Obama and his team have crossed that line.
In the Age of Obama, late Friday afternoons have become the most interesting time of the week. It is when the White House reveals what can no longer be withheld.
Thus on the second Friday in June, Friday the 13th no less, the Obama administration announced that two years’ worth of former IRS apparatchik Lois Lerner’s email correspondence are gone.
Lerner is accused of leading the administration’s operation to hamstring conservative and Tea Party groups by holding up their tax status paperwork. Without getting into the weeds, some groups collect tax-deductible contributions, which must be disclosed. Other groups collect non-deductible contributions, which remain private. Many groups have parallel accounts to accommodate how a contributor wants to donate.
Without legitimate tax status, contributors are unsure how their contributions will be handled, so in effect fundraising, and thus spending are impossible.
Lerner was brought over to IRS from the Federal Election Commission, where she made a name for herself collecting conservative scalps. If the goal was to throw sand in the Tea Party gears during the 2012 cycle, Lerner was the perfect choice.
To jam up the Tea Party, the IRS introduced two innovations. First, rather than deny an application, the IRS simply sat on it. Denying an application gave a group the opportunity to appeal, so by giving no decision, the IRS was able to sideline the Tea Party group and deny them a process for recourse.
The second innovation was for the IRS to request a list of donors. Many of these Tea Party groups were small-town-mom-and-pop enterprises, so many of them naively handed over the lists–remember, many of the groups were requesting a status that allowed them to keep their contributors private.
Once the list arrived, the IRS would then put the list in the group’s file folder making it part of the public record. In some cases, the IRS would tip off liberal groups or media outlets to the lists in the folders, so they could make a Freedom of Information Act request.
Then, with a speed and diligence otherwise unknown in the Obama administration, the FOIA would be processed and executed. How else did you think the press found out about private donations to groups supporting traditional marriage?
As Lerner stonewalled congressional committees, the FBI has not yet interviewed one Tea Party activist targeted by the stall-scheme and the president has dismissed the matter as a phony scandal.
Yet, now comes word that two years’ worth of subpoenaed correspondence. There are still Democrats prepared to believe that this is a clumsy accident. There are Democrats prepared to criticize Republicans for shamelessly exploited an unfortunate deletion for political purposes. In fact, many of those Democrats live in Somerville and Cambridge. Oh, how they will squawk!
But, for me, this data scrub means that for the first time, the Obama administration has no clever explanation. There was no escape, except to delete.
With the House solidly in the hands of the GOP and the Senate about to flip to the Republicans, the White House loses its ability to fiddle-in-the-middle vis-à-vis Congress.
Criminal behavior at IRS is not an isolated occurrence. It flows from the political culture created by the president and his team. After his losses in the 2014 midterms, the new Obama slogan: “If you can’t defeat, delete.”