Rep. Gowdy tells the IRS why destroying evidence is bad
The trick to keeping up with Obama scandals is to avoid letting today’s history-shredding world-in-flames foreign-policy disaster distract you from yesterday’s crisis of administrative incompetence and bureaucratic looting at the VA, or the abuse of power at the IRS before that. It’s interesting how the concept of “scandal fatigue” only bubbles from the media’s imagination during Democrat Administrations. Under Republicans, they link all the scandals together into a narrative, where they reinforce each other; a straight line would be drawn from Obama laughing about the lack of shovel-ready jobs in his trillion-dollar “stimulus” to Obama trying to wave off the VA scandal, or his White House pushing the myth about rogue low-level employees in Cincinnati being responsible for the IRS targeting of conservative groups.
But Obama’s press has grown, at worst, slightly exasperated with the endless cavalcade of ineptitude and fishy behavior pouring out of his White House. They let each new scandal reset the game board and erase whatever came before. Six years in, with Obama cratering in the polls, they’re starting to write stories about how exhausting all the Congressional hearings and searing agency audits are.
That’s why folks like Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) know they have to swing for the fences in their hearings, in the generally futile hope that two adjacent neurons will spark in the media mind, and we might get some stories reviewing how everything the White House and IRS officials said during the early days of the story was false. Maybe some “investigative journalist” will say to himself, “You know, it is really suspicious that all these officials’ computers experienced virtually unprecedented hard-drive crashes that wiped out records protected by both federal law and agency policies, just ten days after the House Ways and Means Committee started nosing around.”
So here’s Gowdy explaining to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen that both courts and administrative hearings assume the worst when they’re told vital evidence was utterly destroyed, especially in an era where the total annihilation of computer data is exceptionally unlikely. Gowdy is a former prosecutor, so it’s no surprise he understands the concept of “spoliation of evidence” much better than Koskinen, although it strains credibility for Koskinen to claim he’s never heard of it… especially since it’s been discussed so energetically ever since we learned about the Attack of the IRS Computer Gremlins.
What’s really amazing here is Koskinen’s assertion that his own “common sense” overrides both IRS policy and federal law, something that didn’t go over well with Gowdy. The idea that a scandal-plagued agency should be allowed to decide how carefully it keeps its own records, or when it bothers to inform the Congressional committees investigating it that key documents have been destroyed, is laughable. I suspect that’s one reason this latest twist in the IRS saga has legs. Even the lowest of Low-Information Voters laughs out loud at the idea of all those computers blowing up simultaneously, and all the backups failing, and nobody troubling themselves to comply with the rules about hardcopy backups… and it’s all happening at the same agency that accepts no such excuses from the rest of us.
Gowdy makes a point of concluding with a few of the now-inoperative statements made in the early days of the scandal, and drops a bomb on the Democrats’ desperation talking point, which is that nothing else matters if the Republicans can’t put Barack Obama at the crime scene with DNA evidence. In a sense, that is consistent with the new Democrat ideology of the imperial executive, where the President is the only elected official who really matters. But of course, they’d accept no such deflection if this was a Republican scandal, and in any event the notion that shocking levels of agency corruption don’t matter unless it hits the White House harder than the aliens in Independence Day is ridiculous. This isn’t a game, won only by toppling the President, and it would be unworthy of the people of a free nation to set such a low bar for their expectations of the bureaucracy. “What, they couldn’t find enough to put the President on trial? The people who got hassled were people I disagree with politically? Yawn!”
It’s one thing to watch clown-show House Democrats peddle the talking point about how it’s not a real scandal unless the smoking guns point at the White House. It’s outrageous, and almost surreal, to hear it coming from the IRS commissioner at a congressional hearing. Remember how the Administration briefly pretended that it was deeply concerned about inappropriate activity at the Internal Revenue Service, and promised to get to the bottom of it? Those days are so over. Now you’ve got the IRS Commissioner openly admitting that he’s playing a political game, and his only objective is to make it through the hearings, playing for time until the scandal runs out of media gas.
Darrell Issa (R-CA), chairman of the House Oversight Committee, blew his stack at the pitiful but unsurprising attempt by the IRS to turn this debacle to its advantage, by claiming they could do a better job of protecting their data if they only had more funding:
A lot of what Koskinen is attempting here is recognizable as a variation on the amazing Incompetence Defense, a well-practiced Obama scandal-management technique, in which high officials – and the President himself – claim they’re not very good at their jobs, and don’t really know what any of their underlings are doing… and that’s why they should be allowed to keep their jobs. We’ve heard this so many times, from so many different Obama officials, that the impression of a blind Administration where all of the highly-paid executives are utterly clueless has become almost comical. Obama finds out everything by reading newspapers a week later, Attorney General Eric Holder doesn’t read his email, and IRS Commissioner Koskinen doesn’t know why all of the IRS backup systems failed, why nobody made a big deal about the destruction of data relevant to a major congressional investigation… or, as he blubbered to Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), why nobody tried to recover any of Tax Exempt Organizations director Lois Lerner’s vital data after her computer crashed.
Gee, you’d think someone would immediately have delved into those backup archives to restore the information House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp had been asking about a couple of weeks ago, wouldn’t you? But nobody did, and the IRS commissioner isn’t too worked up about it. Either we’re looking a crude but effective cover-up, or the IRS is so supremely arrogant that it regards congressional oversight as a joke, akin to getting the babysitter out of its room so it can go back to reading Dad’s Playboy magazines under the covers with a flashlight.
By all means, Democrats, do run in 2014 as the party determined to champion the IRS against uppity citizens and their representatives. It looks like you might have to do it without Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), who said Koskinen did “a terrible job communicating, and obviously they made huge mistakes as far as how they’ve retained records and whether or not they’ve been upfront and whether or not those records were available,” adding for good measure that the IRS commissioner “did a terrible job being arrogant yesterday.”
That’s nice, Senator, and I’m sure it’ll play well with the folks back home. But what are you prepared to do about it? How about the rest of you endangered red-state Democrats? We’ll get a few sound bites from you, and then… what?