When the definitive work on the rise and fall of the United States is finally written — and it may not be that far off — there will be a full chapter on the IRS and other government agencies that have become massive empires in their own right — bigger than most of the world’s nations.
There are obviously no checks and balances inside these agencies that appear to be run with such little supervision or restraint.
America got a peek inside that culture when Lois Lerner, the IRS director for exempt organizations was called to testify before the House Oversight Committee this week. Lerner was subsequently replaced by the agency.
Giving stunned lawmakers a classic example of how to have your cake and eat it too, Lerner read a statement denying any wrongdoing and then invoking the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution. “I refuse to answer on the grounds that it might incriminate me,” she said.
So understand the logic here.
She says she is innocent but she isn't talking because she knows her answers will incriminate her. She led the division that targeted any prospective non-profit that had the word “Constitution” in its name, but then used the Constitution to hide her own knowledge of the scandal.
Later, some of the congressmen were still reeling from her performance. Hadn't she just waived her right to invoke the Fifth Amendment by making a statement in which she professed her innocence of any wrongdoing?
In essence, she got to testify without any cross examination.
Lerner’s performance on Capitol Hill sent a chill down the spines of more than a few observers. If she would treat the U.S. Congress with such contempt what must it have been like for a taxpayer or charitable organization that had fallen into her clutches?
Based on my knowledge of past White House administrations, it is unlikely that President Obama has been as ignorant of this scandal as he claims. For one thing, his own brother was applying for an organization seeking non-profit status.
For years I have been working on a book about presidential siblings and after interviewing 14 to date — including conversations with Obama siblings — I can assure you that their every move is monitored and known by a family liaison at the White House.
Then there is the fact that Lois Lerner did not just casually fall into her job. She was recruited by Obama talent hunters. She was not there by accident.
Before her position at the IRS, Lerner had a history of harassing Christian organizations at the FEC. It was her performance there that would have made Obama White House recruiters sit up and take notice.
Lois Lerner’s performance on Capitol Hill seemed to take even Democrat lawmakers by surprise. Some of them were armed with tough questions.
Some were planning to brandish their credentials a bit, wanting to use the moment to show they are tough on both sides, notching up a little equity so they can fight for liberal groups who may someday be targets themselves.
And others — Democrats and Republicans — came to the moment sincerely concerned about the flagging U.S. Constitution held in open contempt before their eyes.
If Lerner can sternly rebuke duly elected U.S. congressmen in their own House, one wonders what it would have been like to sit opposite her in her house — with the full weight of power unbridled by cameras and journalists.
German sociologist Wolfgang Sotsky writes that “absolute power is a structure, not a possession.” He was specifically writing about Nazi camps, but the same phenomenon can be observed anywhere there is a lack of accountability.
In writing about the Soviet Gulags, Alexander Solzhenitsyn observed that “all classifications in this world lack sharp boundaries.”
The notorious abuses of American government agencies make for a global scandal.
Rest assured that similar abuses have taken place throughout the entire federal government. Such abuses go unchecked because no one wants to suffer the consequences of reprisals and targeting.
As Sotsky might tell us, it is not Lois Lerner, but the system that must be blamed. Take her out and another will replace her.
What we saw in Lerner was the face of the system.
Doug Wead is a presidential historian who served as a senior adviser to the Ron Paul presidential campaign. He is a New York Times best-selling author, philanthropist, and adviser to two presidents, including President George H.W. Bush. Read more reports from Doug Wead — Click Here Now.
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