There are certain names of individuals or entities that can rile up the masses faster and more furiously than others. One individual is President Obama, and one entity is the IRS. Put the two together and only the chemists can tell you how toxic the mix is, real or imagined.
This week there were congressional hearings concerning the loss of the IRS emails between the embattled Lois Lerner, the White House, and other potential conspirators who allegedly targeted tea party groups for unfavorable tax review. I saw one video clip of South Carolina Congressman Trey Gowdy working over IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. Gowdy is a former federal prosecutor, and conservatives seemed to enjoy the pounding that he delivered to the witness. It all made for great theater, and perhaps Gowdy is hoping to become the next Attorney General in a Republican administration.
What Gowdy did, though, either was completely disingenuous on his part, or he is fooling a lot of people that he is knowledgeable in Constitutional and evidentiary law. He accused Koskinen of destroying evidence and then condescendingly lectured him on how a jury can infer that the lost emails contained negative inferences to the IRS and co-conspirators. What Gowdy never said was when the IRS was subpoenaed to turn over the emails, or alternatively, when the IRS was put on notice to preserve all emails pending the congressional investigation.
My point is that the emails did not become evidence until the IRS was notified by subpoena or other communication that they were to be preserved. All government agencies, including the FBI, have file destruction programs. For the sake of argument only, if the emails were destroyed pursuant to a regulation before notice of the hearings was provided, there would be no wrongdoing. Gowdy continued to interrupt and badger the commissioner, so we really don’t know what the commissioner might have said. No judge in America would have allowed Gowdy to get away with his antics in a courtroom. But this is only Gowdy’s initial appearance at self-promotion and grandstanding. One can only imagine how the Benghazi hearings will be conducted under his leadership.
I have no more love for the IRS than does any American, but they are a necessary component to our government. Our elected representatives treat the IRS as their favorite punching bag in order to win votes, but they do absolutely nothing about changing the tax system. The congress has the power to defund the IRS or any of their branches, so why don’t they do it? Why are no current congressional or senatorial candidates talking about tax reform with specific ideas on how to change the code? Could it be that the special interests that get special tax breaks also fund the campaigns, and the last thing they want is a code that eliminates their favored treatment?
Last week the Cobb County police charged Justin Harris with the murder of his 22 month old son who died when he was left in Harris’ car. At first the public was outraged that a distraught, loving father, could be twice a victim. How could the police and District Attorney be so insensitive? I readily admit to being a partisan when it comes to DA Vic Reynolds and the Cobb PD, so my first inclination was that there must be more to this story if they chose to charge Harris with murder instead of something very minor. As the story continues to unfold it appears that the police did their job and have let the facts and evidence do the talking. That is due process, and in my opinion we are fortunate to have such a qualified District Attorney and competent police force.
It is all too easy to draw conclusions about subject matters that are very personal to us. The IRS hearings, Justin Harris, and soldier Bowe Bergdahl are just a few of the topical cases that have our attention for the moment. No matter how repulsive the initial reports are in any of these stories, as Americans who believe in our Constitution, we owe it not only to these people, but to our families, friends and ourselves to let due process run its course. Anything less is to acknowledge that we don’t mean it when we pledge allegiance to the flag, or take an oath to support, defend and preserve the Constitution. Yet when unexpectedly someone finds himself in a “situation” not of one’s choosing, you can be sure that all rights and protections will be claimed. And rightfully so---but that should always be the case.