Sunday, September 14, 2014
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Lois Lerner to the rescue, proving Washington is still Washington

For me, there is a Keystone Kops quality to the whole lost emails performance. And I’d rather think about that than Iraq. At least this weekend.


Posted on June 21, 2014 at 1:42 p.m.

Thank you, Lois Lerner.

Lerner, as you probably know, is the former director of the IRS Exempt Organizations Unit who was accused of targeting so-called tea party groups with IRS scrutiny and punishment.

Here’s why I’m grateful to this lady.

I was having a tough time with my column for this week. The news in Iraq is dismal. When historians of the future look back at the century in which we now are living, surely they will wonder what humans were thinking. Or what they were believing.

As I was writing, the group known as ISIL was slaughtering its way toward Baghdad. And President Obama was saying there will be no more American boots on the ground. Well, at least not many.

He was sending a few hundred as trainers and advisers, as well as to help with evacuating Americans if it becomes necessary. Perhaps he was looking for some of Lyndon Johnson’s old notes from the days of Vietnam. Baghdad was taking on the feel of Saigon in 1975.

The situation in Iraq is like hitting mercury with a hammer. It keeps changing shape and flying off into different, yet same, fragments. Whatever Obama does, and he must do something, no professorial scheme or utopian dream is going to work. This will have to be a “make-it-up-as-you-go” procedure.

He may like to “lead from behind,” but in this mess he’ll probably have to “lead from the middle.”

Anyway, I wrote the column. And then I read it. It was one gloomy writ. And especially after a music-filled festival weekend in Elkhart, I just didn’t want to offer a mood-buster of that scale.

And then there was Lois Lerner. And her lost emails. And the incoming White House press secretary Josh Earnest saying to reporters, "You've never heard of a computer crashing before?"

And my spirits lifted. Washington is still Washington. Evidence is still being lost. Politicians on one side of the aisle are predictably angry and accusing, and those on the other side are angry at being accused.

CNN has stated skepticism as to the alleged loss. Computer nerds have filled the Internet with jokes. John Hinderaker, a blogger and a practicing attorney who regularly uses discovery to retrieve emails, has explained that they are stored on a server, and a crash of the user's hard drive would be irrelevant.

It was said that in order for these emails to be lost, it would take seven hard drive crashes, the lack of a centralized archive, a practice of erasing and reusing backup tapes every six months and an IRS policy of allowing employees to decide for themselves which emails constitute an official agency record.

Back in March, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen talked about the emails at an oversight hearing and gave testimony that seems to be the opposite of the current storyline. He then told Congress that the emails were not immediately available because they were safely stored offline.

The emails in question have been subpoenaed for a year, and just now as the investigation heats up, it is discovered that they’ve disappeared? OK, that’s unlikely. But why not laugh about it and move on?

Unlike some other scandals, the IRS harassment is going to be easily proved with or without those emails. In fact, the “loss” of them only makes it more apparent that there is skullduggery going on.

For me, there is a Keystone Kops quality to the whole lost emails performance. And I’d rather think about that than Iraq. At least this weekend.

So thank you, Lois Lerner.

Former Elkhart furniture store owner Richard Leib has served on planning committees in several industries. An avid auto fan, he raced in the 1972 coast-to-coast Cannonball Run. He has written on a wide range of subjects.




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 A Baltimore Ravens fan wears a Ray Rice (27) jersey during the first half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014, in Baltimore.

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 President Barack Obama addresses the nation from the Cross Hall in the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2014. Obama is committing the United States to a broad military campaign to root out militants in two volatile Middle East nations, authorizing airstrikes in both Syria and Iraq that could last well after his presidency.

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