We need not start this editorial with the standard, “Remember when we were kids ...” — because we know you’ll remember. But we’ll set the scene anyway.
You walk into school without your homework, usually because you’ve neglected to do the assignment. The teacher asks you to produce the requested worksheet or book report. You look at her with doleful eyes and, without blinking them, say, “The dog ate it.” The teacher, ever worldly wise, replies, “Come now, really?” And you fidget, fighting for time as you try to formulate a “That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it” defense — a defense, by the way, that never works.
So old is this tired excuse that it’s become a punchline, and yet that’s pretty much the rationale provided Congress — and the American people — by the Internal Revenue Service about two years worth of Lois Lerner emails that have gone missing. The only difference is that “the dog ate it” has been replaced by “computer crash.” In this brave new technological age, “computer crash” is the new omnibus, catch-all excuse.
Well, Congress is not buying it, nor are the American people. As House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chief Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said Friday (always a convenient day to dump bad news in the hope that no one will be paying attention), “Do they really expect the American people to believe that, after having withheld these emails for a year, they’re just now realizing the most critical time period is missing?”
Precisely. It’s bad enough that pretty much everything previous to Friday’s disclosure relative to Ms. Lerner sports a toxic air — how her IRS office apparently singled out conservative groups for scrutiny and (in many cases) delays in processing their tax-exempt applications, how she’s repeatedly stonewalled congressional efforts to determine the truth by refusing to testify. And now this — the loss of key correspondence from a critical period — which further validates Capitol Hill investigators’ continued search for the source of fire from an arsenal of smoking guns.
“Left to the IRS’ own preferences,” Mr. Issa added, “the White House would still be retelling the lie that this was all about mismanagement confined to a local [Cincinnati] office. The supposed loss of [Ms.] Lerner’s emails further blows a hole in the credibility of claims that the IRS is complying with congressional requests and their repeated assurances that they’re working to get to the truth.”
Forgive our skepticism, but to echo that standard teacher of old, that “computer crash” excuse doesn’t quite cut it.