In her recent appearance at a hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Lois Lerner, the IRS Director of tax-exempt organizations, pleaded the Fifth. Thus, two very important issues are raised by this action. The first significant topic involves the notion that if this entire IRS improper “targeting” scandal is as simple as Congressman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has intimated that it is, why didn’t Lerner just say that it was the actions of a few out of control Cincinnati IRS agents, and be done with it? Issa was very careful to not cast dispersions on the overwhelming number of IRS employees who do their job diligently, ethically, and with great enthusiasm on a daily basis (I think that’s about what he said.) To me, it all seems very simple: there were a few bad apples, Lois Lerner finds out about it and takes action, she then lets the higher-ups know and all is well. End of story. However, the Constitution of the United States provides every American citizen the right to avoid self-incrimination, and inherent in the Fifth Amendment is the right to avoid being forced to “squeal” on others, especially the President of the United States. From where I sit, Lerner did not invoke the Fifth to protect herself; it was done to defend those who are much higher up on the food chain. (Well, at least Lerner didn’t need to fall down, hit her head, and sustain a so-called concussion like Hillary Clinton — all in an attempt to avoid testifying.)
In fact, the chain of events regarding this most recent IRS hearing also seems very reminiscent of the resignation of former CIA Director David Petraeus just before he was set to testify to a subcommittee regarding Benghazi. Thus, it would appear the underlings are all falling in line in order to protect the commander-in-chief. In fact, I’m quite sure that if Obama was asked about the Associated Press phone hacking situation, which has quietly slipped away from the front pages of the newspaper; he would definitely pull a Sergeant Schultz (“I know nothing.”)
On a much more historic note, the second very important issue is that Lois Lerner can feel very comfortable in the fact that she now joins such luminaries as Jack Abramoff (government), Bernie Ebbers (WorldCom), Andrew Fastow (Enron), Ari Fleischer (government), Linda Tripp (government), and G. Gordon Liddy (government-Watergate) — a legendary list of individuals who have all previously pleaded the Fifth. In every abovementioned case in the corporate world, the testifiers were trying to protect themselves. However, in almost every instance regarding the government, the employees that invoked their Fifth Amendment privilege were desperately trying to safeguard their superiors, and in nearly each case that included the President of the United States.
Is it possible that this time it really is different? When pushed to the wall in order to predict the ultimate outcome, I’m going to plead the Fifth.