Let us pause to consider what it is like to appear before a hostile congressional panel in a time when everyone is slinging clubs and hoping to make contact with someone’s head. It is precisely because of such moments — when the powerful are poised to find someone to punish, or silence, and when the mob outside is baying — that the Framers included a Bill of Rights that explicitly protected people from government overreach.

Conservatives and liberals alike should understand why someone like Lois Lerner might want to take the Fifth with a criminal probe going on and not a friend in sight. And you might understand why she would want to stare down a House panel and say, emphatically, “I have not done anything wrong.”

The people I know in government staff jobs and civil service positions are dedicated and honest. Most of them could make more in the private sector. You can’t buy one of these people a sandwich without running up against conflict-of-interest rules.