'Phony scandals' and an election year 'demon': Lois Lerner's unconvincing defenders

Judging from an appearance on CNN by former IRS executive Lois Lerner’s attorney, William Taylor III, the embattled former IRS official at the center of the targeting scandal is embracing an argument similar to the White House’s defense of the IRS as a whole: Republicans are on a political witch-hunt.


More accurately, Taylor’s defense of his client is based on the notion that Lerner is the real victim of targeting here.

“She was as upset as anybody else was about the loss of the emails and the other documents which were on their which were quite important to her,” Taylor said of what even Candy Crowley called the “suspicious” disappearance of two years’ of email records.

That claim may fall on some sympathetic ears over at MSNBC where some hosts are already predisposed to see the IRS as true victim in this scandal, but it will take more than that to convince most neutral observers.

Lerner orchestrated a confession of sorts to inappropriate behavior in the form of a preemptive admission of wrongdoing ahead of an IG report on the matter by planting a question at an American Bar Association conference. This is not exactly the behavior of someone who believes their agency’s conduct has been wholly virtuous.

Lerner’s attorney added that the lost emails predate any period of time relevant to the investigation into the targeting scandal, a claim which strains credulity. The emails went missing in a time frame which includes the introduction of BOLO lists focused on tea party signifiers and the period when Lerner was supposedly advised of this practice.


But before you had the opportunity to sympathize with Lerner, Taylor turned to a denunciation of the true villains in this scandal: Republicans.

“You can see why it’s convenient to say there’s a computer crash and therefore it must be something nefarious going on,” Taylor continued.

When reminded by Crowley that Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) called both him and his client liars, Taylor grew beleaguered. “This is election year politics,” he added. “It’s convenient to have a demon that they can create and point to.”

In fact, an objective assessment of the Republicans conduct over more the course of the 14 months since this scandal broke has been relatively apolitical, especially considering that the IRS is charged with executing a partisan vendetta against conservatives. By and large, members have avoided bombast and overreach in pursuit of the facts surrounding the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups. The Republicans’ prudence in concert with the IRS’s improbable self-defense has resulted in a great majority of the country backing the GOP in this matter.

Republicans and Democrats, women and men, blacks and whites, the rich and the poor, the old and the young; according to a recent poll, the vast majority of the public across the political spectrum believe this matter deserves a thorough investigation – one which results in accountability.


Then you have President Barack Obama who joined Taylor in denouncing the “phony scandals” which plague his presidency. “It’s all geared towards the next election or ginning up a base,” he insisted. He and Taylor are speaking to the minority of the minority who are just partisan enough to convince themselves that it is the IRS who are the real victims here.

It sounds to me like it is the president and his allies who are in need an election year demon.

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David Strom 10:00 AM | June 21, 2024