Here at SteynOnline every cutting-edge pop culture reference has to be at least three-quarters of a century old. So, watching the IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, I found him a dead ringer for Guy Kibbee, the beaming befuddled sugar daddy who was a mainstay at Warner Brothers in the early Thirties. Mr Koskinen is a Democrat sugar daddy who has given generously to his party since the Seventies: He's not the kind of sober civil servant you'd appoint if you were looking to signal to America that King Barack's revenue collectors are cleaning house and returning, chastened, to their previous role as a boringly non-partisan nest of punitive auditors. If you suspected that the Administration's plan was to stonewall until things die down and it was safe to resume ruining the lives of its opponents, Koskinen's performance in recent days would have more or less confirmed it.
On his previous appearance before Congress, the IRS Commissioner gave false testimony. As he has now conceded, he has known since February that Lois Lerner's and other officials' emails were "lost" and "irretrievable". Gone, forever, and the hard drives destroyed. Yet the following month he was asked by Trey Gowdy why the IRS was taking so long to cough up the requested emails, and said that it was because they had to be "screened".
That was a lie. He knew as he said those words that "the problem wasn't that the IRS needed more time to screen emails; the problem was that IRS didn't have the emails".
That false testimony may partially explain why Congressman Gowdy wasn't in the mood for a repeat performance yesterday. Click and enjoy:
I enjoyed watching Congressman Gowdy elicit from Commissioner Koskinen that when he declared that there was "no evidence of criminal wrongdoing", he didn't actually check any statutes. But isn't the Commissioner doing what IRS agents do every day of the week? The IRS is its own law enforcement agency: judge, jury and executioner. If it decides you've done something wrong, it garnishes your wages, takes out a lien on your house, or freezes your kid's bank account - all without due process. If Koskinen has the power to convict Mrs Gladys Scroggins of 47b Elm Street of a crime, why blame him for assuming he has the power to absolve Lois Lerner of one? As I wrote over a year ago:
I am an immigrant to this great land, and I love it, but I will make a small observation from my years in the United States which I hope won't be taken the wrong way: Like citizens of almost all Western democracies in the 21st century, Americans are overly deferential to bureaucracy, but, in my observation, they are uniquely fearful of the state's tax collectors to a degree I have never seen with Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs in London or equivalent agencies in Paris, Ottawa, Rome, Canberra. The IRS has, in American terms, extraordinary powers. It was, for example, amusing to see Lois Lerner plead the Fifth Amendment and exercise her constitutional right not to put herself at risk of self-incrimination. As the great Walter Williams pointed out the other day, every single American waives his Fifth Amendment rights every time he signs that tax return on April 15.
That's bad enough. It's worse when the supposedly impartial civil service uses those powers in the service of the ruling party: The merger of party and state is the very definition of "banana republic". And it's worst of all when they get away with it - because it means they'll do it again. Indeed, the subtext of Koskinen's testimony is that he reserves the right to do it again.
I wonder where we'll be after another eight years of this. One of the darker trends of the Obama era has been the remorseless convergence of the Democrat ideologues and the punitive bureaucracy. In that sense, the removal of the Washington Redskins' trademark - their property rights - for disrespecting progressive ideology is a harbinger of things to come.
What a shame this ruthlessness is never extended to ISIS or the mullahs or Putin. But you have to be able to prioritize. America is a eunuch abroad but ever more despotic at home.