by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Don’t remember Rosemary Woods? Don’t tell anyone who considers Watergate the ultimate political scandal in recent American history.
Still, you might be interested in James Taranto‘s Wall Street Journal column comparing Miss Woods’ notoriety with that of Obama administration IRS functionary Lois Lerner.
The missing emails could be crucial in determining the degree to which other agencies and politicians directed or cooperated with the IRS’s efforts to suppress opposition to President Obama. “Frankly, these are the critical years of the targeting of conservative groups that could explain who knew what when, and what, if any, coordination there was between agencies,” said Camp. “Instead, because of this loss of documents, we are conveniently left to believe that Lois Lerner acted alone.”
Camp notes that the IRS decided to “bury” the claim of lost emails “deep in an unrelated letter on a Friday afternoon.” He isn’t kidding. It appears on the 15th page of the document, which is actually the seventh page of the first attachment to an eight-page letter, addressed to Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Orrin Hatch of Utah, respectively chairman and ranking Republican of the Senate Finance Committee.
The IRS asserts that it has “determined that Ms. Lerner’s computer crashed in mid-2011. . . . The data stored on her computer’s hard drive was determined to be ‘unrecoverable’ by the IT [information technology] professionals.” The agency further claims to have “confirmed that back-up tapes from 2011 no longer exist because they have been recycled.”
We’re not the first to hear echoes of the missing 18½ minutes of President Nixon’s Oval Office tapes. The Washington Post recounted the excuse for the destruction of that evidence in its 2005 obituary for Rose Mary Woods:
Miss Woods, the president’s private secretary, in 1973 was transcribing secretly recorded audiotapes of Oval Office conversations. She was working on a June 20, 1972, tape of a conversation between Nixon and his chief of staff, H.R. Haldeman, that might have shed light on whether Nixon knew about the Watergate break-in three days earlier. While she was performing her duties, she said, the phone rang. As she reached for it, she said she inadvertently struck the erase key on the tape recorder and kept her foot on the machine’s pedal, forwarding the tape.
A photograph taken of Miss Woods re-creating the event, nearly sprawling to do both simultaneously, made her gesture look like a gymnastic feat. Some wags, according to a Washington Post article at the time, dubbed it “the Rose Mary Stretch.”
Woods later testified “that she might have caused a four- or five-minute gap in the tape, but no more,” the Post obit added. “Subsequent investigations concluded that there were five to nine separate erasures, but no one has ever determined what was erased.”
IT professionals from outside the administration say the Lois Stretch is quite a stretch, too. Norman Cillo, identified as “an Army veteran who worked in intelligence and a former program manager at Microsoft,” tells TheBlaze.com that if the IRS is telling the truth, it means the agency is “totally mismanaged and has the worst IT department ever.” According to Cillo, there should be multiple backups, on server hard drives as well as tape.