Using illegal methods to harm one's political opponents, then lying to cover it up, is serious business, as former President Richard Nixon learned. Claiming records sought by investigators were "lost" accidentally can expose one to ridicule, his secretary, Rose Mary Woods, found out.
But that was then and now is very different. Now, a president using the Rose Mary Woods defense may be about to get away with it.
Nixon resigned the presidency in 1974, as a result of the Watergate scandal. Audio tapes of conversations in the Oval Office were critical in the case against him. But not all the tapes were available. Investigators found an 18 1/2-minute gap in one recording. Woods blamed an error on her part. Few people believed her.
Fast forward to 2014, when some in Congress are upset the Internal Revenue Service was used to harass some of President Barack Obama's political foes.
Evidence in that case is missing, too. But there has been less skepticism this time, despite the fact this situation is far less believable than Nixon's claim.
Investigators want email messages that may confirm a political conspiracy was involved. Much of what they want was generated by former IRS official Lois Lerner, who used her constitutional right to avoid self-incrimination in refusing to answer questions.
Thousands of Lerner's emails have disappeared. IRS officials say they were destroyed when the hard drive on her computer crashed and backup tapes were destroyed. And hard drives on at least six other IRS employees' computers also crashed, destroying evidence.
Where is the outrage over that dodge? Missing, except among a few Republicans and a minority in the press.
It is not acceptable - any more than the IRS would allow the average taxpayer to get away with not providing tax records because seven different computers "ate" them and a backup server was set to delete information every six months.
Nixon was criticized justly for claiming that breaking the law was not a crime if a president did it. Why is the Obama administration being allowed to get away with, in effect, claiming that if a lie comes from it, it should not be treated as a falsehood?