I Made a New Word LXV

Lerner-itis (n.)

Mental illness triggered when the patient finds other people are forming opinions about him that he doesn’t like.

The patient starts to behave irrationally, handing out orders to people about what to think and what not to think.

The reasoning seems to be, since the subject of concern is the reputation of the patient, that reputation becomes the property of the patient, and the patient should be able to mold it and shape it as he pleases. Of course, to find oneself at the center of controversy or criticism and to be unhappy about it, is only natural. But mentally rugged and healthy people respect the opinions of others. Lerneritis seems to come from an inability to acknowledge that other opinions might endure, even if the subject of those opinions doesn’t happen to like them.

We got a glimpse of Lerneritis when Lois Lerner, Director of the IRS’ tax-exempt department, testified before Congress about singling out conservative organizations applying for the tax-exempt status. Or…didn’t.

Lois Lerner might win the legal battle but she’s prolonging the political war.

Instead of simply taking the scorn of lawmakers for a day, repeatedly invoking the Fifth Amendment to avoid self-incrimination, and then moving on, she chose defiance.

And her bravado has prompted House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) to say she has waived her constitutional right to not comment.

Now, he plans to haul the director of the IRS’s tax-exempt department back to the committee for questioning.

“When I asked her her questions from the very beginning, I did so so she could assert her rights prior to any statement,” Issa told POLITICO. “She chose not to do so – so she waived.”

Lerner shocked the committee room in the opening moments of Wednesday’s hearing by delivering an opening statement denying any wrongdoing and professing pride in her government service.

“I have not done anything wrong,” said Lerner, who triggered the IRS scandal on May 10 by acknowledging that the agency had singled out conservative groups applying for tax exemptions. “I have not broken any laws. I have not violated any IRS rules or regulations, and I have not provided false information to this or any other committee.”

Beyond that, she refused to answer the committee’s questions, immediately triggering a debate among panel members over whether she had just voided her Fifth Amendment rights.

After that, the article linked strays into legally murky territory. And I’m not a lawyer. Then again, that wasn’t a trial. At any rate, it seems we’re about to learn something about the Fifth Amendment. I’m glad to see there’s an amendment in the Constitution that the Obama administration happens to like.

Had some wisdom to share about this mental illness, yesterday, on this issue over at the Hello Kitty of bloggin’

I have noticed a certain behavior in some people for awhile, aptly represented in Ms. Lerner’s comments about her taking the fifth, and having done nothing wrong, et al.

It has to do with the person’s reputation. The thinking seems to be, “since it’s my reputation, that makes it my property, and people should think only the things about me I want them to think. I can simply order them not to think about all the rest.” Which, of course, is not really the way it works…

I’ve also said before that, as an advanced civilized society, we do a great job of “diagnosing” certain mental ailments where they don’t actually exist, and failing to diagnose things that arguably are real illnesses. This would be an example of the latter. You have to be mentally ill, on some level, to think you can simply order people to have the perceptions of you that you want them to have.

If we could simply start diagnosing this illness, and start extrapolating patterns and trends, we might find the afflicted represented disproportionately among persons who have achieved some measure of authority and power, but not all of the authority & power they want. And they are at the extreme ends of the power spectrum: directors of units within agencies that award, deny and revoke tax-exempt status, and other people who have hardly any power at all. But in all cases, wanting more. Guarding the personal reputation with a bit too much jealousy. Unhappy, unfulfilled.

Yeah, I’m not sure you can cut it that way legally. It certainly doesn’t work, out here, in the world of reason and common sense: “I’ve done nothing wrong, and I refuse to answer any questions.” Which is it?

Cross-posted at House of Eratosthenes and Rotten Chestnuts.

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