Lowell Phillips: Enron As A Way Of Life

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Things have changed significantly in Washington D.C. over the past year, very much to the dismay of the Democrat Party and the liberal media establishment. It had started out promisingly enough. The highly contentious, hotly debated circumstances that brought George Bush into the White House held the prospect of crippling the new administration for the duration of what was certain to be a one-term presidency. The commonly held perception of Bush as a pampered rich kid and intellectual lightweight made him look as tantalizing a target to the left as a 20-year-old intern to former President Clinton. And though the economic slowdown had started long before he took office, the well-established pattern of presidents getting credit or blame irrespective of actual responsibility made a Democrat landslide in the mid-term congressional elections a virtual certainty.

The opening months of Bush´s term had gone quite well. Democrats, shaking off their hypocrisy, openly courted Senate Republicans to change party affiliation and succeed in "undoing the election results" of 2001 by giving them control of that congressional body. The stage was then set for them to invoke the time-tested and nauseatingly effective tactics of casting all Republicans as enemies of the common man and servants of the rich. The administration´s connections to the evil energy industry positioned them nicely for vilification as ravagers of the environment and manufacturers of California´s energy troubles. The reality that it was decades of socialist-inspired, anti-capitalist leadership that had created the state´s distress was cast aside with characteristic effortlessness.

But in spite of all this promise and the left´s rosy expectations for the future, along came September 11th and the party came to an abrupt end. With President Bush´s approval ratings hovering steadily at a dizzying height, the world has become just a bit confusing. And, as such, they are unlikely to relinquish their death grip on Enron anytime soon.

After nearly a decade of the Clinton Administration and successfully peddling the notion that a president´s personal character was unimportant, many have been left dumbfounded by the weight given to the perception of Bush´s honesty. But a grasp of the concept is less important than understanding that the way to get to Bush is to target this aura. The effort was recently made official with the release of a memo by James Carville and other Democrat strategists calling on the left to exploit the Enron collapse. Not that any additional encouragement was needed.

From the outset the rhetoric has been misleading, at best. In numerous Democrat statements and countless press stories, the impression has been fostered that the onetime corporate giant had bought the president and his inner circle, and that the Enron house of cards was created with their direct participation. The reality is that the company´s stellar growth occurred under Clinton´s watch and with the direct assistance of his administration. The Clinton White House and the Commerce Department facilitated overseas deals and helped the company to acquire hundreds of millions in federal loans. And it was during that time that changes to SEC regulations took place that made the unholy relationship between Arthur Andersen and Enron possible.

For a president that was supposedly in Enron´s back pocket, Bush seems to have done very little for them. After less than a year in office, Enron came crashing down. Not only did the current administration do nothing to prevent the collapse, they took actions that undermined the favoritism created during the Clinton years. Soon after coming to office, Bush abandoned the Kyoto global warming treaty and rejected Clinton´s eleventh-hour regulation to cap carbon emissions. In addition to putting a dagger into the heart of the US economy these measures would have meant billions to Enron by forcing coal-burning power plants to convert to natural gas; Enron´s bread and butter.

Much has been made of representatives from Enron participating in the creation of the Bush energy policy and their meetings with Vice President Dick Cheney and his staff. In truth, many of these so-called "meetings" included many companies and one would be more accurately described as a conference, with hundreds in attendance. A better question than "Why were Enron reps. there?" would be "Why wouldn´t they have been there?" At the time the company was highly influential and a well-respected force in the world energy market. Leaving them out would have been comparable to excluding General Motors when developing a strategy to help the domestic auto industry.

The refusal of the administration to turn over detailed information, transcripts and accounts of its dealing with Enron execs has created a virtual frenzy amongst Democrats and has helped the media to create the impression that the White House is "hiding something". At the behest of congressional Democrats, the General Accounting Office has taken the unprecedented step of suing the administration in order to obtain the information. The GAO´s argument is that because the offices of the vice president and the energy task force have been funded with federal dollars, the information must be provided. Well, everything within the executive branch, including the Bush bedroom, is funded with federal dollars. By the same reasoning they could demand detailed accounts of the first couple´s nighttime conversations and actions. If the precedent is established that any and every conversation or interaction connected to the presidency is to be subject to partisan and media scrutiny, the institution would cease to exist as an effective branch of government.

The current Democrat demands for information have been compared to the Republican´s requests for information regarding the Hillary Clinton healthcare task force and charges of hypocrisy have been levied. The glaring difference is that, Hillary Clinton was un-elected and unaccountable, and therefore had no right to be operating in such a capacity. Furthermore, she was not entitled to the constitutional protection bestowed upon the executive branch. The fact of the matter is that while most investigations begin with a crime and then search for suspects, congressional Democrats and the press have decided that the Bush administration is loaded with suspects and they are now in search of a crime.

Critics see the Bush administration´s support for energy deregulation as evidence of Enron´s influence. But don´t conservatives generally support such things? Additionally, their reluctance to institute broad price controls to help save California from its self-created energy crisis has drawn accusations. A letter sent by Ken Lay to the Bush White House, requesting the denial of price controls is seen by some as a smoking gun. The presumption is that without the company´s financial campaign backing that such price controls would have been embraced. This, of course, is ridiculous. It was price controls that created the California debacle, and enacting further controls would have only exacerbated the problem, spread the misery and endangered many other companies. Lay´s letter simply asked the administration not to do something that it had no intention of doing in the first place.

In an attempt to sanitize their distorted definitions and their one-sided "quest for justice" Democrats and press operatives have revived the crusade for "campaign finance reform" as a way to prevent future Enron-type debacles. If one chooses to recall, the idea originally gained momentum within the liberal establishment and with John McCain (who are often indistinguishable) when the staggering extent of the Clinton fundraising abuses came to light. The punch line of the Clinton administration´s support for such reform was that it was roughly equivalent to someone being caught running out of a bank with a bag of stolen money in-hand and the alarm blaring, then declaring their desire to make banks more difficult to rob. But I digress.

Contrary to the contention that Enron´s relationship with Bush necessitates a change in the system, as a company source declared: "The lesson from this is that money gets you access, but not results." The insidious image of corporate CEOs notwithstanding, they represent countless millions of employees, stockholders and American economic interests in general. There is no right more significant than that of free speech. The collective petitioning of the government, either directly or through financial means, is inextricably linked to that right. The methods that they employ are no different from those of trade unions, environmental organizations or other "special interest groups". But never let it be said that Americans are not willing to sacrifice constitutional protections based on momentary, and artificially produced, hysteria.

Although Enron mania has been justified by declared concerns for "the little guy" and to defend against future "conflicts of interests", thus far these concerns have not applied to the case of DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe and his $18 million profit from a meager $100,000 investment in the now bankrupt telecommunications company Global Crossing. McAuliffe has long held the ear of Bill Clinton and was one of his most valued media attack dogs. He was also chosen by the former president to head the Democrat Party. During Clinton´s tenure, Global Crossing received a defense contract potentially worth $400 million in a bidding competition that has been called "rigged" by other bidders, which included AT&T Corp, Quest Communications, Sprint and Worldcom.

Not surprisingly, in addition to the lucrative harvest collected by the DNC chairman, Clinton's presidential library received a $1 Million donation from Global Crossing´s Chairman Gary Winnick. The fund was a favorite cause for those who sought pardons from Clinton. The finished monument to his alleged greatness is said to include spacious living quarters for our former chief executive, and the fund has been raided to deal with other Clinton financial concerns.

House Minority leader Dick Gephardt has said that the Bush/Enron situation "can´t pass the smell test". It´s unclear what aroma he and his cohorts detect in that relationship but it cannot possibly be as pungent as that emanating from Clinton and company. Then again, a drive to protect Joe Average and ensure the dignity of our government the Enron case has never been. This is merely a weapon with which to politically bloody the Bush White House. It is unclear how effective this weapon will ultimately be, but here´s hoping that once again the left has underestimate the abilities of George W. Bush. And here´s hoping that I´ve underestimated the ability of the American people to detect political B.S.

-- Cherri's Alter-Ego (alternate@mirror.net), February 07, 2002

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