Cover Story

Bush's Whitewater?

Liberals want to connect the Enron scandal to the White House, but where's the evidence?

Issue: "Enron's collapse," Jan. 26, 2002

Liberal Democrats and much of the big media (but I repeat myself) think they have a scandal with which they can bring down, or at least render ineffective, the Bush administration. It's called Enron (-gate?). ABC's Sam Donaldson is among many network stars who prophesy that the Enron "scandal" will be worse than President Clinton's numerous scandals, one of which led to his impeachment. The war against terrorism has dropped below the newspaper fold and no longer consistently leads the evening broadcast news programs. Reporters, who are eager to do unto Bush what they largely failed to do unto Clinton (hold him properly accountable for his wretched and illegal excesses), are salivating now that they are helping to bring back the politics of personal destruction. The problem for those who love to play this game is that there's nothing there, at least not yet. Administration critics mention the telephone and human traffic between Enron management and members of the Bush administration, as well as political contributions made to the Bush campaigns for president and Texas governor. But, based on what we know so far, neither the president, nor any member of his administration, granted the requests of Enron for the government to step in and help save the company. The fact that Enron has virtually collapsed ought to be proof of that. Some Democrats worry where a full investigation of Enron might lead. They should. Jerry Seper, an investigative reporter for The Washington Times, wrote last Saturday that Enron "sought to use its political clout and deep pockets to curry favor with the Clinton administration for a proposed $3 billion power plant project in India, giving $100,000 to the Democratic Party when the deal was being completed." The Washington Post reported-also last Saturday-that former Clinton administration Treasury secretary Robert Rubin "telephoned a top Treasury official last fall to explore whether the Bush administration could intervene on behalf of Enron Corp. as the giant energy company neared collapse." Even while it attempts to gin up the scandal machine, the vaunted New York Times had to acknowledge on its Saturday front page that despite calls from Enron to the Bush administration's Treasury Department, the "undersecretary did not intervene, his aide says." No one disagrees about the need to bring to justice the people at Enron who are responsible for so many of their employees' losing their life savings because they were prohibited from selling stock while management sold theirs. The disagreement is about whether contacts between Enron and the Bush administration were illegal, immoral, or unethical. With what is known at the moment, they clearly were none of these things. Enron pales when one considers the many scandals-some of them still unresolved-in the Clinton administration. They began with the firings in the White House travel office (orchestrated by Hillary Clinton for her Hollywood buddy, Harry Thomasson, who had an interest in his own travel firm) and ended with an avalanche of pardons granted to such sleazy characters as the fugitive Marc Rich during Mr. Clinton's final hours in office. On your computer search engine, type "Clinton Scandals" and you will have enough reading material to occupy yourself for a considerable period of time. Even if Enron became everything that liberal Democrats and the media are suggesting, it would not approach the sleights of hand perfected in the Clinton administration when it came to selling out American interests to China. Remember Loral? A unanimous and bipartisan report by the House Select Committee on U.S. National Security was released last week. It said Loral "showed [China] how to improve the design and reliability of the guidance system used in [China's] newest Long March rocket." Technology for that improvement was transferred to China on Mr. Clinton's watch. Loral was a big Clinton campaign donor. Remember Chinese campaign cash? Remember John Huang and Johnny Chung? The Wall Street Journal compiled several book-length volumes of reportage and editorials documenting the previous administration's corruption. The New York Times is right about one thing. It would help if President Bush ordered full disclosure of everything everyone knows about contacts with Enron, so long as it does not jeopardize the Justice Department's investigation of the firm. But it is wishful thinking by the left when it believes, in the words of CBS Marketwatch.com executive editor, David Callaway, that "The Enron debacle won't be President Bush's Whitewater. It will be much worse."

© 2002 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

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Cal Thomas
Cal Thomas

Cal, whose syndicated column appears on WORLD's website and in more than 500 newspapers, is a frequent contributor to WORLD's radio news magazine The World and Everything in It. Follow Cal on Twitter @CalThomas.

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