The Long View 2002-01-23 The Sins of the Father

I would describe John as a cautious fan of George W. Bush. While this surely will mark him as suspect in many eyes, since W was widely despised, the reasons for John's assessment are unique. For instance,  he felt that we would have had a war with Iraq eventually because of a de facto state of war due to the no-fly zones we had been enforcing combined with Saddam Hussein's intransigence. Thus, which pretext it ended up being was simply a detail, because some crisis or another would eventually force the issue no matter who was in office. And John rather disliked Reagan, the patron saint of modern Republicans, so it wasn't simply a matter of John rooting for the home team. John appreciated W for things that are forgotten, while the real reasons people should hate W, like his responsibility for the housing bubble of 2007-08, have been flushed down the memory hole.

The Sins of the Father

The Enron corporation was a platitude with creative accounting. A broker in energy and data band, it swelled to awesome dimensions by leverage and the multiplication of legal fictions; it went "poof" when prices tumbled. In one form or another, this kind of thing happens so often that it isn't interesting. The particular variation this time involved lax accounting rules, paper mache' partnerships and off-balance-sheet liabilities, but these twists add nothing to the cautionary-tale predictability of the affair. Nonetheless, members of the chattering classes of the United States have been seen rebuking themselves in public for having failed to discern the cosmic significance of this very boring story when it first appeared last year.

The mere size of Enron is part of the explanation for this morbid fascination. Another factor is the falling-elevator feeling the story gives to those people whose retirement plans rest on 401k accounts. (Sure the Enron employees who had only Enron stock in their accounts did not diversify, but they were objects of envy just 18 months ago.) Still, the real reason for the interest is that Democrats in general and liberals in particular fervently desire an equivalent to the Whitewater Scandal, the one running gag of the Clinton Administration suitable for a general audience. That murky business deal, involving no great amount of money, became the license for investigation after investigation, in Congress and in the press, year in and year out. If you were a sufficiently partisan Republican, it was wonderful. Sufficiently partisan Democrats today, in Congress and the media, believe that there must be comparable embarrassments among the numerous connections to Enron that so many members of the Bush Administration have. In fact, they insist on it.
Things are different today. When increasingly desperate Enron executives called the high officials of George W. Bush's Administration, their pleas for a bailout were rejected.

Despite their political connections, Enron didn't get a bailout from W. Of course, the later bailout of AIG and other financial institutions was arguably his fault, but who remembers that?