It's all Bill Clinton's fault
   by Gene Lyons

        Let's see now, just short of a year into a Republican presidency,
and we've got a war, a steep economic recession, a return to budget
deficits for as far as the eye can see, and the biggest financial scandal
in U.S. history just heating up. Thank heaven it's all Bill Clinton's
fault. Every bit of it. Indeed, we at Unsolicited Opinions, Inc. propose a
secret Supreme Court tribunal to enact the Blame Apportionment Act of
2001, effective retroactively to the date of the Bush II Restoration.

        Under its provisions, former President Clinton would assume formal
responsibility for every bad thing that happens in or to the United States of
America from January 21, 2001 onward, in return for a codicil limiting Republican
editorialists to attacking him no more than once a week. Now that our long
national nightmare of peace and prosperity is over, as The Onion put it, it's the
least Clinton could do to serve his country. With the former president manfully
serving as an all-purpose national scapegoat, everybody in Washington would be
off the hook. And we might be spared grotesque items like the recent Democrat-Gazette
editorial sneering at Clinton upon the occasion of his dog's death.

        NEXT TIME YOU HEAR some GOP crybaby bleating about the Washington
media's left-wing bias, try this one out on them: Amid the accelerating Enron scandal,
George W. Bush did his dim-bulb best to deflect attention. Last Thursday, the president
told reporters that his single most generous political benefactor, former Enron CEO
Ken Lay, was really somebody else's problem: "He was a supporter of [Texas Democratic
Gov.] Ann Richards in my run [against her] in 1994," Bush said "and she named him the
head of the Governor's Business Council. And I decided to leave him in place, just for
the sake of continuity. And that's when I first got to know Ken, and worked with Ken,
and he supported my candidacy."

        Not to put to fine a point upon it, but this is a barefaced lie. Or would be if you didn't
suspect that Bush's overweening sense of entitlement is such that he honestly can't recall
which of Daddy's friends bought him what when. With its online advantage, the website began correcting the record on Friday. By Saturday,
the Dallas Morning News and Houston Chronicle weighed in. Then Salon. True, Lay did
donate $12,500 to Ann Richards' campaign in 1994. Except that he, his wife, and Enron
execs gave Bush more than $146,000. Last year, Lay told PBS's "Frontline" that he
supported Bush in 1994, unanimously confirmed by Texas political operatives.

        In June 2000, the Enron honcho Bush calls "Kenny Boy" told the New York Times
that the two first became friendly in the late 80s when they both raised money for the
George H.W. Bush presidential library. They got closer when Lay chaired the host
committee for the 1992 Republican National Convention in Houston. Altogether, Lay
steered $650,000 in Bush's direction over the years, more than twice the amount involved
in the Whitewater real estate investment of legend and song. For eight years, the press
scrutinized every syllable Bill and/or Hillary Clinton spoke about that like Bible scholars
poring over the Dead Sea Scrolls-all to no end.

        So you'd think Bush's big whopper about a man at the center of a corporate flameout
involving roughly $90 BILLION, thousands of defrauded employees and stockholders, and rife
with evidence political cronyism would get the left-leaning Washington press all hot and bothered.
You'd be absolutely wrong. To date, the Washington Post has not seen fit to report it at all
(and neither has the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.) The New York Times stuck Bush's falsehood
back in the business section, perhaps a reflection of what columnist Paul Krugman says is the
disgust of establishment-oriented business reporters at the massive sleaze they've encountered.

        When the bigfoot newspapers soft-pedal a political story, of course,
so do the TV networks. For all intents and purposes, Bush got away clean.

        IT'S NORMALLY MY policy to let "Voices" readers have their say.
A sad event last week, however, shed light on what one knucklehead wrote
recently about my habit of quoting others, a sign of intellectual weakness,
he thought. Actually, it's the opposite, as noted author Stephen Ambrose
learned to his rue after several of his best-sellers were shown to contain
lengthy unattributed passages lifted intact from earlier books. A professional
historian with a Ph.D., Ambrose had to know precisely what he was doing.
This is one on which I'm a no-alibis hardliner. Slate's David Plotz got it exactly
right: "The plagiarist is, in a minor way, the cop who frames innocents, the doctor
who kills his patients. The plagiarist violates the essential rule of his trade. He steals
the lifeblood of a colleague. A few paragraphs have made Stephen Ambrose a vampire."

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