The way some in the Washington press have been shilling for the
Bush II Restoration, it wouldn't be astonishing to see them turn up on TV
wearing periwigs and flourishing gilded snuff boxes. Only last month, you
may recall, Newsweek's Howard Fineman was gushing over George W. Bush's
exquisite fashion sense: "He's a boomer product of the '60s," Fineman
marveled "but doesn't mind ermine robes."
Alas, His Majesty's single most generous supporter turns out to have
the world's largest bookie joint. It collapsed amid heaps of shredded documents,
taking the jobs and retirement pensions of thousands-the biggest financial scandal
in U.S. history by a big margin. Nevermind that Enron donated $100,000 to pay
for Bush's successful campaign to prevent a Florida recount, placed corporate jets
at his disposal, then ponied up another $100,000 to finance innauguration festivities.
His Majesty's boon companion "Kenny Boy," an overnight White House guest under
George I, got quickly demoted to "that man, Mr. Lay."
Enter Sir Howard, 21st Century courtier. "So far, Enron has done
nothing to tarnish George W. Bush's standing as a very popular leader in
the post 9/11 age," Fineman wrote last week. "There is no indication that
he was was aware of, or interested in, the fate of Enron." Once again the
White House pleads ignorance, and again Bush's famous impatience with
details makes it almost plausible that his secretaries of commerce and
treasury, as well as Chief of Staff Andrew Card--all revealed to be inside
the loop after the first inoperable denials had to be revised--neglected to
inform him that the most powerful company in Texas was going under, taking
40,000 jobs with it. Any other president in living memory would have fired
them all for leaving him in the dark about a political event of such
magnitude, but not Bush.
Even Fineman concedes that Bush's fecklessness could cause him
trouble. But what does the Enron scandal signify? Let Sir Howard explain:
"It signals the arrival of a new issue at the centerpiece of politics:
retirement security for the always self-obsessed and selfish baby boom
generation," he wrote. "As the century began, it seemed the boomers were,
for the most part, headed for Easy Street. The federal budget was showing
mounting surpluses. Politicians were vowing to protect Social Security
funds in a mythical "lockbox." Workers' 401(k)s were bulging with
portfolios of ever-rising stocks."
Pause a moment to let Fineman's disdain for the victims of the
Enron swindle sink in. Their jobs and life savings have vanished thanks to
con men who bought politicians by the boxcar load. (And despite what you
hear, almost 80 per cent of Enron largesse went to Republicans.) Many face
personal bankruptcy and worse. Yet this smug little fop sees it as an
opportunity to work off a grudge against the storied Woodstock generation,
so "self-obsessed and selfish" it seems, as to hope for an old age eating
something besides Alpo over rice. Exactly how many Enron employees attended
the fabled 1969 rock extravaganza in upstate New York, I wonder?
The arrogance of the Washington press clique and its contempt for
the anonymous peasants beyond the Beltway has long been one of this
column's themes. Doubtless some readers think I've overdone it. Granted,
most pundits lack the sublime combination of smugness and stupidity on
display in Fineman's column (available online at msnbc.com/news/690390.asp).
Indeed, some pundits normally friendly to Bush, among them Chris "Hardball"
Matthews and Bob "Capital Gang" Novak, have criticized the administration's
inept handling of the Enron mess.
Even so, Fineman remains as reliable a indicator of the press
clique's growing power-worship and disdain for democratic values as there
is inWashington. During the 2000 campaign, he was one of the most egregious
exponents of the idea that Al Gore's "earth tone" clothing was more
important than the fact that the arithmetic for George W. Bush's
save-the-millionaires tax cuts and Social Security "reforms" didn't add up.
Now he tells us with grim satisfaction that "[t]he triple whammy of
recession, terrorist attacks and Enron collapse have left the boomers--a
cadre of 73 million now beginning to march into the land of early
retirement--suddenly worrying about the finances of their later years."
Bush, Fineman thinks, may have a spot of trouble selling further
tax cuts. No hint that two thirds of the public will never see a dime from
last year's ballyhooed income tax cuts which have turned projected budget
surpluses to deficits for the next ten years. Terrorism and recession have
little or nothing to do with it.
And why, you ask, does Fineman describe the Social Security "lockbox"
"mythical?" Because, fellow peasants, the Boomer in Ermine is spending your
payroll taxes, which supposedly fund it, to pay for tax cuts for multi-millionaire
cronies like the former "Kenny Boy" although Sir Howard and the rest
wouldn't dream of putting it that way.