History repeats itself, Karl Marx
famously observed, first as tragedy, then as farce.
Like most Marxist dogma, it won't stand much skeptical scrutiny. Take the Bush
administration, for example, tragedy or farce?
Judging by the president's wary expression
during his recent speech calling for $87
billion to rebuild Iraq--enough to fund Medicare for two years, or pay the salaries of
1,740,000 teachers, cops or firefighters at $50,000 per annum--Bush himself clearly
has no clue. Except that submitting the bill wasn't as cool as swaggering across an aircraft
carrier flight deck to pronounce "mission accomplished" in a tailored aviator costume.
Polls show that with budget deficits approaching
a record $500 billion, Americans are
reeling from sticker shock. Indeed, Bush did such a bad job that Vice-president Dick
Cheney emerged from his lair to make what a Los Angeles Times editorial called "sweeping,
unproven claims about Saddam Hussein's connections to terrorism" on "Meet the Press."
In another sign opinion is turning, the Washington Post gave front page space to an article
demonstrating that much of what Cheney said was either factually false or sheer speculation.
But what really appeared to irk Cheney were
suggestions that multibillion dollar, no-bid
contracts in Iraq awarded by the Pentagon to his old company, Halliburton, may have had
something to do with political influence. After cashing in $30 million worth of Halliburton
stock options upon assuming the vice-presidency, Cheney says he has taken no further
interest in the corporation's fortunes. He described as "political cheap shots," any suggestions
to the contrary. "Nobody has produced one single shred of evidence that there's anything
wrong or inappropriate here," he said.
What's more, and this is where the story
diverges into sheer slapstick, there's not much
chance that Pentagon investigators ever will. Newsweek reports that none other than
L. Jean Lewis, the preposterous GOP heroine of congressional Whitewater hearings, has
been named chief-of-staff of the Defense Department's inspector general--an agency with
1240 employees and $160 million budget whose task is auditing Pentagon contracts for
waste and fraud. It's a $118,000 a year job for a woman who once peddled "Presidential
BITCH" t-shirts and coffee mugs mocking Hillary Clinton out of her government office at
the now-defunct Resolution Trust Corporation.
Apparently Lucy Ricardo was unavailable
for the job. When last seen publicly, Lewis was
being half-carried out of a 1995 Senate hearing after fainting when Democrats began to
question her about a letter by Little Rock's Republican U.S. Attorney Charles Banks
refusing to initiate a September 1992 investigation of Bill and Hillary Clinton's Whitewater
dealings for which she'd presented no credible evidence. "[T]he insistence for urgency in
this case," Banks had written "appears to suggest an intentional or unintentional attempt to
intervene into the political process of the upcoming presidential election."
Having prosecuted Jim McDougal's handling
of Madison Guaranty Savings & Loan, Banks
knew perfectly well what Kenneth Starr eventually spent six years and $70 million dollars
proving: the Clintons were, if anything, the pigeons in McDougal's flim-flams. He added
prophetically that media coverage of the kind investigation L. Jean Lewis was frantically pushing
tended to "'legitimize what can't be proven,'" adding that "I cannot be a party to such actions."
Both Banks' letter and Lewis's nationally-televised
comic opera swoon, it will be recalled,
went unreported in the New York Times and Washington Post, the two newspapers most
deeply committed to the bogus scandal she helped them conjure out of thin air. It says a lot
about today's Republicans that Banks' principled action in the face of the first Bush White
House's covert efforts to convene an "October Surprise" probe of the Democratic nominee
probably doomed his chances for a federal judgeship.
Documents showed that Lewis and like-minded
RTC colleagues spent thousands of man-hours
probing Madison Guaranty, ignoring Arkansas S & L collapses ten and twenty times larger in
their futile quest. But if getting Whitewater upside-down disqualified a person from employment,
half of official Washington and most of the city's name-brand journalists would be out of work.
Of much greater concern was Lewis's bizarre
testimony. Under oath, she swore the "Presidential
BITCH" T-shirts signified no political bias, and that she personally didn't mind being called a bitch.
Before both House and Senate comittees she denied pressuring Justice Department officials to act
before the 1992 election. But FBI agents and prosecutors testified that she'd hounded them
repeatedly and made melodramatic statements about "altering history." Contemporaneous
documents proved it.
Lewis also secretly recorded conversations
with colleagues, misrepresented their contents, then
swore that a defective tape-recorder had magically turned itself on. Senate investigators proved
she'd actually used a brand new machine, and turned the matter over to Kenneth Starr for
investigation. But you know what happened to that.
So rest easy, taxpayers, L. Jean Lewis is
on the job.
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