Here's how the Democrats should play this Enron thing:
(1) Shoot to kill!
Remember Mayor Richard Daley's orders to the Chicago police back in
1968, the bad old days of rioting and street looting? "Shoot to kill."
Democrats should take Boss Daley's words to heart when they talk about
the men who looted Enron.
What inner-city rioters did to retail stores in the late 1960s, the big shots did to Enron. They looted the place.
This is the story Democrats need to repeat until November. They need
to tell it till it hurts,
because only when the media get sated with the story will the country have fully digested it.
(2) Place the blame humbly and smartly on the Republicans.
No party is without its embarrassments. The Democrats have had to defend
some fairly sordid big-city mayors in the past
and some unsavory goings-on in the White House. Certainly, some Democrats got some campaign money from Enron.
That said, the Republicans have a special weakness: a too-easy coziness
with boardroom types, especially oil guys.
Vice President Cheney had Enron to the White House to advise on energy policy. President Bush calls the Enron chief executive officer "Kenny Boy." Texas Sen. Phil Gramm's wife got hundreds of thousands from Enron for serving on its board.
There's one big problem with this cotillion. What's good for Enron's
big boys was not good for America.
It certainly wasn't good for Enron's employees.
(3) Tie it all together.
The 2002 elections are not going to be won or lost on this issue, any
more than the 1980 election was decided by the
Iranian hostage crisis. But like the hostage crisis, Enron's downfall tells you something about the people in charge.
President Jimmy Carter's inability to get the 52 hostages back was a symbol of his inability to meet other national crises,
notably the double-digit inflation and interest rates of the time.
Rather than say the word Enron over and over again, Democrats might take former President Ronald Reagan's example from that 1980 campaign. Instead of exploiting the hostage crisis verbatim, Reagan focused on Carter's weakness in general. Instead of attacking the Republicans for Enron, the Democrats should attack the problem of Enron. They should continue to voice their empathy for the working families who got hurt and anger at those who did the looting. The voters will get the message.
I do not know whether it would be good for the country if the Democrats
gain seats in Congress from this Enron matter.
I do suspect that it's an opportunity for the voters to learn something.
A deep and abiding connection exists between a party's constituents and its positions. Bush and Cheney are oil and gas guys who feel at ease among oil and gas guys. Cheney views an alternative to oil as something of a joke. Bush, like his father, views the Saudi Arabian peninsula as an extension of the Texas and Oklahoma oil patch; in other words, it's ours.
In the case of Enron, we are seeing that oil connection in full view, and we're learning the dangers of keeping fast company. After all, wasn't Bush the President who wanted to encourage stock ownership? Wasn't he the candidate who wanted us to tie up our Social Security in stocks?
So what's he doing hanging out with Kenny Boy and the other looters?