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02/02/2002 Archived Entry: "What? Me Enron? (Ken Who?)"

Kenneth Lay. That name certainly has a new ring to it these days, doesn’t it? Once the protégée of privativsm and productivity, its mere utterance makes accountants want to crawl into their pencil cups. What a difference a bankruptcy makes.

Of course, Mr. Lay need no introduction. He’s an old friend of the Bush family and a business associate of Dick Cheney’s as well as several Bush cabinet members. George W. once affectionately named him “Kenny Boy” – but alas, that too has changed. As the terrible secret of Enron unfolded to the gaping public, Mr. Bush appeared to deny that he knew the man with an uncharacteristic shrug, “Ken who?”

It is fascinating to watch the once mighty crash into a graceless pile of misery, if only there were not so many other not-so-mighty people suffering alongside. Despite Mr. Lay’s newfound hardships, it is difficult to imagine that he will hurt as much as those millions of Americans who lost valuable savings through pension fund investments, or the thousands of Enron employees who lost their jobs, or the hundreds who lost their jobs AND their savings.

Some folks seem to believe that this outrage is a mere hatchling of the biased liberal news media. They contrive preposterous claims that it’s nobody else’s business but Lay, his former business associates (dead or alive), and the bankruptcy court judge. Ah, well then I suppose that explains why Kenneth Starr had to spend $42 million just so that we could learn about Clinton’s perverse use of a female intern as a cigar humidor. We have standards to maintain, you know.

I’m not sure, but I think that the public is driving this one, folks. Doesn’t it tickle your curiosity to know that in his civilian life, Dick Cheney served as the president and chief operating officer of Halliburton – “the world's largest diversified energy services, engineering, and construction company” and a major Enron sub-contractor during the rebuilding of Kuwait after the Gulf War?

Aren’t we also curious to find that Cheney’s successor, Dave Lesar, is formerly from Arthur Andersen? That Lawrence Lindsey, now Bush’s chief economic advisor, and Robert Zoellick, the Federal Trade Representative, were both former advisors at Enron? Oh, and speaking of ‘former’ – there’s another connection to the once respected Arthur Andersen by way of Harvey Pitt, a former Arthur Andersen attorney, now the new chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

And the hits just keep on coming.

Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill’s link to Enron is a bit more sinuous. The former CEO of Alcoa, O’Neill hired, Vinson and Elkins, a major contributor to the Bush campaign and the law firm currently representing Enron and that wrote the legal papers for the fateful “LJM” and Raptor partnerships that ultimately led to the energy trader’s financial doom.

The lines are much clearer with Timothy White, now the Secretary of the Army, formerly a vice-chair at Enron, and Commerce Secretary Don Evans, formerly Bush's campaign finance chairman who squeezed Enron for every campaign dollar he could get his hands on. Don’t forget the former Enron lobbyist who now serves as the chair of the Republican Party, the two former Enron officials who now work for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, and the wife of Texas Senator Phil Gramm who has been sitting on the Enron board of directors for the duration. It’s nice to see that America can still churn out some amazing equal opportunity scandals.

Thank God that Enron never fulfilled it’s dream of deregulating and privatizing other utilities and public works like water (a true proposal). The rate that Enron executives were cozying up to our politicians, it was only a matter of time we would be paying for the air we breathe. I must pause and say that the latter notion is fictional, but who knows how far they would have gone had this elaborate scheme not blown up so spectacularly.

I am a patriot – I wave the flag for every federal holiday, I reflect about the men and women who perished in all the wars before my time – and those who will follow. I owe them my life. I am secretly ashamed that I never had the chance to serve for my country. Although I never talk to my dad anymore, I am proud that he did his bit in Korea and Vietnam.

While we are actually at war now and we need a strong presidential leader, this ‘Ken who?’ nonsense really chaps my hide. Like Clinton, Bush has missed the turn-off to honesty and real statesmanship. He has failed to fess up and come clean with the American people. I’m sorry to say, but this puerile prank is going to cost George Bush – but the real tragedy is that it will likely cost the rest of us as well. -HP

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