Friday, October 18, 2002

In the middle of the California energy crisis, Dubya's administration consulted closely with industry leaders, including most prominently Ken Lay, chairman of Enron, and declared that the marketplace was functioning just fine, and there was no need for any remedial action.

An Enron senior trader has just plead guilty to manipulating the California market, and made it plain that higher-level Enron executives (so far unnamed) also had a hand in the fraud.

The administration assures the public that the energy industry has exerted no improper influence, and now that a judge has ordered the release of papers from Cheney's Energy Task Force saying who senior staff was actually talking to, the rest of us may get to see how little there was. But then again, maybe not. The administration is seeking suspension of the order, and may appeal, apparently making the somewhat debatable claim that these records are covered by executive privilege.

What's impressive here is how it shows this administration's willingness to take a PR hit for its position on important issues of high principle. Since their hands are spotlessly clean, they could of course just release all the documents and show it --- as Republicans kept demanding of the Clintons in their private business affairs. But no. The sanctity of executive privilege (or at least, the Republicans' interpretation of it) is apparently so fragile that if they waived it in even one instance, it would vanish forever. And so, even though there is nothing in the least bit embarrassing in these documents, the administration cannot allow itself to vindicate Cheney by showing them in public.

Pity them...


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