Friday, November 08, 2002

Dubya said he'd "change the tone in Washington". And he has.

During Clinton's term, Washington was dominated by a discussion of Clinton's supposedly shady business deals. Not that anyone was able to exhibit a shred of evidence that Clinton had done anything improper, even after Ken Starr spent years turning over every stone in Little Rock --- but you knew there had to be something in there someplace, because he was a hick from Arkansas who'd gotten himself elected president, and Sally Quinn turned up her nose at him. Now, with Dubya in the White House, we have a President with plenty of shady business in his own past, starting with the long-suppressed evidence of his insider trading which was buried in SEC files when his father was President --- but nobody's talking about it, because he's socially compatible with the Georgetown set, and because Democrats just don't do that sort of thing. Success!

For a study in this ethic at work, consider the case of William Webster. He has been nominated to head an oversight board with a mandate to clean up the accounting profession --- even though, as the head of the audit committee for U.S. Technologies, he fired an auditor which was trying to tell him about accounting irregularities at the firm. (He says they were fired for taking too long to complete the audit. They say the audit was going long because of the irregularities, and they told him so. And they've got the phone records to prove it).

The guy who nominated him, Harvey Pitt, is already out of a job, in large part because he knew about this little problem --- Webster had been at pains to tell him about it --- and neglected to inform his colleagues at the SEC. But, even though Pitt just got bounced for his mishandling of this nomination, the nomination itself is apparently still alive. Dubya himself said at his press conference yesterday that he was waiting for further reports before deciding to take any action --- which, when translated from Standard Bureaucrat to English, comes out as "Let's wait a month and see if this fuss doesn't go away". Why?

... one fact is irrefutable, he's a decent man. He served the country well. And I know he can do that job.

"Decent man" meaning member of the club, socially compatible with the Georgetown set.

Consider that in contrast to Clinton's treatment of his own controversial nominees --- Lani Guinier, say, who got slandered by the opposition (she didn't, and never has, advocated quotas), and didn't even get a chance to defend herself before she got bounced --- and you'll realize just how much Dubya has in fact changed the tone in Washington.

By the way, the first draft of the Times article, up last night, the quote from the press conference had Dubya saying, as quoted above, "I know he can do that job". Those words are absent from the story as presently shown on the Times' online front page, though they're still present in the Times' excerpted transcript of the press conference, and Dubya is not only audible but emphatic about saying them at about 38:30 in the NPR audio of the conference. Odd, that.


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