Thursday, November 14, 2002

Remember the "Clinton rogues' galleries" which conservatives throw around, listing various disreputable people who were associated with Clinton by, for example, doing business in Arkansas while he was governor? They came to mind when I saw the recent tut-tutting in the press about Janet Rehnquist, the Bush appointee who is raising eyebrows around town by, among other things, delaying politically inconvenient investigations, ousting career civil servants with stellar reputations, and keeping a pistol in her office for target practice. (I'm not a bit worried that Dubya's political appointees will have total hire-and-fire authority over Homeland Security appointees --- surely they'll use it responsibly. Not a bit!)

So, what would a Bush rogues' gallery look like? I'm a bit rushed this week, so it can't be anywhere near complete, but here's a start:

  • George W. Bush, President of the United States. Failed businessman whose businesses kept getting rescued by people with family connections. (Gee, do you think they were currying favor with Dad?) His dealings with those businesses included loans straight out of the company till (a practice which has since acquired very ill favor), and a case of obvious insider trading which the SEC, then controlled by his father's administration, somehow declined to seriously investigate.
  • William Rehnquist, Janet's dad, and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, who put Dubya into power, with an unsigned per curiam opinion which proclaims its own legal unsoundness by declaring itself to have no value as a precedent. Almost certainly lied at his confirmation hearing; is widely rumored, as a political operative, to have chased black voters away from the polls.
  • Richard Cheney, Vice President of the United States. As head of Halliburton, sold drilling equipment to Iraq during the 1990s, while Saddam Hussein's regime was no better than it is today (using a French subsidiary to avoid raising eyebrows). The company also adopted highly questionable accounting schemes on his watch.
  • Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense. Under the Reagan administration, opened the trade office to Iraq, then ruled by Saddam Hussein, whose regime was no better than it is today. That trade assistance ultimately included bacterial cultures of immense use to someone trying to jump-start, say, a bioweapons program. Participated in Reagan's tacit support for Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war as Reagan's middle east envoy, as the Reagan administration was soft-pedaling reports that Iraq might have used chemical weapons against the Iranians or its own citizens (both since confirmed).
  • John Poindexter, head of the Information Awareness Office at the Pentagon, which is currently trying to build a computer system which would profile Americans' private lives, having full access to, among other things, airline tickets and credit card receipts. Clearly has the moral standing to avoid using this Snoopatronic wonder for, say, blackmail, as his conviction on four felony counts of lying to Congress about his illegal arms sales to Iran was overturned on a technicality.
  • Kenneth "Kenny Boy" Lay, head of Enron. While Enron was a going concern, Lay exercised immense influence over federal energy policy --- among other things, recommending new commissioners to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, one of whom became chairman when, due to a policy dispute with Lay, Dubya's original FERC chair got bounced. Dictated Dubya's response to the California energy crisis, which served Enron at the expense of millions of Californians. Then saw his company exposed as one of the most massive frauds in the history of modern finance.
  • Thomas White, Secretary of the Army, and former head of the Enron department which executed the trading schemes that bilked California.
  • Otto Reich, Assistant Secretary of State for Latin American Affairs. Ran an illegal propaganda shop in the Pentagon during the Reagan administration; more recently, has denied involvment with the abortive coup against the elected government of Venezuela, despite State Department contacts with the plotters and an apparent foreknowledge of the events.
  • Harvey Pitt, former head of the SEC. During the 1990s, was a strong advocate of loosening controls on corporate fraud. During Dubya's administration, was harshly criticized for his ineffectiveness in dealing with the ensuing wave of corporate fraud. How could anyone have guessed?

To which we can now add Janet.

It's just a start, but they've only had two years. There is the real prospect now that after a few more years, we may have a list of questionable activity whose magnitude at least approaches, say, the billing irregularities at Hillary Clinton's old law firm...


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