Friday, July 12, 2002

A study in the liberal press: Consider this Washington Post editorial:

The first substantial question is whether Mr. Bush sold the Harken shares ahead of bad results because he had inside information. He was on the company board, so the insider suspicion is natural. But the Securities and Exchange Commission investigated the case and did not take action, apparently because it could not find firm evidence of wrongdoing. The SEC's chairman at the time was Richard Breeden, a Republican who knew Mr. Bush's father but who was also a renowned enforcement hawk. People who worked inside the SEC during the early 1990s reckon that the organization would have gone after the son of the president if it had had sufficient evidence.

Strangely, the supposed enforcement hawk's agency didn't bother to even interview his boss's son before deciding to scupper the investigation. As to what evidence they might have found if they'd dug harder (at all?), a premium story in reports that Harken president Mikel Faulker wrote a memo to Bush two weeks before the stock sale informing him, among other things, that the company had so little cash in the till that barring outside funding, it might have to shut down entirely, and that potential funders were "nervous".

The basic case here isn't all that much like Whitewater --- at least in so far as the alleged wrongdoing is easily understood, the publicly disclosed evidence is already substantial, and the alleged miscreant made money on the deal.

But if you're pining for a whiff of something Clintonesque, consider how Dubya's defenders are treating the SEC's failure to investigate the insider trading charges. They cite it as an indication that there was no wrongdoing, even though the SEC itself warned his lawyer that the termination of the investigation "must in no way be construed as indicating that the party has been exonerated or that no action may ultimately result".

Now that's parsing...

Thursday, July 11, 2002

Have laptop, will post. Will eventually post something substantial, but I'm still getting set up.

In the meantime, a quick thought:

There are several salient differences between the questionable business dealings of the Clintons and those of, say, Bush or Cheney. First, the current White House occupants were certainly seeking advice from a better (or at least higher) class of advisor; Arthur Andersen may not trump Jim McDougal now, but things were different at the time, as Cheney attested personally on that Andersen promo video.

Which was reflected, in a way, in the outcomes: the Clintons lost money.

But one thing is the same: as we live in a government of laws, not men, these guys can't be allowed to use their occupancy of government offices to shield themselves from the consequences of their actions, as the Supreme Court ruled in the Paula Jones case. To cook up some invented, specious reason for treating this stuff any differently would call into doubt not only the correctness of that decision, but the value of precedent itself --- the basis of the Supreme Court's authority to bind other federal judges.

And they wouldn't want to call that into question for transient, partisan political advantage. Would they?