In his State of the Union address, George W. Bush played sheriff to a world bedeviled by evil-doers and outlaw nations. It was a cunning cover for the unfolding saga of consummate corporate corruption of American politics, exemplified by Enron’s evil influence in the White House and Congress. The U.S. Chief Executive turned global-sheriff-in-chief, aroused waves of standing ovations from dutiful deputies in a Congress compromised by campaign contributions and cozy connections with Enron and Arthur Andersen. Both sides of the aisle are wary of aftershocks from time-bombs of Enron-like corporate wrong-doing that could explode if finger-pointing hearings are held by members of the House and Senate. Along with similarly situated corporations and the White House, many ranking members of Congress are racing to distance themselves from the ethical evil of Enron.
According to the N.Y Times on February 3, 2002, some of the members of Congress-“Democrats and Republicans alike”— “professing moral outrage over Enron’s collapse” while investigating the causes of the Enron/Arthur Andersen scandal “may need to look no further than the mirror”. The Times reported that corporate lobbyists armed with enormous amounts of campaign contributions, mainly from the accounting industry, used these newly outraged investigators in Congress to successfully push through legislation in 1995 that shielded companies— like Enron—- and their accountants—like Arthur Andersen-from investor lawsuits. These same senior member of Congress, now “outraged” by the $60 billion loss to investors from the Enron/Arthur Andersen scam, also helped defeat a legislative proposal in 2000 that would have outlawed the practice of accounting firms being both consultants and auditors for the same corporation as was the case with Enron/Arthur Andersen. A couple of these “outraged” foxes who are now investigating who ate up the hens they were guarding for “the people” are Rep. Billy Tauzin of Louisiana who received $289,743 from the accounting industry since 1989 and Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut who took $505,453 since’89. At the behest of the accounting industry, Dodd fought for the controversial “tort reform” legislation of 1995 that ended joint and several liability for corporate wrongdoing while he was Chairman of the Democratic Party. Also playing the cynical game was President Clinton who took $450,020 from the accounting industry since ’89, but much more from the trial lawyers who opposed the Gingrich-pushed tort reform measure. So Clinton vetoed the legislation, while the chairman of his party rounded up the necessary votes to successfully override Clinton’s veto.
Incumbent Congressmen have bi-partisan fear of extended media coverage of their campaign contributions and cozy corporate connections that involve a revolving door between corporate America and their Congressional staff members. They have a gnawing apprehension that a lengthy look at their corporate contributions and connections would make it clear to everyone that they try to please the monied interests who pay them the most.. These pompous, paid-for incumbents do not really give a damn about everyday, working class citizens who try to obey the laws and play by the rules.
Offering cover to a corrupted Congress, high sheriff Bush’s call for a never-ending war against evil ones, everywhere, received frequent and thunderous applause from its members. Bush’s Texas drawl and country slick sales pitch for “war” offers the perfect cover for the rich and powerful members of Congress who desperately need a diversion from the Enron environment that was facilitated by their own corporate connections. Sheriff Bush declared an endless man-hunt and state of war against terrorism and described Iraq, Iran and North Korea as an “axis of evil”. His war talk and appeal for enormous increases in military spending drew numerous, bi-partisan standing ovations from Senators and Congressmen. Defense spending is deviously divided up and spread out among their states and districts to generate a pork barrel momentum for military expenditures. So Bush’s saber rattling created an unsettling unanimity for such war making and a continuance of the troubling tradition of go-it-alone U.S. military adventures where partisanship ends at the “water’s edge”. It is troubling, narrow nationalism because everyone in the U.S. has ancestors who came from across the waters, including Native Americans. The United States’ military/defense corporate complex is the most powerful and sophisticated weapons industry in history and Sheriff Bush’s message of fear and retaliation against terrorism and an “axis of evil” nations helps create a willing market for their deadly products. The incumbents in Congress will either appropriate the money to pay for the killing tools from us taxpayers or run a bigger deficit to do so.
Sheriff Bush’s perpetual call-to-arms got very mixed reviews from our European Allies at NATO and the World Economic Forum in New York. At a global security conference at NATO with U.S. officials threatening to go-it-alone against Iraq, a British member of Parliament questioned if Washington would move against Iraq without support from Europe, Egypt and Russia and “would it matter?” A German Legislator said, “It can’t be that you act on your own and we trot along afterwards”, and another said that unilateral action by the United States would cause huge problems. At the Economic Forum, European and other diplomats felt the use of “axis of evil” to describe Iraq, Iran and North Korea was “vivid evidence that a superpower on a roll is now looking for trouble”, according to the N.Y. Times. The Times also reported that foreign economists at the Forum reject the optimism of U.S. officials about the economic recovery of the U.S. economy.
The war hawks in Congress are rallying round Sheriff Bush and have joined his global posse to round up all terrorists and defeat all evil nations. They are mindful of the save-the-incumbents war-time adage of not changing horses in the middle of the stream, so they give the Sheriff standing ovations. They are thankful for the cover as they duck and dodge the Enron/Andersen fallout and raise more money from their corporate chieftains for their own reelections.
Tom Turnipseed is an attorney, writer and civil rights activist in Columbia, South Carolina.