Friday, January 11, 2002

ECONOMIST PICKS UP ENRON: Their point is regardless of whether or not there's been any wrongdoing, appearances alone may hurt the Bush administration:

Whether the Bush administration can ride out the controversy will depend to some degree, of course, on whether there was any wrongdoing on the part of Mr Bush or other officials. But even in the absence of proven wrongdoing, the affair could still turn out to be uncomfortable, and prolonged. It contains elements of a classic political scandal. A huge company based in Mr Bush’s home state of Texas and led by his biggest campaign contributor files the biggest bankruptcy in American history. A small group of top executives sell shares before it collapses. At the same time thousands of employees are barred from selling, and lose not only their jobs but their life savings and pensions as well. Meanwhile there are revelations of frequent contacts between the company and top administration officials.

The problem for Mr Bush is that even if all these contacts turn out to be completely proper, the Enron case still embodies many of the doubts that Americans have about him: that he is too close to Big Business (and the energy industry in particular); and that his concerns are not the concerns of normal Americans. This is the president whom last summer Democrats were skewering for his desire to open up Alaska's oil fields supposedly “for his friends in Houston” and for allegedly letting industrialists put arsenic into drinking water.

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