WASHINGTON – Enron’s Ken Lay has snubbed Congress, bailing on his scheduled public flogging. His sleazy
senior officers have taken the Fifth, while even former officers have played dumb, testifying they didn’t know the company was sinking – even as they dumped their stock – and couldn’t recall signing off on any shady offshore partnerships.
Members of Congress are shocked at their arrogance. Where do they get the nerve?
Well, duh, from America’s last chief executive and all his brazenly corrupt and dishonest staffers, lawyers, former business partners, fund-raisers – and even his wife.
For eight years, Lay and his executives watched as congressional investigators paraded Clinton appointees
and Friends of Bill before the klieg lights and cameras, only to watch them thumb their noses at them.
Dozens fled the country, dodging subpoenas, and many took the Fifth during the nonstop investigative
hearings. Some lied under oath and even lied to their diaries. Those who didn’t were either conveniently struck with amnesia – “I have no recollection of
that, Mr. Chairman” – or comically out of the loop on the scandalous decisions.
And during it all, members of Congress just sat there with their faces flapping, unable (or unwilling) to hold them accountable.
The Clintonistas showed no more respect for, or fear of, federal prosecutors, shredding subpoenaed
documents at the first lady’s old law firm and hiding them in the White House residence. The chief executive of the nation lied to a judge and prosecutors,
perjuring himself over and over. He tampered with witnesses and had subpoenaed evidence stashed.
But in the end, it didn’t matter. The Clintons and their coterie of Ozark crooks simply got away with it.
How? They came to Washington and dared to test the resolve of congressional and federal investigators. In doing so, they exposed their lack of vertebrae. Behind the roars of righteous indignation (Orrin Hatch) lurked little kittens, who scurried back to their offices after the cameras left the room and watched
themselves act tough on TV, purring at their performances (one was so proud, despite his lack of results, he had a giant portrait painted of himself and hung it in his committee room. His name is Dan
It’s plain that executives at Enron and its accomplice, Arthur Andersen, were taking notes during the Clinton years. They saw that the Clinton model of
stonewalling and stiff-arming federal investigators worked, and now they’re applying it. No wonder they’re shredding documents. Why, there’s even a body in this scandal.
These executives are so arrogant, even in the jaws of such a national scandal, because they know they can
eventually wriggle free. They know Washington watchdogs have no teeth. They’re all bark and no bite.
Clinton proved it.
And Lay learned from the master (recall that he and Clinton were golfing partners and also that he and Clinton’s chief of staff, Mack McLarty, are old pals
from the Oil Patch).
You can even argue that Clinton set the tone for the decadence that infected Enron brass. The Clinton lifestyle, even if they didn’t consciously approve of it, no doubt seeped into their psyches. They saw the chief executive of the White House get his “money for nothing” and his “chicks for free.” Why shouldn’t they?
With such a hedonistic president at the helm, is it any wonder that the ’90s surpassed the ’80s in every so-called “greed” indicator? Now, in Enron and others, we’re starting to see some of the corporate games that were played. We’re starting to feel the Clinton
hangover of self-centered, unprincipled, shameless buccaneering.
To be sure, no man, no matter how high the office he holds, is perfect. But if Clinton were a real leader, he would have resigned and not dragged the country
(not to mention his wife and daughter) through the impeachment mess.
Lay is no different.
A real leader would have taken the proceeds from the sale of his homes in Aspen and his millions in stock, and quietly, without any media fanfare, recouped at least some of the losses that his employees suffered in their retirement plans due to his mistakes.
Instead, he, like Clinton, has just looked out for himself.
What’s playing out in this scandal before Congress is a familiar scene to anyone who watched the Clintonistas – from Bruce Lindsey and Bernie Nussbaum
to Maggie Williams and Cheryl Mills – operate.
Here’s a safe bet: No Enron or Arthur Andersen executive will go to the “pokey,” not if they keep
following the Clinton model of wiggling out of a jam.