Jewish World Review March 5, 2002 / 21 Adar, 5762
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com -- I'VE been told to "get a life," "GET OVER IT" and "stop writing about ancient history." I've been told (repeatedly) to go on to something "new," and offered (consistently) the ever-so-helpful suggestion that "the Enron mess" is available for comment.
All this extremely constructive reader-criticism came my way after writing a column about the results of a congressional investigation into an ill-advised exercise in power-flexing known as "Giftgate." This little episode -- as only ancient historians steeped in the progression of the Punic Wars could possibly know -- was the quintessential Clinton scandal that last year transformed the White House into something resembling a busted pinata, with Bill and Hillary scooping up everything that wasn't nailed down or set in concrete, and filling their moving crates like goodie bags on the way out of town.
There. Now I've done it: mentioning Giftgate again, no doubt triggering a new round of primal screams --sorry -- a new round of concerned letters from readers anxious to alert a chap to the futility of brooding over, or, much, much worse, mentioning the Clintonian past. GET A LIFE!!!! Write something new. Write about Enron. (Amazingly, no such missives have suggested the war as an apt subject.)
Writing occasionally about Bill Clinton is a life -- if "life" here is taken to mean something worth doing, despite the occasional bouts of queasiness. After all, the man was our president, among other things, for two entire terms, and his record -- particularly the corrupting self-absorption that weakened a nation in the eyes of its enemies -- has colossal repercussions to this day. And why do these letter-writers think discussing the Clinton era should be verboten? Because some precious piece of the present might languish unreported. (Unless you are a Tokyo textbook historian, this urge to relegate the more unpleasant bits of history to a black hole may not seem entirely logical.) "Write about Enron," they say.
What about writing on Enron and Bill Clinton? There's "ancient history" with a nouvelle twist. Sometime after Big Media concluded that, with Enron having spread the wealth around Democratic as well as Republican circles, the debacle wasn't the Bush administration scandal they had yearned for -- in other words, that the scandal was more of a Wall Street story than a Bush White House story -- a fascinating article appeared.
"The Clinton administration provided more than $1 billion in subsidized loans to Enron Corp. projects overseas at a time when Enron was contributing nearly $2 million to Democratic causes," the Washington Times reported on Feb. 21. "In addition, the administration, which lauded Chairman Kenneth L. Lay as an exemplary 'corporate citizen,' granted about $200 million worth of insurance against political risks" for Enron projects in political hot zones, including the Gaza Strip. These generous subsidies came courtesy of the Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corp., government agencies that have recently provided the Senate Finance Committee with documentation of their support for global Enron projects, including the notoriously defunct Dabhol power plant in India. (Worth noting is that neither the Reagan administration nor the first Bush administration granted any loans to Enron between 1985 and 1992; the first Bush administration provided insurance for an Enron project in Guatemala in 1992.)
You don't need a Greek lexicon to get the message here about the Clinton administration's extremely helpful hand in the rise of Enron. But you might need one -- or maybe a secret decoder ring -- to unscramble this same story from other news accounts. According to the Media Research Center (http://www.mediaresearch.org), a conservative media watchdog group, only one network reporter -- NBC's Lisa Myers, on Feb. 25 -- has mentioned the Clinton-Enron connection, while the press has been barely more forthcoming.
The New York Times, for instance, presented the $1.2 billion worth of government loans and insurance as having materialized from two agencies -- namely, the Overseas Private Investment Corp. and the Export-Import Bank -- and not the administration that set policy for them. Not until the fourth paragraph does the name "Clinton" get attached to this government largesse. The Houston Chronicle buried the Clinton administration's support for Enron even deeper, tagging the subsidies as having come from "Uncle Sam" until the 16th paragraph.
Given this scanty or indecipherable coverage, it's little wonder one of my pen pals told me to nix the Clinton columns ("past history") and turn to the real news of the day -- such as the $1.2 billion in taxpayer-financed loans and insurance Enron received, as the letter-writer put it, from "the Overseas Private Investment Corp." Someone should try to break it very gently that this is a Clinton story,
JWR contributor Diana West is a columnist and editorial writer for the Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.