Jewish World Review July 18, 2002 / 9 Menachem-Av, 5761

Edward I. Koch

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Consumer Reports

Dems should stop trying to 'Whitewater' the President -- A concerted effort is underway to discredit President George W. Bush.

This effort is comparable to the attempts to discredit President Bill Clinton. For a number of years, the refrain of Clinton's opponents was that Bill and Hillary Clinton were guilty of criminal conduct in a real estate enterprise known as Whitewater. Today Bush's opponents are alleging the President made huge profits using inside information when he sold his Harken Energy Corp. stock.

In the Whitewater case, the special prosecutor filed a report seven years after the investigation exonerating Bill and Hillary of any criminal acts. By that time, however, Clinton and many of his governmental appointees had been harassed, hounded, and prevented from giving full attention to their governmental duties, not to mention the enormous legal fees they incurred in defending themselves.

The Whitewater allegations were made by members of the Republican Party in an effort to bring down a Democratic president and his Party or, at the very least, to make Democrats ineffective and vulnerable in the ensuing congressional and presidential elections. In a mirror-image action, the Democrats now seek to do to a Republican president and his Party what was done to them. A majority of Americans, including me, protested the actions of the Republicans, and we now protest what the Democrats are doing. The impact is worse on the country today, because we are at war with an enemy that is bent on killing innocent American civilians around the world. That enemy has already committed hugely successful terror attacks within the United States and in Europe, Africa and Asia.

On the basis of what has been made public regarding the sale of stock held by President Bush, I don't believe that he committed a criminal act. More important than my belief is that he was investigated and cleared of criminal wrongdoing by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Furthermore, his actions were heavily debated during two of his gubernatorial elections in Texas and during his presidential election. The public by its vote concluded that he had committed no crime and elected him in all three elections.

To torture the President further and attempt to impugn his integrity before the world under today's circumstances is harmful to the country. It encourages dangerous enemies like al Queda and terror-supporting countries like Iraq, Iran, Syria and Libya. Other countries like France, Italy, and Germany, which resent our military and economic strength, believe they can pressure a weakened American President to give up his crusade against international terrorism. These appeasers would like to see the U.S. take a tumble on the world stage.

Fifty percent of our population is invested in the stock market and has suffered huge portfolio losses which is a source of understandable anger. Those loses have not occurred because of a weak economy. They are the result of a loss in confidence in America's corporate leadership which, in many cases, has shown venality and criminality. Corporate corruption is and will continue to be the number one issue in the November election as public anger grows. No governmental action to date has calmed Americans' sense of outrage and fear as they see the value of their portfolios and pensions diminish.

I believe confidence will immediately be restored if the average American concludes that our government, from the President to Congress to the Courts, is dedicated to sending corporate white collar criminals to prison and requiring them to disgorge their illegal profits. The most effective and immediate sanction would be to make clear that every effort will be made to indict corporate officers, directors and employees whenever a corporation is indicted for a criminal act.

Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill jokingly said about deceptive CEOs "What they really ought to wear around their neck would transport them to a branch on the highest tree, not the mantle of leadership." While that won't happen, it isn't a bad idea to bring back the tumbrels of the French Revolution and use them to cart off the offenders to prison, even if we

can't under the rubric of "cruel and inhuman punishment" send them to the guillotine. The road to a glorious future for the United States is here if all observe the rule "Thou shalt not steal," and, if you violate the rules, as in the game Monopoly, you do not pass go but go directly to jail.

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JWR contributor Edward I. Koch, the former mayor of New York, can be heard on Bloomberg Radio (WBBR 1130 AM) every Saturday from 9-10 am. Comment by clicking here.

07/11/02: Real Americans and the Islamic threat

© 2002, Edward I. Koch