Jewish World Review Jan. 30, 2002/ 17 Shevat 5762


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Temporary freeze-out -- SO Dick Cheney still refuses to turn over the records of his energy task-force meetings last spring, offering the entirely reasonable explanation that such a capitulation would compromise all private sessions in the future.

The reclusive Vice President said on Sunday's Fox News Sunday: "As a result of the Enron corporate collapse, some of the Democrats on the Hill are trying to re-energize this and try to turn it into some kind of political debate with respect to Enron. But what's really at stake here is the ability of the president and the vice president to solicit advice from anybody they want in confidence-get good, solid, unvarnished advice without having to make it available to a member of Congress."

He added, on ABC's This Week, "Now, the fact is, Enron didn't get any special deals. Enron's been treated appropriately by this administration."

It's a high-risk gamble: I admire Cheney sticking it to the General Accounting Office (which is threatening to sue the administration), and that slimebag Rep. Henry Waxman in particular, but the political fallout for the White House might be disastrous if the public's semi-fascination with the Enron swindle lasts more than a couple of months. Of course, a recovering economy would make the public forget all about the little old ladies from Houston who lost, as the media's reminded us 100,000 times, their life savings because of Kenneth Lay's rapacious last-minute looting of the company. Now, if Enron employees had taken a more active role in checking their portfolios from time to time, instead of treating the 401(k) benefit as a don't-worry-be-happy perk, not as many would've gotten burned.

But that would've required responsibility, a word that doesn't have the pizzazz of schadenfreude, and as a result has been blotted out of American dictionaries.

At this point, it's useless to try to fight the frenzy inside the Beltway-unless you want to catch a vile strain of hypocrisy flu.

So I'll bend over and pretend to enjoy it when campaign finance reform is passed sometime this spring. Yes, it's a rape of the First Amendment-especially when newspapers like The New York Times and Washington Post, which stand to gain even more power over political debate, won't be handcuffed like the NRA or Sierra Club-but what can a disgusted boy do, 'cept to sing for a rock 'n' roll band? If I were two decades younger I might hang out in Brooklyn and not even worry about the nonsense written about election-year politics in mares-eat-oats publications like The New Republic, The American Prospect and the Microsoft-subsidized abomination Slate.

Mind you, I realize that whatever version of "reform" that's agreed upon by Ethics Superiors Marty Meehan, John McCain, Chris Shays and Russ Feingold, it's the GOP that'll reap the advantages. Republicans are far better at collecting hard money, both in very small sums and those that hit the legal limit (currently $1000, but that's bound to be raised, further vexing the Democrats once they realize what's actually happened). It's still wrong: as The Wall Street Journal's John Fund pointed out, the campaigns of Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern, among others, would've been mere ideas under current campaign laws.

And has anybody figured out the disconnect between the Democrats' desire for "reform" and DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe's front-loading of the 2004 primaries that'll result in the nomination of the candidate who raises the most money by the summer of 2003?

Ready for the return of Al Gore? Or do you prefer the pious John Kerry?

JWR contributor "Mugger" -- aka Russ Smith -- is the editor-in-chief and CEO of New York Press ( Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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© 2002, Russ Smith