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Jewish World Review March 27, 2001 / 3 Nissan, 5761

Bill O'Reilly

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Consumer Reports

Don't tell, don't ask -- RIDDLE me this: What do Jesse Jackson, Alan Greenspan and Attorney General John Ashcroft have in common? Yes, they are all Americans, and yes, they don't want you to know what the heck they are doing.

Jackson has been giving a series of interviews attacking journalists, including your humble correspondent, for daring to question his tax-exempt finances.

It took me a year and a half to get tax returns from Jackson's nonprofit "Citizenship Education Fund." When the returns from 1998 and 1999 finally arrived, nobody was listed as making more than $50,000 a year. But now it has come to light that Jackson's mistress, Karin Stanford, was paid $120,000 a year by the CEF.

The reverend and his lawyers say this was just an "oversight," and lots of people file amended tax returns. That's true. But how many people pay their girlfriends 120 big ones from a tax-exempt education fund?

Alan Greenspan doesn't want us to know why he didn't cut interest rates last fall and why Wall Street tanked when he cut a half point last week. Mr. Greenspan isn't real fond of answering questions from regular people. Yeah, he'll go up to Congress and "testify," but try and ask him a simple "how come" question, and you'll get a big wave of the hand as he breezes on by you.

That great champion of journalistic freedom, Al Gore, invited Mr. Greenspan to speak in his journalism class at Columbia last week. Greenspan has no room on his schedule for press conferences, but he took the time to travel from Washington to New York to be with Al and the students.

However, when those students began asking Greenspan about the economy (and they didn't even use the word "stupid"), Gore cut them off. There would be no specific questions from students of journalism in Al's class. No way. Mr. Greenspan was not there to actually talk about the real world -- he was there only to talk about theory.

I bet that was worth every penny of the Ivy League tuition those students are paying. Attorney General Ashcroft also does not want to answer pointed questions. He has learned well from his predecessor Janet Reno. Whenever Mr. Ashcroft is asked about an important investigation like the pardon deal, he says he can't comment. But Justice Department guidelines say he certainly can comment on the size and scope of any investigation and what the important issues of a case are. The only thing he can't comment on is a specific piece of evidence or an investigative technique.

Janet Reno was brilliant at never commenting on anything, and Americans never knew exactly what she was up to until a building burned down or guys with machine guns grabbed a 6-Year-Old. Even after those occurrences, Janet really couldn't say much because, well, whatever is there to say?

The only time Reno answered questions about Elian Gonzalez was on "Oprah," and I believe the questioning centered around what kind of cereal he preferred once he was forced into federal custody.

Are you getting the picture here? We are living in a time where no one wants to be held accountable for anything. Jesse Jackson doesn't feel the need to explain why his mistress is getting big tax-exempt dollars, and you have some big ideological nerve asking about it. Alan Greenspan isn't going to tell us what the hell happened to our 401Ks. Why should we have the right to know that? He didn't want to cut interest rates last fall, so what's it to ya? He has better things to do than explain crucial decision-making to the masses.

And John Ashcroft has a sworn duty to protect Americans from any information that might lead them to actually believe that alleged government corruption is being aggressively investigated. In the year 2001 we have a right to know -- nothing. And that's fine with millions of Americans. Hillary Clinton won a Senate seat while never engaging the press at all. Hillary wouldn't even hold "off the record" briefings. Why should she answer questions when she can issue a "statement"? Those statements are great because they really stick it to those demented people who might want to ask an annoying follow-up question.

Failing to level with the people has become a non-partisan event. Famous and powerful people from all walks of life are now hanging pictures of Denise Rich on their office walls as they embrace the philosophy of the Fifth Amendment. Not commenting has become a way of life for many of our public servants.

I'm teed off about it, and I am trying to rally others to the cause. Silence may be golden to the powerful but it is dangerous to the republic. What you don't know can, indeed, hurt you.

JWR contributor Bill O'Reilly is host of the Fox News show, "The O'Reilly Factor," and author of the new book, The O'Reilly Factor: The Good, the Bad, and The Completely Ridiculous in American Life. Comments by clicking here.


03/20/01: Greenspan with envy
03/13/01: Clinton and Jackson
03/07/01: All that's left in America
02/27/01: The Letterman experience
02/20/01: Bread and circuses
02/06/01: How the Clintons do it
01/30/01: The Bush dilemma
01/24/01: I have been investigating Jackson's finances for the past two years
01/17/01: Sifting Ashcroft's record

© 2001 Creators Syndicate