by Alexander Cockburn
right is whining. Carl Limbacher and his crew complain on the popular NewsMax site that in the two weeks since the Harken story went critical, "the prestige press" (Limbacher's odd phrase, which presumably means he's excluding The National Enquirer) has given the affair 50 times more coverage than it gave the Whitewater deal after the New York Times broke that story on March 8, 1992.
Limbacher moans that Whitewater showed up only 14 times in the wake of the Times story, while from June 28 to July 12 of this year, there have been over 700 stories on the Harken sale.
C'mon, Carl. The reason Whitewater got off to a slow start was because for months, no one could figure out what the New York Times's Jeff Gerth was writing about. Reading any Gerth story is like bicycling through wet sand, but in the case of Whitewater, he surpassed himself. As readers sank up to their armpits in the sludge of Gerth-prose, interest in Whitewater for that electoral year flickered and died. Gerth saved Clinton's ass. Ultimately, Whitewater did make it into the headlines, but in truth, it always lacked sex appeal. There just wasn't that much meat in the stew. Not like Hillary's commodity trades.
Just like those trades, Harken is really easy to understand. Guy (the future-and-hopefully-once president) makes a bundle selling stock in his company, which is going belly up, acting on insider knowledge of the books, and also culled because his dad was in the Oval Office. Guy forgets to tell the SEC.
Same way with Cheney. No need to put in those daunting phrases like "complex transactions." The simple numbers suffice, starting with his 2000 severance of $36,086,635. But if anyone can save Bush and Cheney, it will be Gerth. Last week, he and another Times scrivener called Richard Stevenson managed the truly amazing feat of making the Harken story complicated and boring.
Here was the first paragraph: "President Bush received two low-interest loans to buy stock from an oil company where he served as a board member in the late 1980's. He then benefited from the company's relaxation of the terms of one loan in 1989 as he was engaged in the most important business deal of his career."
Only 52 words and already the air is whistling out of the tire. On and on the story trundled, as though written by someone who'd learned English late in life by reading insurance settlements.
Harken is not a new story. Charles Lewis of the Center for Public Integrity dealt with it long ago in his book "The Buying of the President 2000." Even back then, Lewis speculated that the mystery institutional buyer of Bush's stock might have been Harvard Management -- the overseer of the school's multi-billion dollar endowment. which lost staggering amounts in a bum investment that saved the ass of the president's son.
A few days later, Gerth and Don van Natta Jr, were at it again, this time paralyzing Times readers with a narcotic narrative about Halliburton.
Reading the story was a bit like walking around some familiar room in the dark, tripping over and then gradually recognizing bits of furniture. Through the choking fog of Gerth-prose one could dimly descry the familiar landscape of Pentagon corruption, with cost-plus bids, non-competitive contract awards, manic over-billing and so forth. Senator Charles Grassley's staff will be only too glad to send you thousands of pages of testimony on such endemic corruption and fraud, a goodly part of which stemmed from Al Gore's efforts to reinvent government by having recourse to the discipline and efficiency (heh heh) of the private sector.
Another reason for the sense of familiarity was that the story was broken, and, furthermore, told in an exciting and accessible way several months ago by Jordan Green of the Institute for Southern Studies, published in Facing South, the institute's Internet newsletter, with a shorter version in the Institute's Southern Exposure magazine. Contrast Gerth-tedium with Green's pioneering and far richer treatment, under the title "To the Victors Go the Markets: Halliburton's Claim On Central Asia."
But even the Gerth treatment may not save Cheney, who's gone to ground again, just as he did after 9/11, though this time, the enemy will take the form of a subpoena-server rather than the shock troops of al Qaeda.
If Cheney totters into that good night, may we not expect to hear the call for a hero of NYC's darkest hour, the former mayor, Mr. Rudy Giuliani, a man whose marital upheavals have now been settled with a handsome payoff to the injured wife and the charges of abominable cruelties sealed forever. Vice President Giuliani. How does that sound?
Terrifying? Of course, because Giuliani's anti-civil libertarian instincts would mesh in perfectly with the totalitarian propensities of the Bush regime. But as the public temper sharpens against the corporate culture that saw Cheney haul off $36 million from Halliburton in 2000, Giuliani's famous prosecutorial forays against Wall Street figures in the 1980s offer a resume in sync with the new mood.
July 17 2002 (http://albionmonitor.net) All Rights Reserved. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for permission to use in any format.
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