If at first they don’t succeed, they try, try, try again. Remember how the Democrats and their media chorus went ballistic over some scrap of evidence that Bush might have seen the name of Osama bin Laden in print some time before last September 11? Because of Bush’s popularity on security matters, that campaign went nowhere, not even to the point where Bush would have been forced to appoint an independent commission to examine pre-9/11 intelligence failures. When congressional committees threatened to show the administration up on that score, Bush neutralized them by calling for the creation of a Department of Homeland Security. That’s about the last we’ve heard of any serious exchanges on that front.
Instead the anti-Bush war returned to a previous battleground, the one where Enron’s collapse was to have bloodied Bush into submission. New corporations, new collapses and new information about bogus profits — most recently involving WordCom to the tune of several billion dollars — were enough reason to revive interest in a once much reported business situation involving pre-political Bush when the stakes were no more than ten or twenty million and his own stock deal worth no more than $850,000 in shares.
Most wars of aggression center on efforts to acquire new ground. Those against Bush keep going back in time. Recall that 9/11 only led to a cease-fire in the war that had existed ever since Bush emerged the victor in Florida. Questions about his legitimacy resurfaced after the new year, and the Democrats’ more fevered outposts continue to be obsessed by them. But the latest attacks on Bush give combatants the thrill of returning not only to the year 2000, but to 1998, 1994, and the first Bush presidency as well, if not earlier. There’s nothing new about any of the current anti-Bush fever. Back in June 1999, the well-known anti-Republican attack rag The American Spectator ran a cover story examining the crony capitalist career of Texas Gov. George W. Bush. It found nothing in that career that wasn’t legal.
The author of the 1999 story, National Review‘s Byron York, has done some follow up work in the wake of the latest effort to use Harken and the SEC against Bush. In a definitive report posted yesterday, he notes that contrary to what such disinterested figures as Tom Daschle and Terry McAuliffe may claim, there is plenty of documentation from Bush’s business career already in the public domain. Nor has any Bush basher bothered to note that, as York reports, Bush sold his Harken stock for a simple business reason: he needed the money to invest in the Texas Rangers, which were then up for sale. (Wait a few weeks and Bush will be roasted anew for making a huge, not quite McAuliffe-like profit on that investment.) Late filings with the SEC? Not in the case of a key document no one else cares to discuss. It’s all in York.
Even Joe Conason, an anti-Bush obsessive if there ever was one, is impressed, not for the first time, by York’s piece. He calls it “competently” presented. Then he proceeds to lay out the latest charge: the SEC investigation of Bush’s sale “was conducted while that agency was under the control of Bush family friends and appointees.” That begs the question why there was an investigation in the first place. (Or, ultimately, why a president so apparently ruthless was powerless to guarantee his re-election.)
Where Conason used to team with the imaginative Gene Lyons maybe he now should hook up with Maureen Dowd, assuming she can take time off from her glitzy life with Michael Douglas or whoever else she paints New York with. Her anti-Bush animus goes back furthest of all — to the very fact of his birth. “Can a Bush — born on third base but thinking he hit a triple — ever really understand the problems of the guys in the bleachers?” she asks in yesterday’s New York Times. (The only real problem the guys in the bleachers have is girlfriends who remind them of Maureen Dowd.) Just to confirm that her analysis is nothing more than unabashed bigotry, she also singles out “the rich white guys running the first Bush administration … in a fog of privilege.” Ignoring all requirements of full disclosure, she tells us not a word about the rich white guys who run the Times and envelop her in a fog of privilege.
Finally, there’s the old standby explanation that’s automatically used against anyone who happens to be a rich white guy: Bush is simply stupid. The New Republic, in another clever fit, accepts Bush probably did nothing illegal, but concludes that doesn’t mean he wasn’t and isn’t incompetent, “dim” and if not an Ivan Boesky, then at least Mr. Magoo.
Remind us to laugh, as the Washington Post‘s Reliable Source tried to yesterday, comparing Bush with ultimate dumb-dumb Dan Quayle, all because he once allegedly “confided” to Tony Blair about the troubled French economy, “The problem with the French is that they don’t have a word for entrepreneur.” Huh? If that’s indeed what Bush said it was sheer brilliance, the best proof yet that wit is the best defense against witless snobs and the many wars they launch.