Column: No, My Predictions for Bush Can’t Possibly Turn Out True, Can They?

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Mr. Carpenter is a writer and doctoral candidate in American history at the University of Illinois and a columnist for HNN.

Historians aren't supposed to be in the prediction-making business. It's a professional bugaboo routinely frowned on, and in some circles an overheard transgression is to be reported to the proper authorities immediately. But seeing how it's not an indictable offense, except in the eyes of some tenure-review boards, I'll make one anyway. A warning, though; it's guaranteed not to surprise those acquainted with Republican teflon.

My guess is 6 months from now we'll see nary a word in the press about Enron, its pack of thieving executives, and its financially incestuous relationship with virtually the entire administrative apparatus at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. No matter how sordid the reports grow, they soon will drift from the pages of the press as though nothing ever happened. So we might as well ponder the story's obituary now. While its pathology is a bit indirect, it's still easily diagnosed.

It's no secret--in fact, it's touted--that George II's prime ministerial sidekick, Dr. Karl Strange-Rove, has had his boss reading presidential history books so the big guy can learn how to be a really, really good president or at minimum look like a really good president. I'd wager that as Karl was sifting through White House library books filed under"Niccolo Machiavelli and Friends," he stumbled across a volume containing this wisdom from Harry Truman's secretary of state, Dean Acheson:"Bipartisan foreign policy is the ideal for the executive, because you cannot run this damned country any other way except by fixing the whole organization so it doesn't work the way it is supposed to work. Now the way to do that is to say politics stops at the seaboard--and anyone who denies that postulate is a son-of-a-bitch and a crook and not a true patriot. Now if people will swallow that, then you're off to the races."

Off to the races, indeed. People of course have swallowed it; 87 percent of them, to be exact, with flags waving. But why limit cheap political expediency to war? It so happens that in times of war--and this administration assures us this is one of those times--the step from foreign affairs to domestic politics is but a short one. A wonderful little war is not to be wasted on mere victory abroad; hence the president has already made the link:"We've made good progress in the war in Afghanistan and we have got to make good progress in helping people find work. Americans, like me, are tired of partisan bickering. We ought to come together and unify around some sensible policies and not play politics with tax relief."

There you have it, and that's just the opening volley. Forget the non sequiturs. The party line is in the works. Anyone who disagrees with Bush on things economic--let alone foreign policy--is a son-of-a-bitch and a crook and not a true patriot. Soon, anyone who questions the White House's relationship with Enron thugs will be labeled a son-of-a-bitch and a crook and not a true patriot as well. The almost hysterically imposed patriotic aura around Bush will double as a teflon shield. Knowing this, the White House can dismiss the affair almost as an afterthought, adding, as Ari Fleischer has, that"the American people are tired of partisan witch hunts and endless investigations.... This dog won't hunt."

Never mind that Enron officials met with the administration's energy task force last February, again in April, and that in May many of its findings on market deregulation were remarkably similar to what Enron had suggested. Heaven forfend the thought that any skullduggery was afoot.

The other teflon shield at Bush's disposal is the curiously selective media. Given its 1990s' habits, it should make no difference whether anything untoward actually happened or not. Some ancient real estate doings in Northern Arkansas wouldn't have merited the attention of a Bedlam-assembled petit jury, but that didn't stop combined media forces from joining the GOP in investigating nothingness ad nauseam. Some bimbo with a pathetic civil complaint whined to the press and the right right wingers and presto, she made it all the way to the Supreme Court and the front pages of the New York Times. Yet another bimbo showed Bill, let us say, delicately, a good time and she practically brought the nation to its knees.

Throughout the 90s we were forced to endure imaginative media stories about Whitewater, Travelgate, Troopergate, Madison Guarantee, the McDougals, Webster Hubbell, Vince Foster, and endless speculations about law firm shenanigans. The media served up stories on missing documents, suppressed documents, shredded documents, suspected documents, hush money, deleted emails, Gennifer Flowers, Juanita Broaddrick, and Kathleen Willey--all, literally, for naught.

Clinton smoked a joint 30 years ago and we heard about that for 8 years. W. was a stumbling drunk and virtually self-confessed cocaine snorter and yet that story evaporated as quickly as it materialized. Odds are that in this go-around George will scoop up more than a half-million bucks from the most unconscionable frauds in American business history, follow much of their friendly policy advice, and walk away from the whole sorry mess with nothing but the money. That's the liberal media for you.

One thing, though, is pretty much bankable. Once the"war" in Afghanistan draws dangerously close to an end or some"partisan witch hunt" crawls dangerously close to a beginning, I wouldn't give a plugged Argentinean peso for the prospects of any country that so much as ever winked at the Taliban regime. It should first look up, then duck, because raining bombs and Marine incursions are about the only things in its future. The administration will make sure of that, just to help keep any bothersome Enron stories off the front page and away from the evening's headline news.

I just hope the profession is right that I'm wrong in making predictions.

© Copyright 2001 P. M. Carpenter

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More Comments:

Comment - 1/18/2002

I am inclined to think that P.M. CARPENTER underestimates the implications of the Enron collapse. Most
basically, we are moving into a period of economic deflation,
similar to the Great Depression. Now, as then, the underlying
problem is that the economic and political system has not caught
up with the productive apparatus, and is therefore trying to
promote technological lies as moral imperatives.
Computers and the internet are playing the same kind of role
that automobiles and mass production played the last time
around. The act of shopping on the internet is similar in
principle to that of getting into one's Model A Ford and driving
off to a low-priced department store instead of visiting the
traditional neighborhood shop. All kinds of comparatively
traditional small producers will find themselves being
marginalized by the machine in one form or another.
The collapse of Enron is similar to the collapse of the
Insull electric interests during the great depression. Empire
builders always have to do things, which, if they fail, will send
the prospective emperor to prison or exile. That is the price of
I think we can expect prolonged economic storms, and probably
a political reconfiguration comparable to the New Deal.

Andrew D. Todd
1249 Pineview Dr., Apt 4
Morgantown, WV 26505

Steve - 1/17/2002

our schools of higher learning are such dismal failures. Why not come up with something original. Your regurgitation of the Democrat party line is nauseating. Look into your parties links to Enron. A little balance may give you a semblance of credibility.

Richard Smith - 1/16/2002

I agree that it SHOULD be the coup, but the Supreme Court took away any hope of seating the legitimate winner in the short term and the American press will keep the story of the coup from getting much play anymore. But if the world press ever connects the dots (between Bush, Enron, the Afghan pipeline, the Taliban, the reduced US intelligence effort in Afghanistan, the events of September 11th, the surge in the popularity of the President, the case of the missing-in-action Vice President, and the case of the terrorist pretzel) then all bets are off. The American press, on the whole, are not necessarily right-wing, but they are very greedy and pretty lazy. If somebody in the press corps finds the gold mine awaiting the dot connector, the Teflon on Bush will wear off in a heartbeat.

Milton Wiltmellow - 1/16/2002

The sooner, the better for me.

Unfortunately, the point seems missed. Bush won't be leaving the presidency in an ordinary manner because, now that the virulent right wing controls power, Bush and company will not relinquish it.

More than 911 or Enron, everything changed December 12, 2000. It's the coup, stupid.

Dave Karasic - 1/16/2002

...We live in hope that the Enron Investigations will result in bring Bush down and I rather think he is feeling the pressure and will be fainting more often as the investigations continue.----

I second the Reverend's heartfelt wish. Bravo.

Monhonrod - 1/15/2002

Anyone who has lived with an alcoholic must be chuckling about kendo pretzles. As for whether Enron disappears, it doesn't matter--GII will find ways to screw himself. It will be an entertaining 3 years. Oh, and don't forget the twins--children of alcoholics are little cluster bomblets just waiting for a mood swing.

The Rt. Rev. Jack E. Holman - 1/15/2002

We live in hope that the Enron Investigations will result in bring Bush down and I rather think he is feeling the pressure and will be fainting more often as the investigations continue.

Drew Keeling - 1/15/2002

A mansion of cards like Enron cannot collapse without leaving a good bit of documentation for future historians to sink their teeth into, regardless of what news media with sound-bite length attention spans may or may not do with such material. Hard facts, some of them at least, will eventually emerge and find their way into history books, teflon or no teflon.