1. Anti-business bias. U.S. News and World Report treated as scandalous "the Bush team’s extensive corporate ties"— as if staffing senior executive positions in the government with men and women from private business was a sneaky way for President Bush’s to pay off big contributors. Only politicians-for-life need apply?
2. Based on the available facts, Time’s Daniel Kadlec concluded, Bush’s team "would seem to have admirably rebuffed [Enron’s] pleas for favors." But that’s not good enough for Time’s Karen
Tumulty, who insists that Americans should worry about "whose side is this President on?"
3. Demanding "paternalism at its best." Instead of merely recommending that smart investors should diversify, Newsweek’s Jane Bryant Quinn argued that Enron’s bankruptcy proved that American adults should have their freedom to invest curtailed by new restrictions on retirement accounts.
4. Kudos to Time’s Nancy Gibbs. While neither Newsweek nor U.S. News bothered to note the deaths of seven Marines lost in the KC-130 crash in Afghanistan last week, Time’s back page featured a moving tribute by Gibbs, "When War Becomes This Personal."
Not a trace of America’s war on terrorism in the January 21 newsmag covers — rather than the ongoing hunt for Osama, Time showcased the "Science of Staying Healthy," while U.S. News & World Report offered up its "Best Bets in Biotech." Alone, Newsweek gave top billing to the Enron scandal, searing its cover with the word "Burned," referring to scorched Enronians who lost money in their 401(k) plans.
Though he’s indignant about the personal losses suffered by (small) shareholders, Newsweek Senior Editor Jonathan Alter practically popped a champagne cork in his snarky-as-ever Conventional Wisdom column: "The scandal-obsessed CW is licking its chops. There is bound to be plenty of fun when the world’s biggest bankruptcy is wed to the administration’s biggest contributors. Lay it on!" Way to feel their pain.
Anti-business bias. U.S. News and World Report treated as scandalous "the Bush team’s extensive corporate ties"— as if staffing senior executive positions in the government with men and women from private business was a sneaky way for President Bush’s to pay off big contributors. Only politicians-for-life need apply?
The five-page article, which led the Nation & World section, is riddled with suspicion and innuendo: "With the midterm elections looming, pressure is growing on Bush to respond to the wishes of corporate America, which contributed generously to his 2000 campaign and remains a bulwark of Republican fundraising," White House correspondent Ken Walsh wrote, adding that "Bush-appointed regulators already are floating a proposal to relax air-pollution regulations at upgraded power plants — a move long sought by the energy industry, which has strong ties to Bush and Vice President Cheney."
Would relaxed pollution standards imperil Americans’ health? Are current regulations too strict or out-of-date? Were they originally written by anti-business regulators with their own agendas and conflicts of interest? None of these questions were broached in the U.S. News piece, which relied on research from the pro-campaign finance reform — labeled as "non-partisan" — Center for Public Integrity. A wide number of Bush’s proposals are presented as deeply suspicious not because of their lack of merit, but merely because corporate America is pleased:
"The corporate-oriented appointees have set a wide range of pro-business policies in motion. Among them: proposals to allow more energy development on public lands, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; an ongoing re-evaluation of rules that limit road building in national forests; a rollback of ergonomic workplace standards opposed by many businesses; and opposition to the Kyoto Protocol, which would have required stringent action by business and industry to minimize climate change." How horrifying.
Just in case you didn’t get the message, a sidebar on page 16 offers thumbnail sketches of six Bush officials who came from the private sector. Among them: Undersecretary of Agriculture Mark Rey — "A supporter of expanded logging on public lands, he is popular with timber interests. One environmentalist labels him ‘Darth Vader Lite’" — and Assistant Secretary of the Army Michael Parker — "A longtime critic of shifting the focus of the Corps of Engineers to environmental protection from navigation, flood control, and projects often criticized as congressional pork."
Based on the available facts, Time’s Daniel Kadlec concluded, Bush’s team "would seem to have admirably rebuffed [Enron’s] pleas for favors." But that’s not good enough for Time’s Karen Tumulty, who insisted that the Enron scandal should make Americans worry about "whose side is this President on?"
Kadlec’s article tried to untangle the complicated Enron story for readers, laying out the key legal, political, and business questions. The corporation itself looks both silly and sinister at the same time: "At the heart of Enron’s demise was the creation of partnerships with shell companies, many with names like Chewco and JEDI, inspired by Star Wars characters. These shell companies, run by Enron executives who profited richly by them, allowed Enron to keep hundreds of millions of dollars in debt off its books. But once stock analysts and financial journalists heard about these arrangements, investors began to lose confidence in the company’s finances. The results: a run on the stock, lowered credit ratings, and insolvency."
Fine, Enron’s bookkeepers played around with the numbers, but that’s not the part of the story that has liberal pundits salivating. They desperately want the dirt — anything — that might show that Bush administration’s dealings with Enron were unethical or (dare to dream!) illegal. Here, an uncooperative Kadlec gave the President a conditional endorsement: "On the evidence to date, the Bush administration would seem to have admirably rebuffed pleas for favors from its most generous business supporter. But it didn’t tell that story very effectively — encouraging speculation that it has something to hide." Aw, phooey.
Time’s Tumulty agreed with Kadlec that "there is no evidence that anyone in the administration did anything wrong," she nevertheless chose to present the business scandal as political poison for the President: "The Enron debacle goes to one of the most basic questions Americans ask about their President: Whose side is he on?" Tumulty demanded.
She also neatly blurred the bipartisan investigation of business wrongdoing with partisan accusations of government corruption: "Last week news of the calls to [Commerce Secretary Dan] Evans and [Treasury Secretary Paul] O'Neill kicked the Democrats into high gear, targeting Bush as an enemy of the little guy. The White House, said Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman, ‘had knowledge that Enron was likely to collapse but did nothing to try to protect innocent employees and shareholders, who ultimately lost their life savings.’ And it’s not just the Waxmans of the world that Bush has to worry about. Louisiana Republican Billy Tauzin, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the first to announce a formal congressional probe, has already sent investigators to the Houston offices of both Enron and its accounting firm, Arthur Andersen."
Nice bit of implied guilt — what exactly does Bush have to worry about from Tauzin’s trip to Houston? Tumulty’s twisted take suggests that some in the liberal media are hell-bent on portraying Enron’s scandal as Bush’s albatross, no matter how blameless he may be.
Demanding "paternalism at its best." Instead of merely recommending that smart investors should diversify, Newsweek’s Jane Bryant Quinn argued that Enron’s bankruptcy proved that American adults should have their freedom to invest curtailed by new restrictions on retirement accounts.
In her column, "401(k)s and the Enron Mess," the Newsweek Business and Money columnist recited a list of corporate stock duds like "Lucent Technologies... [which] lost 92 percent of its value in just 18 months– wrecking many dreams."
The stupidity of putting your whole nest egg in one company’s stock has been noted by a wide range of business columnists, but Quinn showed no faith in her readers’ competence to make sensible decisions. She championed new government rules instead. "Some of you got rich by owning huge amounts of company stock. I say you were lucky, not smart. Congress should limit your ‘right’ to risk everything you have. That’s paternalism at its best."
Kudos to Time’s Nancy Gibbs. While neither Newsweek nor U.S. News bothered to note the deaths of seven Marines lost in the KC-130 crash in Afghanistan last week, Time’s back page featured a moving tribute by Gibbs, "When War Becomes This Personal."
"Last week was the deadliest one for U.S. soldiers since this war began. We know this because the headlines told us of the seven Marines who died when the KC-130 Hercules slammed into a mountain in Pakistan. But we know more than this," Gibbs related. "We know that Staff Sergeant Scott Germosen’s widow Jennifer had bought him a new wedding band, to surprise him when he came home. That Captain Daniel McCollum was a star wrestler in high school, voted ‘best looking’ in his class. That Sergeant Jeannette Winters was the first servicewoman to die in this war...."
"We were attacked," Gibbs wrote. "We’ve already suffered thousands of casualties; we fight to defend ourselves, our principles and their memory. And this too is an intimate crusade... Everyone is a story. Every story needs telling. Osama bin Laden is right when he says that ‘Americans love life.’ But he thinks that makes us weak; he misunderstood completely, that this is what makes us strong."
– Ken Shepherd and Rich Noyes