Enron Convictions: A Rush to Judgment

Bush and LayThere has been a rush to judgment. But I’m not referring to a federal jury’s decision yesterday to convict former Enron chairman Kenneth L. Lay and his protégé Jeffrey K. Skilling (see Washington Post coverage). What I am talking about is a rush to condemn President Bush along with Lay and Skilling.

I was going to write an essay yesterday warning readers that partisan Democrats and their accomplices in the media would try to make the Enron convictions a political issue. But Howard Fineman of Newsweek beat me to the punch in his online column: “Kenny Boy, Meet Brownie: The conviction of Enron’s founder marks another dark moment in the Bush era.”

Instead of doing a straight report on the Enron convictions, Fineman provides an “analysis” that reinforces partisan Democrat demagoguery of President Bush. Fineman writes,

If you want a date to mark the beginning of the end of the Bush era in American life, you may as well make it this one: May 25, 2006. The Enron jury in Houston didn’t just put the wood to Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling. The jurors took a chainsaw to the moral claims of the Texas-based corporate culture that had helped fuel the rise to power of President George W. Bush (source).

In spite of half-hearted “caveats,” it’s clear where Fineman is going with this. He wants to write a narrative of the Bush presidency that on balance tells a story of failure—that is, a failure of moral clarity in the face of corporate scandals, a failure of pre-war intelligence, a failed Iraq War, a failure to find Osama Bin Laden, a failure to respond adequately to Hurricane Katrina, and on and on.

This is the storyline that we will be hearing from Democrats through the 2006 congressional elections, and I suspect all the way through the 2008 Presidential election. But make no mistake. This analysis represents a very one-sided partisan point of view, a point of view that I believe to be a manifest misrepresentation of the facts. This story is told for the purpose of undermining a Republican president so that Democrats can fare better in upcoming electoral contests.

I’m not saying that the President is perfect or that all his policies are good. All I’m saying is that the history books are likely to tell a different story than the one being told by the partisans and by the media right now. I guess for the present, we’ll have to get used to news “analyses” that reinforce political agendas in the short term. But I think the results of President Bush’s policies will speak for themselves in the long term.

I wish I could say that I expected better from Fineman, but I really don’t. His “analyses” have been tilting left for quite some time. His rush to judgment in this essay only confirms that fact.

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