Logic Gymnastics

…should be an Olympic event for liberal pundits. I haven’t said much about the Enron situation, other than to point out that the only administration for which there is actually any evidence that favors were granted to Enron for political contributions was the Clinton Administration.

But Shields and Brooks on MacLehrer tonight was hilarious, watching the mental and logical contortions that Mark Shields was going through to try to pin the tail on the elephant. Given the paucity of real scandals, after the scandal du jour, the scandal continuum of the previous administration, this is the pathetic state to which their desperation finally leads them.

First, it was the old ploy of guilt by association and reputation–most of Enron’s contributions went to Republicans, Bush was good buds with Lay, then he tried to deny it, Bush has a reputation of being for the wealthy and powerful, blah, blah, blah..

When Brooks points out what I did previously–that Enron actually did get rides on diplomatic missions in exchange for contributions to the DNC and White House (with associated eventual contracts)–and there is not only no evidence that the Bush Administration helped Enron when they asked for it, but that instead there is abundant evidence that they hung them out to dry, then Shields says, “Well, it’s not what they did, it’s what they didn’t do. They wanted to not be regulated.”

Then, when it is pointed out that if this is what they wanted, and they actually got it (not at all clear), it seemed to not do them any good, since they are now bankrupt, the story shifts again. “Well, but they’re such crumbums, letting their business go under, and their stock melt down, and hurting all those employees, and widows, and orphans, and their puppy dogs.” Thus we progress from “Enron bribed the Bush Administration to grant them favors” to “the heartless Bush Administration let Enron go under, hurting all those poor people…” (This is a tactic that Henry Waxman is shifting to as well.)

I suspect that this whole thing is going to go over about as well as Daschle’s absurd attempt to blame the depth of the recession on tax cuts that haven’t happened yet (i.e., like a uranium Hindenburg).

If there is a scandal here, it’s not a campaign finance scandal (unless the SEC was paid off to look the other way). It is a scandal of corporate governance and the accountability of accountants, and while Enron is about to go mammaries up almost immediately, it’s also going to be long-term damaging (and appropriately so) to Arthur Anderson.

The latter company has built itself into an accounting and consultancy powerhouse, but if we are to judge by the Enron case, its clients have been getting poor value for their money (unless their intention is to use it as a high-paid consiglieri to keep a double, or even triple set of books, which are promptly burned at the first sign of the G-men…). This is what Enron paid twenty-seven megabucks for? Nice work, if you can get it. And stay out of jail…