Duck Soup

In a bold move aimed at bolstering public confidence in the stock market, former Gov. George Bush turned himself in to federal marshals today, declaring, “Well, I think if you say you’re going to do something and don’t do it, that’s trustworthiness.” He then giggled and added, “We ought to make the pie higher.”

On June 9, according to The Washington Post, Bush “called for prison terms for executives who falsify financial statements, appealing to capitalists’ self-interest as well as their consciences as he tries to curtail accounting fraud.”

On Oct. 30, The Boston Globe reported, “One week before George W. Bush’s now-famous sale of stock in Harken Energy Corp. in 1990, Harken was warned by its lawyers that Bush and other members of the troubled oil company’s board faced possible insider trading risks if they unloaded their shares.”

Following this news, and displaying the first known instance of introspection during his residency in the White House, Bush guffawed and blurted, “They misunderestimated me.”

In the early 1990s. the Securities and Exchange Commission had found Bush, then president of Harken Energy Corp., guilty of failure to report a stock sale and investigated him for possible insider trading, but declined to impose a fine or pursue prosecution. The lawyers’ memo revealed by the Globe was turned over to the SEC the day after the agency had decided not to prosecute. It had been issued in response to a query by Bush about the possible sale of his stock. The former governor sold his holdings in Harken shortly before the stock price tanked in 1990 — in the wake of revelations about deceptive bookkeeping practices. (Sound familiar?)

Leaks from within the Justice Department emphasized the seriousness of the management misdeeds and corporate cahoots to which the ex-exec confessed, but informed sources indicate that Bush will receive a reduced sentence in exchange for cooperating with investigators. Legal eagles polled for this story unanimously agreed that Mr. Bush is clearly incompetent to stand trial in any event and is likely to get off with a scolding from his mother, Barbara, plus losing his TV and helicopter privileges for two weeks.

Department officials, speaking off the record, corroborated rumors that the former governor has fingered dozens of current and former corporate chiefs. Included in the list are former Halliburton CEO Dick Cheney (whose company sold oil equipment to Iraq in clear violation of the official embargo, and who has stonewalled attempts by the General Accounting Office to obtain records of his secretive dealings with Enron). Cheney also enjoyed extremely cozy relations with the Arthur Andersen accounting firm, which crashed and burned due to improper number crunching and the shredding of Enron documents. Experts familiar with the cases believe that the Bush testimony will pop the cork on the info bottleneck.

Secretary of the Army Thomas White, who was vice chairman of Enron Energy Corp. while that company’s accounting fraud was at its height, is also liable to take a fall. In fact, some legal experts suggest that at least half of the presidential cabinet may face indictment for involvement in the Enron bookkeeping fraud. Enron’s rascality cost California ratepayers upward of $15 billion dollars, erased the life savings of thousands of company employees, and scammed investors out of billions more when the whole house of cards collapsed.

The former governor’s father may also go down.

Ex-President G.H.W. Bush now sits on the board of the Carlyle Group, which holds the sole contract for anthrax vaccine for the United States, in addition to millions of dollars in military and energy contracts — including a big chunk of the vast petroleum-pipeline project in Afghanistan. The FBI investigation of last year’s anthrax mailings has focused on right-wing zealots, but the motive has remained unclear. “Follow the money” is normally a useful investigative adage, and with Carlyle the primary financial beneficiary of the anthrax attacks, tough questions are bound to be asked under the new squeaky-clean regime.

At press time, it was unclear whether the speculators who made millions of dollars on United and American Airline stock in a flurry of futures deals immediately before Sept. 11 were among those facing pending indictments. But with advance warnings of the terrorist attacks on the desks of a handful of administration officials, it’s clear that those in a position to take advantage of that knowledge constitute a very small club, indeed.

Even as he was handcuffed and taken into custody, the former governor reflected his narrow grasp of bookkeeping methods and big numbers when he opined, “Sometimes things aren’t exactly black and white when it comes to accounting procedures. … I still haven’t figured it out completely.”

House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt was quick to chide, “Mr. President, with all due respect, accounting should be black and white.”

As are (this reporter cannot help but observe) prison stripes.

[All attributed quotes in this story are genuine: Contextual settling may have occurred during shipping.]


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About Cecil Bothwell
A writer for Mountain Xpress since three years before there WAS an MX--back in the days of GreenLine. Former managing editor of the paper, founding editor of the Warren Wilson College environmental journal, Heartstone, member of the national editorial board of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, publisher of Brave Ulysses Books, radio host of "Blows Against the Empire" on WPVM-LP 103.5 FM, co-author of the best selling guide Finding your way in Asheville. Lives with three cats, macs and cacti. His other car is a canoe. Paints, plays music and for the past five years has been researching and soon to publish a critical biography--Billy Graham: Prince of War:

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