Politics & Policy

Gore’s Space-Time Problem

Repeat after me: "A then B then C…"

Over the weekend, Gore explained, once again, that President Bush is responsible for the corporate meltdown. According to Gore, Bush’s tax cut created a climate of “unfettered corporate greed,” which encouraged companies like Enron to collapse. This was a follow-up to his assertion in late June: “You see now what it means to have an administration that’s that committed to fighting and working on behalf of the powerful and letting the people of this country get the short end of the stick.”

In short, according to Gore, past events were caused by future acts. In Star Trek, they usually call this sort of thing an “anomaly in the space-time continuum.” Such “temporal hiccups” (another term of art) are when B happens before A. And in the “multiverse” where sci-fi writers are fresh out of good or new ideas, these rifts in the space-time continuum are usually attributed to hyper-warp travel, having ones subatomic particles be rendered “out of phase” with this dimension.

Alas, until we master the technological intricacies of anti-matter — which Gore would no doubt denounce as a “risky scheme aimed at the very fundament which has served us, and particularly minorities and women, so well” — we have to look for more prosaic explanations. So if negatively charged protons aren’t responsible my best bet is bad clams. And it seems like Gore has eaten a bunch.

Now, fear not, I’m not going to get into a whole “it’s-Clinton’s-fault” thing here. To be honest, much as I would like to blame Bill Clinton for the financial scandals of the last few months, intellectual honesty forbids it. Clinton did many bad things, but the idea that he’s responsible for the bad acts of WorldCom or Enron just doesn’t scan.

Corporate executives do not commit crimes because the president of the United States commits crimes. They don’t behave recklessly because the president behaves recklessly. Indeed, CEOs probably became a bit more careful about taking the Nestea plunge into the intern pool after witnessing Bill Clinton’s troubles. But the idea that some CEO okayed the transfer of debts into the earnings column because of Bill Clinton’s presidency is just plain silly.

Not surprising, this seems downright obvious to liberals. For example, yesterday, on CNN’s Late Edition, Maria Echaveste, the former deputy chief of staff in the Clinton White House, expressed her exasperation: “It’s really extraordinary that people blame Clinton for the corporate fraud. What we’re seeing is corporate executives who used loopholes, used funny accounting because they were all caught up in the greed.”

Gloria Borger of U.S. News & World Report transcribes a perfectly serviceable defense of Bubba offered by Robert Rubin, in which the former treasury secretary scoffs at the idea that Clinton’s lies and deceits could have encouraged CEOs to commit fraud. Putting aside Borger’s bizarre journalistic assumption that Bill Clinton’s economic wheelman is the best source for objective analysis — the equivalent of asking the CFO of Enron to exonerate Ken Lay — Rubin’s right. They are all right; it’s a dumb argument.

However, the only thing dumber than the idea that these CEOs committed these crimes because of Bill Clinton’s presidency is the notion that they did it because George Bush was going to be president in a few years.

Just the other day Gore shouted to a crowd of people who he must consider morons (and by their applause they must be): “Are you better off than you were two years ago? How many people here have 401K plans?” Now, the intellectual dishonesty here is staggering. (Remember: Gore is supposed to be brilliant, so every stupid thing he says must be considered deliberately deceitful and misleading.) If, as Gore suggests, the market crashed because of Bush, then the market was priced correctly before Bush was elected. If that is the case, then the accounting scandals should be meaningless because share prices were accurate in, say, 1999-2000. And, if they were accurate, then the earnings “clarifications” issued by WorldCom and co. should have been trivial, not catastrophic. Of course, we know that none of this is the case.

To date, there is not a single allegation — not one — that I am aware of that inculpates the Bush administration in any way in the manner Gore keeps suggesting. The reason has to do with this whole gosh-darned space-time continuum thing or bad clams, whatever.

Maybe Gore is right. Maybe Bush’s tax cut engendered a climate of “unfettered greed” (not just “fettered greed” mind you). Maybe millionaires, high on their tax-cut lucre, have been going around stealing loose change out of Salvation Army kettles. Maybe investors have been selling their gardener’s kidneys and the powerful have hiked the price of Soylent Green through the roof. Maybe all of that and more is true.

So what? When Bernie Ebbers, Ken Lay, and the rest did what they did, President Bush was not president yet. And, if he was, his tax cut hadn’t passed yet.

Imagine that I’ve spent a decade bingeing on bacon, cigarettes, and Krispy Kremes (I know: It’s hard to get your brain around the idea). My doctor doesn’t do much to make me stop but he doesn’t necessarily approve of my habits either. Then, my doctor retires. Not long thereafter, I start getting chest pains and gastrointestinal ickyness. I get a new doctor. He runs some tests and, lo’ and behold, my insides look like the grease trap at a Wendy’s. Maybe my old doctor should have done more when I was still feeling healthy. And, sure, maybe my new doctor doesn’t care enough about me now. But, you can’t blame the new doctor for anything that happened before I met him. No matter how delirious those bad clams made you.


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