Death of Outrage
by J. Carlos Jiacinto
Earlier this week I wrote an article
assailing the Republicans for their lack of compassion regarding
Enron's bankruptcy and the employees who lost their life savings.
Today the scandal reached new heights: it turns out that Enron
has not paid income tax in the last four out of five years.
The more that time passes the more dirt that seems to emerge
from this scandal. Along with the growing smell of corruption,
nepotism, and crony capitalism, the stench of total hypocrisy
and arrogance fills the air.
During the Clinton impeachment scandals and Whitewater, conservative
William Bennettt wrote the book "The Death of Outrage."
The book attacked the Clintons for the "lack of ethics" and
the "immorality" brought on by their adminstration. It spared
no words and preached to the conservative right how important
morals and values are.
Notoriously absent during the Enron debacle are the GOP's
ethics contigent. Most notably, as I write this article tonight,
William Bennett, author of the "Book of Virtues" remains silent
about how greed, indifference, and rephrensible callousness
ruined the life savings of Enron's employees. Even the most
conservative Republican would be hard-pressed to disagree
that Ken Lay and his colleagues lack complete integrity and
regard for anyone but themselves.
The conservatives' lack of outrage revealed how inconsistent
and selective their view of "morality" is. Whenever a Democrat
engages in alleged ethical lapses the GOP's top leaders write
scathing editorials and hold press conferences that assail
their lack of "integrity and character."
However, when GOP politicians and contributors engage in
unethical behavior, they rationalize these indescretions with
self-serving excuses such as "I was being young and irresponsible."
Throughout the late 1990s, while Clinton's ethical lapses
dominated the headlines, no one mentioned the time that Newt
Gingrich divorced one of his wives while she was suffering
from cancer. No one mentioned how many GOP politicans manipulated
the system to avoid Vietnam Service just like Clinton.
Enron's actions destroyed the financial lives of their investors
and their employees. Thanks to the actions of Ken Lay and
his corporate staff the lives of a multitude of individuals
have been decimiated so that they could profit at their expense.
The fact that conservative pundits like Bob Novak, Kate O'Beirne,
and Ann Coulter focus on Clinton and the Democrats, instead
of assailing Enron's indefensible conduct reveals how they
only care about ethical lapses and scandals if, and only if,
the other party is involved. Issues like "ethics, integrity,
personal responsibility, conduct, and character" no longer
matter when the scandals reach their own party's shores.
Enron's unethical and perhaps criminal fraud may or may not
affect the President, the GOP Congress, or its major contributors.
Perhaps only Enron employees will go to jail or face criminal
indictments. Although these executives must face accountability
for their action, the greater lesson from this corporate collapse
is that the American people must remember not who spoke the
loudest, but who remained completely silent during this ordeal.
Then they must remember who screamed the loudest during the
Clinton era. They must never forget - and forget, they won't.
The fraud that Enron perpetuated, coupled with the lack of
outrage on the part of the right, reveals how greed and financial
deception never count as "ethical lapses or indecent."
The only form of indescretions that matter involve Democrats
and sexual misconduct. I lament that the book the "Death of
Outrage" failed to achieve its goal: making the political
world more concerned about values and morals.