Pathos Becomes Chutzpah: A Response to Sen. John Danforth
May 10, 2003
By Kelley Willis
Every day, the con gets a little broader, as the neo-con
artists shovel it a little deeper. And now, here's John Danforth.
Former senator, former AG of Missouri, the man who shepherded
Clarence Thomas through the Senate (more about that in a minute),
Mr. Danforth holds
forth in the New York Times Op-Ed page, as well as at
Northwestern University, in support of his supporters, the
money men of the Republican Party, the accountants and executives
of Enron and Arthur Andersen.
It's almost impossible to enumerate the variety of two-facedness
and chutzpah he demonstrates, but someone has to, and the
Democratic leadership sure won't, so here goes.
After three paragraphs of setting up the idea that strict
enforcement of the law against Arthur Andersen was an illegitimate
use of the Department of Justice's power (remember, this is
a former state Attorney General), Danforth really steps in
it in the fourth, with the following arguments: "a firm of
thousands should not be destroyed for the actions of a few;
the country would be better off with the Big Five accounting
firms than four."
So the first argument is that the company was too big too
fail, that we should bail it out, whether by direct Federal
financing or by looking the other way about the crimes committed.
This from a prosecutor who's seen plenty of need to set an
example with criminals who hadn't made any contributions to
The second argument is that more companies are better than
fewer. Tell that to Rupert Murdoch of Fox, or Michael Powell
at the FCC, or any of the other current class of neo-con-men
that demonstrate that unfettered consolidation of industries,
such as banking, broadcasting or communications, is the official
By the time we are careening through paragraph seven, Danforth
is earning the sobriquet that pundits have hung on the Party,
the 'Do-Nothings.' This is what he recommends Congress should
have done about these accounting abuses and all this fraud.
And he does nothing like take responsibility for thinking
the Sarbanes-Oxley Act is excessive. No, he lays that off
to others in his spiel, while he thinks the law will make
companies more credible. So Justice should have done nothing
and Congress should have done nothing.
Why do nothing? Because this is all just a breach of warranty.
You know, the tires don't get all 50,000 miles treadware,
the vacuum cleaner gives up too soon, the president of the
Adelphia writes himself a check for $2.3 billion and doesn't
tell anyone, it's all the same! And that $2.3 billion certainly
doesn't warrant the same set of public handcuffs that so many
black men get to wear at the curb while the cops run their
Then John really gets rolling. The man who stood with a straight
face and shepherded a one-year judge with no record named
Clarence Thomas through to the Supreme Court now complains
that government power is in the hands of relatively inexperienced
people. This is, unfortunately for John, the official policy
of the Party: to park judges who are as young as possible
and have as little paper record as possible, as high up as
possible in the Federal Judiciary. Don't complain about getting
what you're asking for, John, and don't bite the hand that
feeds you. You know what happens to those types in this climate.
Remember Jim Jeffords or the Dixie Chicks?
And then Danforth complains that no one in any Washington
headquarters will overrule those out in the field offices
about excessive criminal investigations. I believe he missed
the example the FBI set by overruling so many field investigators
who might have prevented 9-11had they been allowed
on Moussoai's laptop, or followed up on those Saudis in flight
schools -- as well as all that fine support the EPA and the
Interior Department are providing to their investigators and
rangers, respectively. Can you say 'snowmobile?'
And finally, (my favorite whopper), he whines that Congress,
that's the Republican Congress, "has taken away much of [judicial]
discretion over sentencing," so his Party's friends might
have to do some time (I'll believe it when I see it) or pay
some fines. Did anyone notice that the entire fine Spitzer
got all those investment houses to pay, $1.4 billion, was
about the same as the fine that Senate Majority Leader Frist's
father and brother had to pay for their health care company's
And these little piggies went wee-wee-wee, all the way home.
He opines that "an overly zealous government can work against
the public interest," which we might all agree with when we
experience one. Certainly we haven't seen much enforcement
of any laws from these Republicans, but rather a gutting of
as many rules and regulations that help maintain the quality
of our lives as possible. So when John recommends 'calling
our government back to the center, where it belongs,' that
return to the center needs to come from the extreme right,
where so much of the writing and enforcing of the laws of
the land comes from now.