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When 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 Party.

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 Party line.

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 driving records.

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 Medicare fraud.

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.

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