Jewish World Review Feb. 6, 2002 / 24 Shevat, 5762
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com -- CBS News and the New York Times had a problem. Their poll showed that at the end of his first year in office, President Bush had a higher job approval rating than any other president save for Harry Truman in 1945.
Americans trust Bush more than congressional Democrats to manage the economy as well as to fight the war on terror, their poll showed. And it indicated that for the first time since the Great Depression, more Americans identify with the GOP than with the Democrats.
This is how John Roberts of CBS spun the poll in favor of Democrats: "The battle over documents has taken on new life in the wake of the Enron collapse and revelations about White House ties to the energy giant," Roberts said in a broadcast Jan. 28. "A new CBS News/New York Times poll finds 67 percent of Americans think the White House is hiding something, even lying about it."
But the poll indicates that only nine percent of Americans think the president is "lying" about Enron. Higher proportions of Americans think OJ is innocent, and Elvis is alive.
The Times had run its story on the front page the day before, under the headline: "Poll Finds Enron's Taint Clings More to GOP than Democrats." The basis for this headline is that 45 percent of those polled agreed with the statement that "executives of the Enron corporation had closer ties to members of the Republican party than to members of the Democratic party."
That people think businessmen are closer to Republicans than to Democrats is no more news than that labor leaders are closer to Democrats than to Republicans.
The fact that 61 percent of respondents said it wouldn't affect their vote if their congressman had received contributions from Enron suggest that most of us think that as a political scandal, Enron isn't a big deal. But the CBS/New York Times pollsters didn't specifically ask this question.
Other pollsters have. A Gallup poll for USA Today and CNN found that 29 percent of respondents think Bush would feel he owed Enron executives special treatment in exchange for campaign contributions...but that 55 percent believe congressional Democrats felt that way.
This suggests Enron isn't likely to be a winning issue for Democrats. But they keep flogging it because they have no other arrows in their quiver. Journalists do their best to help. The media lavished attention on Jesse Jackson when he brought a busload of former Enron employees to Washington to meet with Democratic grandees.
Enron's bookkeepers could have learned a lot from Jackson. When last the IRS audited his array of "charities," there was $1 million unaccounted for. He raised more than $12 million for one of those tax-exempt charities, the Citizenship Education Fund, in 1998 and 1999, but spent less than $50,000 on education and research. That left plenty of money to buy a home for and pay $10,000 a month child support to his mistress.
Jackson received donations from Enron, which he initially lied about, and refuses to return. This information didn't make it into the newscasts.
There is a business scandal that may have the political dimension Enron lacks. In January, Global Crossing became the 5th largest bankruptcy in U.S. history. Last year, it gave more money to politicians than Enron did, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Among the politicos who did well was Democratic National Chairman Terry McAuliffe, whose $100,000 investment in 1997 was valued at $18 million when he sold it in 1999.
Global Crossing CEO Gary Winnick made a $1 million contribution to the Clinton library fund. Afterwards, the Defense Department awarded his firm a contract worth up to $400 million to build a fiber-optic network. The Bush administration canceled the contract last summer after receiving complaints of irregularities in the bidding process.
There is no evidence yet that politics played a role in Global Crossing's
demise, or that improper favors were done on its behalf. But since the
beneficiaries of Global Crossing's largesse chiefly were Democrats, we can
be pretty sure that if there was wrongdoing, we won't hear about it on the
CBS Evening News, or read about it in the New York Times.
02/04/02: Why serious folks disregard the European Union --- and why Bush must, too