Molly Ivins

Can't Anybody Here Play This Game?


We seem to be having a hail of news that fails to amaze. Israel has been attacked by another suicide bomber. Ariel Sharon, so memorably described by President Bush as “a man of peace,” had to rush home to continue his policy of tit-for-tat, which he has so brilliantly demonstrated does not work.

Of course, Sharon is also demanding that Yasir Arafat Do Something about the terrorists. This adds an even more surreal element of black comedy to the tragedy. Assuming Arafat is not himself the head terrorist, as Sharon claims, with what, exactly, is he supposed to do anything? Sharon has been destroying Arafat’s Palestinian Authority piece by piece for months now and has just finished an attack that demolished the last elements. Even assuming he had the will, Arafat has no way. Sharon has put Hamas and Hezbollah in charge. Anyone who is surprised by the result probably thinks Sharon IS a man of peace.

Also less than staggering is the news Enron execs were “gaming the system” (Isn’t that a lovely euphemism?) during the California “energy crisis” last summer. I like the con they named “Death Star,” where they started by deliberately overscheduling the state’s power grid, threatening to overload it, so they could charge the state for delivering the “excess capacity” out of state, where the Californians couldn’t keep track of it. They got so good at this they finally never even bought the “excess energy” they were charging California NOT to deliver. Isn’t that a great scam? I’m not sure I understand the “Fat Boy” or “Get Shorty” scams yet.

P.J. O’Rourke, that amusing fellow, recently reported in The Atlantic Monthly: “Christopher Buckley and I were having a drink at the Warren Harding Club not long ago, and discussing the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002. It’s wonderful, we agreed, that campaign finance is being reformed. The previous system of raising campaign funds was a shocking disgrace. From 1989 to 2001, Enron contributed almost $6 million to candidates of both parties, and got what for its money? Lawsuits, subpoenas, Justice Department investigations, congressional hearings, and a parade of elected officials besmirching the reputations of Enron executives and vilifying the company name. ‘I trust,’ said Christopher, ‘that the new legislation–whatever it is–will put an end to that kind of thing.'”

Ha, ha, ha. Aren’t those conservatives a hoot? What a swell time they must have at these right-wing raves. Yep, the notion that we might need campaign finance reform in this country is certainly a knee-slapper, given poor, over-regulated Enron’s hard times. Of course, one could argue that what Enron got for its $6 million in campaign contributions was:

the 1992 decision to deregulate energy futures markets;the Phil Gramm ($97,000 in contributions) legislation that exempted key parts of Enron from government oversight;the Bush Administration’s energy policy;the Bush Administration’s decision to drop the effort to go after offshore money laundering (Enron had more than 800 offshore accounts);Enron executive Thomas White as Secretary of the Army, where he promptly moved to privatize the Army’s energy needs;a weakened and underfunded Securities and Exchange Commission;energy deregulation in California and elsewhere, through bills largely written by energy lobbyists.

California Governor Gray Davis said Tuesday, “About $30 billion was extorted from this state. Those who claimed that there was no price manipulation here were just plain wrong.” But then, Gray Davis has no sense of humor.

And in yet another development that will not leave you gasping, the Bush Administration has pulled us out of the International Criminal Court Treaty, signed by President Clinton but never ratified by the Senate. Our U.N. ambassador for war crimes issues (I didn’t know we had one), Pierre-Richard Prosper, wrote Kofi Annan that the treaty is a “flawed document.” You might think we would stand fearlessly and foursquare against war crimes, and in favor of international justice and accountability. But you would be thinking of cases like the Rwanda genocide and Slobodan Milosevic. The administration is afraid Henry Kissinger can still be indicted.

This is the kind of thing that gets us a reputation for not giving a flying fig what the rest of the world thinks about anything. “Axis of Incompetence” is how the American Prospect magazine describes Bush’s foreign policy.

Harold Meyerson writes, “If the administration’s foreign policy apparat (minus the increasingly isolated Colin Powell) were placed under one roof–Rice, Rumsfeld and Reich; Perle, Wolfowitz, Cheney and Bush–what watchword would be inscribed over the door? No, not, ‘Abandon all hope, ye who enter’–but an inscription from another immortal, Casey Stengel … ‘Can’t anybody here play this game?'”

The Middle East is a terribly difficult situation, which nobody can deny, but there is a creeping sense that the Bush Administration is just not up to this problem.

Molly Ivins is a nationally syndicated columnist. Her book with Louis Dubose, Shrub: The Short But Happy Political Life of George W. Bush, is out in paperback.