BOOKS & THE CULTURE with Gergen. Gergen was an old friend and Yale classmate of Senator David Boren of Oklahoma, who had a tax plan that would, says Woodward, “take tens of billions of dollars from the poor and middle class and give it to the rich and the oil industry.” Gergen advised Clinton that guys like Boren “were his real friends and natural allies. Clinton said he agreed.” Significantly, the only major piece of legislation Clinton passed through Congress during his first two years was the notorious North American Free Trade Agreementa carry-over from the Bush Administration, concocted solely for the benefit of international corporations and their bond buddies on Wall Street. Three hundred environmental organizations had begged Clinton not to impose this trade agreement on the country. They warned it would create more pollution on the Mexican borderwhich it hasand weaken our environmental laws. Clinton paid no attention. “Many saw the inauguration of Bill Clinton as the dawn of an environmental Golden Age,” wrote Paul Rauber in a recent issue of the Sierra Club magazine. “That optimistic vision crumbled almost immediately.”. And no wonder. The vision crumbled because his promises did, too. He had promised to reduce taxpayer subsidies for grazing, mining, and logging on public lands, but at the first breath of opposition from industry, he caved in. During his first two years in office, no important legislation to protect the environment came out of the White House. Then, with Republicans controlling Congress after ’94, his contribution was a series of disastrous surrenders. He had promised to change the absurd 1872 Mining Law that virtually gives away fabulously valuable public land minerals to mining companies, but he backed away from that promise, saying he was afraid reform would “put people out of business.” When Republicans sent him legislation to open vast areas of previously untouchable public lands to “salvage” logging by big timber companies, Clinton vetoed it, with self-congratulations for his courage. But a month later, when the GOP sent him another bill giving timber companies the same “salvage” opportunity, he signed itand then excused himself by saying he hadn’t understood what the legislation would do. \(GOP backers of the bill said they had sat down But perhaps Clinton should at least get credit for realizing he was a traitor and for not relishing the role. Woodward tells of a staff meeting at which Clinton bellowed, “Where are all the Democrats? I hope you’re all aware we’re Eisenhower Republicans. [His voice was dripping with sarcasm]…We stand for lower deficits and free trade and the bond market. Isn’t that great?…I don’t have a goddamn Democratic budget until 1996. None of the investments, none of the things I campaigned on.” l awyer Jones, the wry East Texas lawyer who helped found the Observer, is given credit for the maxim, “To understand Johnson, you have to get down to the Brown and Root of it all”a reference, of course, to an extraordinarily profitable relationship. B&R funded the lion’s share of Johnson’s political career and he in turn helped the company receive such massive government contracts that it became in that era probably the world’s largest construction firm. Other corporations and industries also owned a share of Johnson, naturally, but he was not even remotely splintered into as many shares, or controlled as closely, as was Clinton. From the time he entered Arkansas politics in the early 1970s, Clinton’s fate was in the hands of what Roger Morris calls “the absolute, essentially colonial supremacy” of a financial and corporate power structurea veritable webincluding banks, bond houses, holding companies, and law . firms. At the center of the web was “the colossal Stephens, Inc., the nation’s most formidable investment banking empire outside of Wall Street.” Stephens, by far Clinton’s most powerful and most generous patron \(and which at some critical points literally kept him alive business ties” with both Refco Inc. of Chicago, a brokerage firm that was notorious for blatant violations of market regulations, and the infamous Bank of Credit and wide laundromat for terrorists, spies, arms dealers, and drug lords. I repeat this perhaps unwarranted guilt by association only to make the point that while Arkansas may be built on a mountain of ignorant red necks, the state’s economic superstructure consists of some very savvy folks who are quite at home in the world’s most sophisticated economic bordellos. And where does Hillary come into all this? Ah, the little lady who now is so eager to talk about family values has known other values along the way. She seems to have persuaded most of the national press that her windfall investment in cattle futures on the cut-throat Chicago commodities market was just a matter of good luck, helped along by the guidance of the Clintons’ good friend Jim Blair, an attorney for the multi-billion-dollar Tyson Foods outfit. Blair invested through a freewheeling \(to named “Red” Bone. Among market regulations that authorities have accused Bone of violating, Morris tells us, was one that could enable a broker to “allocate” tradesin other words, “to assign winning contracts to some selected clients and losing contracts to the rest, in effect changing the bet after the game to reward favored investors with either unearned gains or, equally common, false losses to be used as tax write-offs. The stakes were gigantic. Winners, whether legitimate or fraudulently ‘allocated’ by their broker, stood to make or save fortunes large and small.” Did Bone use this technique to help Hillary, and if so, did she know she was profiting by an illegal practice? Lawyering was Hillary’s trade, and a lucrative one it turned out to be, but as we have seen with the cattle futures, she sometimes, as Maraniss nicely puts it, “turned to other ventures in search of fast money.” “Nothing, writes Maraniss, “could have taken her further into the blueblood establishment of Arkansas’ capital city than her decision to join the Rose Law Firm,” the oldest law firm west of the Mississippi. It represented the most powerful forces in the stateland, timber, retailing, insurance, investment banking interestsbut it was especially influential in representing “the holy trinity of Arkansas business and industry: Stephens Inc., Tyson Foods, and Wal-Mart.” She would, over the years, sit on the boards of some of these corporations, drawing hefty retainers, and would seem unperturbed by her patrons who were anti-union or were serious violators of environmental laws. The notorious Whitewater land deal is SEPTEMBER 13, 1996 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 23
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