Whitewashing the Bush boys

If Robert Fiske finds that Bill and Hillary have committed crimes in the so-called Whitewater-gate matter, they should pay the price. But according to our Special Prosecute-o-Meter (to come), it would seem that the Clintons' behavior is being measured differently from alleged banking misdeeds by the Bush family--Neil (Silverado Savings), $1 billion; Jeb (Broward Savings), $221.8 million; and George (BNL-Iraqgate), $5 billion. All proved a good deal more costly than the up-to-$50 million involved in the Madison Savings-Whitewater mess.

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But while the national media--and specifically the New York Times--has focused its high-caliber lens on the Clintons, they apparently have forgiven and forgotten the Bushes' banking practices.

Consider the remarkably kind November 30 Times front-page profile of Bush boys George Jr. (running for Texas governor) and Jeb (running for Florida governor). The story, by Times veteran Maureen Dowd, was an extraordinary triumph of style over substance.

Dowd kicked off the piece by describing a campaign stop in St. Petersburg, Fla., where a woman directed a stream of idiotic "One World tool of the Communist-Wall Street international conspiracy" accusations at Jeb Bush (coyly described as a "slender six-foot-four"). Dowd jumped to Jeb's defense, labeling the woman's accusations "wacky."

Fair enough. But in her 2,000-word article Dowd neglected to mention any of the other, far more serious allegations of wrongdoing that have been leveled at the Bush boys, leaving readers with the impression that these accusations are also just the "wacky" complaints of nuts out to harass the poor Bush family. After all, the "Newspaper of Record" has declared them so.

Had Dowd done her background work she would have found no shortage of decidedly unwacky Bush stories. Among others: a 1987 front-page article in the Wall Street Journal chronicling how Jeb helped a Cuban con man bilk Medicare out of millions of dollars; MoJo's Sept./Oct. 1992 cover story ("My Three Sons") on the Bush sons' long list of dubious business transactions (including George Jr.'s alleged violation of security laws governing insider stock sales when he sold his shares of Harken Oil on the eve of the Gulf War); and a recent New Yorker article detailing sleazy activities by Neil and number-four son Marvin Bush. The Times even ran an April 1992 story listing some of the Bushes' questionable deals (perhaps all motivated by the "Bush creed of competition" that Dowd notes approvingly).

When contacted by MoJo, Dowd wouldn't defend her story, saying, "Look, I'm not an investigative reporter, and clearly I wish now that I'd written a different piece. The Bush family never really liked me anyway." They may like her better now.

Short memories are also evident in Washington, D.C., where Bob Dole is complaining that House Banking Chairman Henry Gonzalez, D-Tex., is dragging his feet on Whitewater, but "held weeks of hearings" when Neil Bush got swept up in the failure of Silverado, even though he "had no direct involvement."

Actually, Neil sat on Silverado's board of directors until the thrift was declared functionally insolvent. That's about as "involved" as you can get.

Republicans are also upset over a Small Business Administration loan of $300,000, taken out by Susan McDougal, that went into Whitewater Development and later into default. Guess they've forgotten that $2.35 million SBA loan Neil received for his new company, Apex Energy, after bugging out of Silverado. (He walked away from this obligation, too.)

But there may be a silver lining: If our meter is used as a gauge, then Gonzalez's demand for a special prosecutor in the BNL-Iraqgate affair should get serious consideration. Republicans ought to meditate on the old adage, "Beware what you wish for. You may just get it."

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