Smoke screening is an effective military maneuver used to mask the locations or movements of units, such as infantry, aircraft, tanks and ships. But those who have mastered that art of deception are not only those on the battlefield but also those in the halls of Washington.
Back on Nov. 9, 2008, just five days after the election, Rahm Emanuel, who is now the White House chief of staff, explained the future Obama administration's philosophy for governing, i.e., for smoke screening: "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is it's an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before." Here's how they and Congress are living out those words today.
The present smoke hovering over the capital's landscape is the American International Group, which has been bailed out four times by the government since last September -- to the tune of roughly $170 billion. And while our eyes have been on the AIG associates who pilfered $165 million through bonuses and the congressional participants who have condoned such abuses, the federal government is running a quarterback sneak in areas ranging from funding European economies to unhinging America's conservative underpinnings.
First, while people blow a cork over AIG corruptions, far larger amounts of money are being funneled to European financial groups without a peep of protest. AIG employee bonuses are chump change in comparison.
Where is the roughly $170 billion AIG received from taxpayers going? Some of the biggest beneficiaries of the bailouts are European financial affiliates of AIG.
While AIG's bailout money was distributed to American companies Goldman Sachs ($13 billion), Merrill Lynch ($7 billion) and Bank of America ($5 billion), European partners were making out like bandits, too. The banks include Societe Generale of France ($12 billion), the Deutsche Bank of Germany ($12 billion), Barclays of Britain ($8.5 billion) and UBS of Switzerland ($5 billion). Can you believe it?
And it also should be noted that while AIG associates in America are considering giving back their bonuses, AIG executives in Europe say they have no such intentions. (By the way, about $85 million of the $165 million in AIG bonus money was given outside the U.S.)