WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In sports they call it a "rebuilding
season." That's when the previous coach has so thoroughly screwed up a team
that a new one is enlisted to change everything from players to playbooks to
practice schedules -- all while trying desperately to win a few more games
than his predecessor. By now, it ought to be obvious that there are
rebuilding seasons in politics, as well.
Dwight Eisenhower inherited the Korean War and a stagnant
economy from Harry Truman. It took the man who liberated Europe two years to
end the war and get the economy on the right path. Lyndon Johnson handed
Richard Nixon the Vietnam War and a deeply divided nation. The Nixon
rebuilding season ended at the Watergate. After four disastrous years of
capitulating to communism, foreign policy fiascos, economic "stagflation"
and hostages, the American people fired Jimmy "Malaise" Carter and hired
Ronald Reagan, who dubbed his rebuilding season, "Morning Again in America."
All but a handful of liberal partisans, media elites and cynical
academics acknowledge that Eisenhower, Nixon and Reagan each had "rebuilding
seasons." But suggest that George W. Bush deserves a rebuilding season
because of problems he inherited from William Jefferson Blythe Clinton's
"most ethical administration in history," and you invite an attack on your
judgment, scholarship, parentage and mental health.
That's because so many in academe, the so-called mainstream
media and Democrat leadership deny how bad things really were during the
"Clinton era." Unfortunately for President George W. Bush, his rebuilding
season has been complicated by the reality that Clinton left behind more
serious problems than dirty sheets in the Lincoln Bedroom and stained
dresses in the Oval Office.
Within days of taking office, President Bush made a whirlwind
tour of military bases and units. He found a defanged, demoralized American
military, reeling from eight years of back-to-back deployments engineered by
Kofi Annan, recruiting and retention shortfalls, equipment and training
deficiencies, homosexuals in the ranks, women in combat, "gender-neutral"
recruit training, blue berets on soldiers' heads and U.N. flags sewn to
Bush also learned that the rest of our national security
apparatus was in equally bad shape. He was handed an intelligence community
emasculated by Clinton cronies at the CIA, an FBI so riddled in controversy
that it was at war with itself and a nuclear weapons lab so infamous for
leaks that insiders called it the Lost Almost Nuclear Secret Clearing House.
Worse still, the new president inherited an intractable foe emboldened by
the Clinton administration's inept responses to truck bomb attacks against
our barracks in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, the World Trade Center, the U.S.
embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and the deadly assault on the USS Cole:
Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda terror network. Yet, it is still
politically incorrect in Washington to point out that our problems in
combating terrorism stem from the last administration's moral rot.
The same is true of the latest controversy -- the discovery that
the slogan, "It's the Economy, Stupid," had a sequitur, "So Anything Goes!"
Bill Clinton didn't invent commercial greed, investor fraud or cooked books.
But once he showed us that there was no accountability in the Oval Office,
it was easy for the corporate boardrooms to follow suit. And that's just
what happened at Enron, Global Crossing, Xerox, MCI-WorldCom, Arthur
Andersen, Tyco International and a host of others.
Enron -- the now defunct energy trading company -- started using
shady partnerships to inflate earnings and mask debt in 1997. But it wasn't
until November 2001 -- during the Bush administration -- that the SEC opened
a formal inquiry to investigate conflicts of interest the company may have
had with these partnerships and former CEO Andrew Fastow. That investigation
exposed the culpability of Arthur Anderson's auditors in these shenanigans.
MCI-WorldCom, America's No. 2 long-distance carrier, began to
cook its books under the watchful eye of the Clinton administration, as
early as 1999. This might never have been revealed had not the Bush SEC
opened an investigation in March 2002.
Xerox apparently started using accounting gimmicks to manipulate
its earnings numbers back in 1997. This discovery -- which forced the
company to restate $6 billion in earnings and pay a $10 million penalty --
was made by the SEC in April 2002.
The much-maligned Bush SEC has opened an investigation of
Network Associates to determine if the company masked expenses and inflated
revenues during the "big boom" Clinton-era years, 1998 thru 2000. And last
month, the SEC filed accounting fraud charges against several former
executives of Rite Aid Corp. for overstating $2.3 billion in pre-tax income
between May 1997 and May 1999. In an effort to root out any more past
corruption, the SEC is now requiring the CEOs and the CFOs of 945 public
companies to certify in writing, under oath, that the reports they filed
with the SEC are accurate.
Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan described Clinton-era
corporate hijinks as "infectious greed." Bush characterized it as an era of
"binge" drinking, and we are now in the "hangover" phase. But it's worse
than that. The leaders of the last administration used the Lincoln Bedroom
like a vending machine, cashed in on White House coffees, shook down
Buddhist monks and proclaimed that there was "no controlling legal
authority." They led by example, and too many followed.
And as for those who whine that conservatives like me just can't
let Clinton go -- how can we? He keeps coming back to haunt us. It really is
time for a "rebuilding season."