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Pounding the table

There's an old legal aphorism that goes, "If you have the facts on your side, pound the facts. If you have the law on your side, pound the law. If you have neither on your side, pound the table." Paul Krugman does a lot of pounding the table. Today, since he has run out of things to make up about President Bush's social security or energy plans, he decides to slur Bush over Thomas White. White's the secretary of the army, and a former Enron executive who presided over one of the more questionable Enron subsidiaries, which makes him an easy target. But Krugman doesn't care about Thomas White; he wants to go after Bush.

I don't know if anyone has done a calculation, but it's obvious that the Bush administration has appointed a record number of corporate executives to high-level positions, often regulating or doing business with their former employers.
I don't know if anyone has done a calculation, but it's obvious that Paul Krugman has set a record for the fewest factual columns in a newspaper career. Also, I don't know if anyone has done a calculation, but it's obvious I won the lottery last night. Fork over the money.
The administration clearly doesn't worry about conflicts of interest, but you don't have to posit outright corruption to wonder. For example: The secretaries of the Navy and Air Force are both lifelong defense-contractor executives. Won't they tend in the nature of things to believe that what's good for General Dynamics is good for America? Indeed, defense stocks have soared, partly because Wall Street analysts predict that profit margins on future contracts will be far higher than was considered appropriate in the past.
Oh. I see. Nothing else has happened in, say, the last six months that might affect the future profitability of the defense industry, has it? Wait, don't tell me... it's on the tip of my tongue. Nope, sorry, I can't think of anything. It must be corruption. By the way, who exactly would Krugman like to see as secretaries of the armed forces? Greenpeace activists?
But there's a further question. Many of the business executives recently appointed to government positions first entered the private sector after prior careers in the Reagan and Bush I administrations. As Sebastian Mallaby put it in The Washington Post, they are "political types dressed up in corporate clothing: people who got hired by business because they knew government, then hired by government on the theory that they knew business." (Dick Cheney is the quintessential example.) So are they really good businessmen, or are they just crony capitalists, men who have lived by their connections?
So wait, are they "lifelong defense-contractor executives," or are they "political types"? I can't keep all this innuendo straight. Paul, help me out here!
Consider the case of Thomas White, secretary of the Army, a former general who became a top Enron executive in 1990.


Stories about Mr. White's questionable behavior at his current job have emerged only recently, but it has been apparent for months that he was a Potemkin executive: all facade, with nothing behind it. Given that he was hired for his supposed business skills, this means that he is like a surgeon general who turns out never to have finished medical school.

So why does this administration, which is waving the flag so hard its arms must hurt, leave the Army the Army! in the hands of a man who is, at best, a poseur?

But I thought he was "a former general." Sheesh. Am I the only one reading these columns? Does Krugman ever look at them after he churns them out?
One theory I've heard is that Mr. White can't be fired: that there are facts about the administration's relationship with Enron that it doesn't want to come out, and that Mr. White knows where the bodies are buried.
One theory I've heard is that Paul Krugman personally organized the anthrax attacks last fall. Okay, it's probably not true, but as long as "theories I've heard" can substitute for facts, you might as well make them interesting.
My preferred explanation, however, is that Mr. White has been protected by the administration's infallibility complex. In case you haven't noticed, this administration never, ever admits making a mistake; even when it makes a policy U-turn, it tries to rewrite history to pretend that everything is still going according to plan.
Speaking of which, I wonder when Krugman is going to admit he was wrong about last year's tax rebate. I expect about the same time Condoleezza Rice is serving her second term as president, after Krugman finally gets over his sulking about his lack of influence in Washington.


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