The Failure of the CEO-in-Chief:
When Kenneth "Ken" or "Kenny-Boy" Lay became CEO of Enron for the second time in August 2001, since Jeffrey Skilling's stomach lining ate itself after taking over from Lay six months earlier, the energy behemoth was already hurtling towards its self-inflicted doom, having for years hidden its debts behind accounting trickery and outright fraud. But Lay was not going to allow that to be the story that its stockholders heard, so he was shimmying and shaking like a skeevy fifty-year old stripper, legs calloused from all the slides down the pole, making sure the truth didn't get out so that the shareholders didn't do what Lay himself was doing: dumping Enron stock like a Chinese factory polluting a river. Lay was like that, doing what it took to maintain power and wealth (especially wealth) even as he was raping the people of California, even as he was lying to his employees and investors. To keep them happy, you make sure you don't let them think anything is less than hunky-fuckin'-dory.
In her column last week, Peggy "Oh, Fuck, I Was So Wrong" Noonan wondered why Bush is so relentlessly upbeat despite the fact that he's, you know, commander-in-chiefin' a war that's gone to shit: "As I watched the news conference, it occurred to me that one of the things that might leave people feeling somewhat disoriented is the president’s seemingly effortless high spirits. He’s in a good mood. There was the usual teasing, the partly aggressive, partly joshing humor, the certitude. He doesn’t seem to be suffering, which is jarring." Of course, one answer to this is that, generally, severely retarded people smile a lot unless you hold their fingers over a fire. Then, god, how they scream.
But Noonan doesn't really have an answer other than "his good humor seems to me disorienting, and strange." To answer Peggy Noonan's question about why Bush is so fuckin' happy in public, look no further than his buddy Ken Lay just before Enron went into the shitter. He knew it was falling apart, but he still smiled and lied to keep the stock up at least until he could cash out.
See, Bush is treating us as shareholders, like he's busy running Arbusto into the ground or selling off his Harken stock just before the fall, making sure that the board is satisfied even as the stock price plummets. Unhappy investors demand answers as to why their money is disappearing. But if you smile and say it's just a bump, maybe you can tread water until things bounce back or you get your ass safely out of harm's way. That's where the Bush presidency is right now. It's all based on a wisp of hope and the inevitability of time. The wisp of hope is that somehow, something miraculous will happen to turn Iraq around. That's not gonna happen, but it's cute to see some have faith in it.
What is gonna happen is that the Bush administration will end (barring some mad theoretical power grab at the end of 2008). And every assertion of executive privilege is both a sinister expansion of the power of the presidency (and the vice-presidency's uber-presidency) and a delaying tactic. There ain't gonna be any negotiating with Congress for dick when it comes to Harriet Miers, Pat Tillman, or documents related to anything. Everything will be litigated in a way that'll make the Pentagon Papers case look like a day in Judge Judy's courtroom.
Why the hell not, huh? The beginning of this administration was a sham of a legal case masked as preventing a crisis. Why wouldn't the end of it be more of the same? It's like if the Dynegy deal had worked for Enron.
The problem is we are not stockholders in America, we citizens. We're the fucking board of directors. Maybe it's time we started acting like that.
More on this tomorrow.