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Special Update #14 - HAPPY NEW YEAR! Let's hope so!!

IN THIS ISSUE:

1. Enron Debacle -- Bush's Demise?

2. Daschle Getting Hammered

3. Bush To Approve His Own Appointees

4. Iraq Gets A Pass In War On Terror

INTRODUCTION

With the war in Afghanistan seemingly winding down, and in the absence of any other major geopolitical news so far in the new year, this Update is long on politics. As you will read below, not only are the mid-term election races heating up, so also is the presidential race in 2004.

THE ENRON DEBACLE --

BUSH'S WHITEWATER?

Well, it looks like the tide is finally turning against President Bush. As you have doubtless heard, his "Whitewater" has arrived. The president and vice-president met with Enron CEO Ken Lay. The records of the meetings with Cheney have so far been kept confidential, and away from Sen. Henry Waxman's oversight committee. Lay also phoned Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and Commerce Secretary Don Evans (both close Bush confidants) on the eve of the Enron collapse. Attorney General John Ashcroft has recused himself from the Enron probe, citing prior campaign contributions. In fact, Enron was a major contributor to the Bush-Cheney campaign. It is becoming obvious that there is certainly some type of illicit ties between Enron and the Bush Administration. It looks bad. Scandal is brewing!

Or is it? Let's look at the facts.

It has never been a secret that Ken Lay was a Bush supporter and contributor, going all the way back to W's years as Texas governor. I don't recall any law against that. It is also no secret that Lay and others at Enron contacted various government sources, including Vice President Cheney, over the last year. No law against that either.

Yet virtually overnight, the Democrats are trying to blow the Enron debacle into a giant scandal for the Bush administration. Actually, I can't blame them for trying -- that's just politics as usual -- and the Republicans have done the same thing in the past.

In the Enron case, however, there is no "smoking gun." As far as we know today, nothing the administration did was illegal. Ill-advised perhaps, in the case of Vice-President Cheney not turning over very benign meeting records, but there is no attempt at a classic Clintonian cover-up. That became obvious when Attorney General Ashcroft recused himself. Would Janet Reno have done this?

Lay did have one face-to-face meeting with Cheney, and reportedly, it lasted only 20 minutes and was about electricity. Cheney, being an oilman and not an expert on electricity, passed Lay onto the staff. The follow-up meeting consisted of White House staffers talking with Enron staffers. A second meeting occurred in June of last year, at a conference with 600 other attendees, and Ken Lay happened to be one of them. The economic condition of the company was never discussed, according to Mary Matalin, a senior White House advisor (see link below).

The President also met with Ken Lay, at a Houston fundraiser hosted by Barbara Bush. Lay was an invited guest, as Enron was a major contributor to her charity. That's it - nothing clandestine, nothing sleazy, no bribes, no threats, no stained blue dresses and no one turned up dead.

As for Lay's calls placed to O'Neill and Evans on the eve of Enron's collapse, let us not forget that Enron was the largest supplier of electricity in the world. It is only natural that the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Commerce would take his calls. Yet they REFUSED TO BAIL HIM OUT.

Unless there is some enormous surprise, this will all blow over in short order, and the damage should be minimal. Keep in mind that Bush is in a NO WIN position here. Had the administration somehow bailed out Enron, Bush would have been criticized as a tool of big business, just as the left has said he was. On the other hand, in letting Enron implode, the liberals are claiming it is Bush's fault that thousands of people were financially devastated. "Damned if you do, damned if you don't," as the old saying goes.

Is this the beginning of the end? Not at all. Is this Bush's Whitewater? Please....that would require solid charges of bribery, extortion, obstruction of justice and/or perjury.

So that's a big N-O.

DASCHLE FOR PRESIDENT?

In Special Update #13 (Dec 21), Spencer Wright wrote a critical article about Tom Daschle, which I thought was excellent. In it, Spencer explained the inner workings of the Democrat party, and how Daschle is essentially a puppet for the "Four Horsemen" -- DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe, James Carville, Paul Begala and Bob Shrum. I suspect at least a few of our readers questioned the basis for this accusation. Well, read on.

Since Spencer's article, as you must certainly know, Daschle made a major economic policy speech. The widespread speculation is that Daschle's Jan 4 policy speech was the opening salvo of a bid for the democratic nomination for president in 2004. Since his blistering speech, in which he attacked President Bush and his policies, he has been roundly criticized from many sides. I'll come back to that later.

The question I wish to ask first is, how did Daschle suddenly come up with such a broad policy agenda, such a detailed attack on Bush's policies, and a speech that sounded very "presidential" (at least if you are a liberal)? Another question is, why would Daschle be positioning for a presidential run if, in fact, Hillary is the choice of the Four Horsemen, as Spencer speculated in our last Update?

Let's answer the first question. While it may be that Daschle and his aides penned his Jan 4 policy speech, we found out afterward that it was actually none other than JAMES CARVILLE who provided most of the material. In December, Carville (acting no doubt for the Four Horsemen) circulated another of the "talking points" memos to Democrats in Washington. Daschle's speech went right down the list. How special!

Now the second question. If Daschle is merely a shill for the Horsemen, why would he have the audacity to be positioning for a presidential bid, when Hillary is believed to be their first choice? There are several theories about this and, as usual, I have one. I have little doubt that Hillary IS the first choice of the Horsemen in 2004, if possible. After all, these four men all worked for Bill Clinton in one capacity or another. They are all personal friends of the Clintons. So why would they allow Daschle to make a bid?

Here's my theory. First, Hillary is very UNpopular these days. She has been booed just about everywhere she's been since 911. So clearly the timing is not right to trot out the junior Senator from NY and former first lady. Second, as we all can remember from the Clinton days, the Democrats usually take their policy positions only after they have run them up the flagpole with focus groups and polls. However, these polls and focus groups worked a lot better and were more reliable (not to mention funded in part with federal money) when Clinton was in the White House.

Therefore, what better way to test the water than to let good ole' Tom go out and make the first serious assault on President Bush since 911? Daschle, the "human trial balloon." Daschle, in my estimation, probably has no clue that he is merely being used as a pawn for a national focus group.

RUSH HAS ANOTHER THEORY

Rush Limbaugh has a somewhat different take on why Daschle has taken the latest tact. Rush's view, which is shared by many, goes like this. By the middle of 2001, the Democrats were jumping for joy. Bush was seen as a weak president, inarticulate on domestic issues and had virtually no foreign policy agenda. On top of that, the economy had turned weak, and the stock markets were still down and struggling.

These factors and others suggested strongly that the Dems would "clean-up" in the November 2002 mid-term elections. Even conservative pollsters were admitting that the Dems should regain the House and pick up even more seats in the Senate in 2002. The Dems were in "hog heaven," (maybe "pork heaven"), as they say.

But then came 911. We all know what has happened since. Bush has the highest approval ratings since such figures have been kept. He is admired by Americans far and wide, generally without regard for political parties. The war on terror, at least so far, has exceeded anyone's expectations. And so on and so on.

Rush believes that the Democrats have gone from "let's party" to "we could lose it all" in three months time since 911. He believes the Dems, and especially Daschle, are so desperate that they are now even willing to attack the president directly as Daschle did on Jan 4.

THE GAMBLE BACKFIRED,

AT LEAST FOR NOW

If you have followed the response, you know that most conservatives were outraged by Daschle's speech. Irrespective of political party, most other Americans didn't like it either. As you will read below in the links, the latest poll shows that Americans want the Bush tax cuts by a margin of 3 to 1!

The bottom line is, it's still not good to criticize the leader of the war on terror. I have included several links to articles that have since been very damning of Daschle.

But even more interesting is the lack of support for Daschle's speech by the Democrats in Congress. Up until last week, they had in large part been SILENT, even if privately they agreed with most or all of what the Senate Majority Leader had to say on Jan 4. However, as pointed out below, some prominent Dems, especially those who voted FOR Bush's tax cuts, began to openly criticize Daschle in the last few days.

One can only wonder how Daschle must feel at this point. Is he shocked? Is he disappointed? Does he wonder if he shot himself in the foot? Will he backtrack as politicians often do? Or does he feel that his timing was just a little too early, and he will try again later? I wouldn't dare to guess, but I can't imagine he is very happy about it.

LIBERAL ECONOMICS -- HIGHER TAXES

WILL MAKE THE ECONOMY BETTER

The cornerstone of Daschle's speech was that our economic problems were caused by Bush's tax cuts. Never mind that the economy started to swoon before Clinton left office. Never mind that the Bush tax cuts were passed after the economy was already in recession (even though we didn't officially know it at the time). Never mind that the majority of the Bush tax cuts don't kick-in until after 2004. Never mind the facts!

Daschle and his cronies must have thought that the "dumb" American people couldn't put two and two together. Obviously, Daschle was arguing for the elimination of Bush's tax cuts, even though he didn't say so directly. Most people immediately recognized that a rollback of the tax cuts means HIGHER TAXES than we will be paying in the future if the Bush tax cuts stay in place.

President Bush wasted no time in responding. He questioned the integrity of Daschle's statements and the basis for his economic analysis. By now, you have all heard Bush's classic response: "OVER MY DEAD BODY will they raise your taxes."

Commentators who are far more eloquent and knowledgeable than I came out of the woodwork to criticize Daschle's accusations and policy suggestions. On Thursday of this week, even some DEMOCRATS publicly chided Daschle for blaming all our economic woes on the tax cuts. Rather than repeat them here, you can look at the links under DASCHLE below.

BUSH SET TO SLAM-DUNK HIS

POLITICAL APPOINTEES

As I have written in previous Updates, the Senate (led by Daschle) has blocked dozens of Bush appointees including most of his federal judges. While delays in the approval of appointees have occurred on both Republican and Democrat watches in the past, none has been as flagrant and as prolonged as we have seen since Bush took office over a year ago.

Finally reaching the limits of his patience, Bush has decided to use the ultimate weapon, the "RECESS APPOINTMENT." When Congress is in recess, the president can exercise his power to confirm certain of his own appointees. Bush plans to use the recess appointment to confirm at least two of his nominees this week, and may have already done so by the time you read this.

The Bush administration apparently hopes that his wielding of the recess appointment will finally get Daschle and the Dems in the Senate to get serious about confirming his other political appointees including over 40 federal judges.

IRAQ MAY GET A PASS

My impression is that most Americans believe we should now aim the war on terrorism squarely at Iraq and Saddam Hussein. The media, as you know, has been speculating for weeks about where we would go next, and the big question has been Iraq. President Bush and his advisors have been totally closed-mouth about where we would go next.

In the last week, however, it has become increasingly clear that we WON'T be going to Iraq anytime soon. I will not bore you with the details (you can read them in the links below), but here is the latest spin. Get ready to grit your teeth!

United Nations directives allow the attack of another sovereign nation only in the case of a "pre-emptory attack," or as "anticipatory self-defense." Obviously, the attacks of 911 constitute a pre-emptory attack. However, in UN-speak, there is virtually no chance that Iraq will attack the US, so we have no basis to launch a campaign against Saddam Hussein based on anticipatory self-defense.

So. . . that's it. We have to look elsewhere. It's apparently okay to attack Somalia, Yemen or the Philippines, but not Iraq? Give me a break!

The real story is that Secretary of State Colin Powell has apparently convinced the Bush administration not to go after Iraq. Actually, this doesn't surprise me based on Powell's record. It looks as if he has succeeded, at least for now.

This week, even Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said it is unlikely that the US will go after Iraq, at least not anytime soon. Wolfowitz, by the way, has been one of the strongest HAWKS in the Bush administration. So, what's up?

First off, Colin Powell does have one valid point: the international coalition that we have enjoyed in the war in Afghanistan will not, for the most part, support us in a campaign against Iraq. So what, many Americans ask, why not just do it on our own?

Second, the truth may well be that the US simply does not have adequate numbers of ready forces and munitions today to stage a major offensive in Iraq while at the same time being ready to potentially fight on other fronts. The last report I saw indicated that our supply of cruise missiles, for example, has dwindled to only about 60. This is not because we used a bunch in Afghanistan; we didn't. It's because Clinton shut-down the production of these tactical, theater missiles which can strike accurately from long distances.

It has paid to give the Bush team the benefit of the doubt since 911, and I will do it again this time with regard to Iraq. However, I do NOT believe we can stop or substantially eliminate terrorism while Saddam is in power in Iraq.

NEXT ISSUE

Gotta close for now. Next time, we will look at the China threat among other things.

Remember, you are free to send these Special Updates to anyone you wish.

Have a great weekend!

Gary Halbert

SPECIAL ARTICLES:

ENRON DEBACLE --

Matalin details Enron meetings with Cheney, etc.

Bush/Cheney and Enron -- a critical view.

Bush vs Clinton: scandal scorecard for their first year in office.

DASCHLE -- Read as you choose; I could include at least a

dozen more articles similar to those below.

Daschle speech material came from James Carville.

Even some Democrats disagree with Daschle on tax cuts.

Sorry, Tom -- Americans want their tax cuts 3 to 1.

Rush Limbaugh on Daschle's bogus numbers.

Jack Kemp looks at Daschle's war on the truth.

Larry Kudlow -- why Daschle is wrong.

Bush tour trumps Daschle.

"Daschlenomics" by National Review

Dick Army slams Daschle.

Bush to use "recess appointment" to confirm his nominees.

IRAQ --

Iraq -- US unprepared to launch new war.

Why the US spares Iraq.

Iraq gets a pass.


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Forecasts & Trends E-Letter is published by ProFutures, Inc. Gary D. Halbert is the president and CEO of ProFutures, Inc. and is the editor of this publication. Information contained herein is taken from sources believed to be reliable but cannot be guaranteed as to its accuracy. Opinions and recommendations herein generally reflect the judgement of Gary D. Halbert (or another named author) and may change at any time without written notice. Market opinions contained herein are intended as general observations and are not intended as specific investment advice. Readers are urged to check with their investment counselors before making any investment decisions. This electronic newsletter does not constitute an offer of sale of any securities. Gary D. Halbert, ProFutures, Inc., and its affiliated companies, its officers, directors and/or employees may or may not have investments in markets or programs mentioned herein. Past results are not necessarily indicative of future results. Reprinting for family or friends is allowed with proper credit. However, republishing (written or electronically) in its entirety or through the use of extensive quotes is prohibited without prior written consent.

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