Re: THE NATION: The Bushes Stand to Make
/* ---------- "THE NATION: The Bushes Stand to Make" ---------- */
From The Nation, a weekly magazine of news and commentary since 1865:
72 Fifth Ave.
New York, NY 10011
November 12, 1990
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By Christopher Hitchens
Every once in a while, conversation in the capitol turns to the
worthiness of the Sabah family of Kuwait. If the Sabahs ever learn of
these conversations, they must feel a sense of constraint, since it
can't be easy to hear people discuss whether or not you are worth dying
for. "American boys", said the priceless Representative Robert Dornan
the other day, "don't die for emirs." Well not yet they don't, anyway.
The question I always insert when these conversations come up is:
Are the Bushes worth dying for?
Let's see now. Neil Bush is facing civil charges of improper conduct
in his directorship of Silverado Savings and Loan, which made in his
words "incredibly sweet" deals with his business partners. The
significant detail in the Silverado chronology is the resignation of
Neil from its board just days after his father secured the Republican
nomination. This admirable sense of family loyalty is a trait also
found in the President's son Jeb, who works tirelessly for the
Republican cause in Miami and serves, no doubt on merit, as the state
chair of the campaign to reelect Governor Robert Martinez. Jeb Bush,
it now appears, went into partnership to purchase a Miami office
building, using money borrowed by an associate from a Florida savings
and loan outfit called Broward Federal. When Broward Federal blew up,
the government bailout took care of more than $4 million to make good
the loan. This was excellent news for Jeb Bush and his partner, Armando
Codina, who negotiated a settlement with the regulators in which they
repaid $505 thousand, retained control of the office building and
passed on to the government a $4.6 million second mortgage. This is not
immense in the context of a likely total of $70 billion in bailout
costs, but it's not bad for one presidential sprig. As is usual in
these cases, the transfer of public funds to the pockets of rich
people is not in the least illegal. A hilarious paragraph in the New
York Times's otherwise sober account of the affair reports:
Both Mr. Bush and Mr. Codina expressed surprise that the settlement
of the loan could be interpreted as the use of taxpayers' money to
make good a loan whose proceeds went for their building. Asked if
they were aware that the funds for the repayment of the Broward
Federal loan came from the taxpayers, both men said no.
They simply took it as their due, which, under arrangements partly
determined by Jeb's daddy, it undoubtedly is. This little episode,
like the Silverado pampering, provides a handy insight into the mental
and moral world of people who make money rather than earn it.
In this delicious world dwells also George Bush Jr., the eldest son of
our all-wise Chief Exec and a "director, large stockholder, and $120
thousand-a-year consultant to a Texas oil company whose potentially
lucrative drilling rights in the Persian Gulf are being protected by
American troops." I am quoting from the invaluable Pete Brewton of
the Houston Post, who broke the initial S&L story and has done
magnificently in showing the connection between the S&L underworld
and the Iran/Contra black economy. This connection, of course,
involves President Bush in multiple capacities [see "Minority Report",
The Nation, July 9].
George Jr.'s firm is the Harken Energy Corporation of Dallas, which
last January concluded an agreement with Bahrain, a small island
"nation" just off the eastern coast of Saudi Arabia. The agreement
gives harken the EXCLUSIVE rights to explore for, produce and market
almost all of Bahrain's offshore oil and gas. According to a recent
article in Forbes, energy analysts were astounded at the way that
such a small and untried business secured such a princely contract.
Charles Strain, an analyst at Lovett Underwood Neuhaus and Webb,
caroled to Forbes that "this is an incredible deal, unbelievable for
this small company." That's certainly one way of putting it. (You
have probably guessed the corollary.)
In July, Harken engaged the Bass Enterprises Production Company of
Fort Worth, Texas, to finance the drilling of the first three wells
in Bahrain. The company is owned by the Bass group, a family concern
that recently drew $2 billion in federal assistance in order to buy
out American Savings and loan of California. A report by the House
Banking Committee described this deal as the worst, from the
taxpayers' viewpoint, of all the Southwest bailouts.
Among the three top stockholders in Harken is a Swiss company
controlled by South African businessman Anton Rupert and an unnamed
Saudi investor who holds 17 percent of the common stock. I was very
interested to learn that George Bush Jr. sold a large block of his
Harken shares just before the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. If there's
one thing you can say for these Bush boys it's that they have an
uncanny sense of political timing.
Ah, the big Bush and the little Bushes. All of them well insulated
from the chill economic wind. All of them well trained in the
art of being somewhere else when things turn awkward.
Not worth dying for, I'd say. Not worth killing for either.
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transcribed by John DiNardo
* Origin: Socialism OnLine! at 719-392-7781 in Colorado Springs, CO