|By A.D. Freudenheim||
8 December 2002
In a stunning leap towards building a more bipartisan administration, President Bush today announced that he has selected fugitive financier Marc Rich to be the next Secretary of the Treasury.
Speaking to reporters at a briefing today, the President said that nominee "Marc Rich has the right skills and qualifications for the role of Treasury Secretary. He is someone who knows the ins-and-outs of the world's markets as few others do, and he has a vested interest in working with me on reforming the tax policy of this country." This last remark is believed to refer to outgoing Secretary O'Neill's less-than-full commitment to the President's goal of a 100% tax reduction for the wealthy.
Mr. Bush continued, "I am grateful to Mr. Clinton for having the foresight to pardon Mr. Rich, which gives me the opportunity to appoint him to this post. I know that some in Congress might express some skepticismal opinions about Mr. Rich, given some of the accusations that have been leveled about him and his savvy business tactics. Building our bipartisan Administration is an important goal, and I know that the Senate will recognize this. Marc Rich will make a fine Treasury Secretary."
At the time of this report, no comment was available from Senator Charles Grassley's office. Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, is the incoming chairman of the Senate Finance Committee which must approve Rich's nomination before he can take office. Known to be sympathetic to the President's overall economic and tax policies, it is unclear how Grassley will respond to Rich, a former F-O-B.
Mr. Rich, who was pardoned by former President Bill Clinton in a last-minute act of the Clinton presidency, was also unavailable for comment today. Since fleeing an indictment for tax fraud, Rich has lived in Switzerland, which has no extradition treaty with the U.S., but whose banking systems were accepting of the many millions of dollars Rich is believed to have had on deposit there well in advance of his departure from the U.S.
In related news today, the President also announced that his choice to fill Larry Lindsey's role as director of the National Economic Council would be none other than the outgoing New Jersey Democrat, Senator Robert "the Torch" Torricelli. Torricelli, who withdrew from his most recent Senate race under a cloud of ethical suspicion, is believed to be strongly interested in the post, since it offers him a job - something that polls of New Jersey voters show he would be unlikely to find in his home state. Torricelli's appointment requires no Senate approval, and therefore may take place immediately. Mr. Bush hailed the appointment "as the second part of a successfully completed, two-phase plan for bipartisanship in my administration."
However, some critics of the Administration contend that Mr. Bush's selection is a cynical choice, revealing his intent to phase out the National Economic Council entirely. "I have great respect for Bob [Torricelli]," said Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat from New York. "However, given Bob's ties to companies and investors seeking exemptions in foreign trade regulations, I do not know that he is the best person to advise the President on the state of the American economy. It all points to Mr. Bush's desire to phase out the Council by making it powerless and ineffective - much as he has attempted to neuter the Securities and Exchange Commission by appointing accounting-world insider Harvey Pitt." Pitt recently resigned after months of accusations that under his leadership the SEC has been ineffective at combating the activities of companies like Enron, Global Crossing, and WorldCom.
The White House reported that Mr. Bush had no detailed response to Senator Clinton's accusations, aside from dismissively waving his hand and remarking "No duh."
The nominations of Marc Rich and Robert Torricelli follow closely on the rise of other former administration officials who were caught up in scandals in their day, but who have returned to perform their duties on behalf of the Israeli, Cuban, Nicaraguan, and American publics. These include the appointment of Elliott Abrams to the post of director of Middle Eastern affairs. Abrams, a pro-Israel hawk who once worked for President Reagan, plead guilty to withholding information from Congress, and was subsequently pardoned by the first President Bush.
Likewise, John Poindexter, now working at the Pentagon on a high-level information and intelligence-gathering project, was also a Reagan administration official who was convicted of several felonies, judgments that were overturned on appeal. And Otto Reich, a special envoy for western hemisphere affairs at the State Department, is known to hold hard-line views on the importance of removing Fidel Castro from power. An issue of great irrelevance to most Americans, such views are considered crucial to maintaining the vote of the large expatriate Cuban community in Florida, where the President's brother Jeb Bush is currently governor.
Copyright 2002, by A.D. Freudenheim.
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