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Monday 28 January 2002

Just What Is Cheney Up To?

According to this Washington Post article, the White House is going to persist in refusing to hand over documents relating to Dick Cheney’s energy policy task force.

This in itself is interesting, but what’s more interesting is the differing treatment this story gets in various papers, and the daily shifts in spin coming from Cheney’s office. Together, these tidbits make one wonder what “energy policy” really means in this case.

The Washington Post, a liberal paper, headlines its article “Cheney Refuses Records’ Release / Energy Showdown With GAO Looms”. The conservative Washington Times, on the other hand, headlines their story “Cheney backs Bush on Enron documents”.

Enron documents? Who said anything about Enron? I thought that the controversy was over the Administration holding meetings with energy-industry leaders specifically for the purpose of formulating the government’s policy toward that industry, and then refusing to tell the public so much as who attended these meetings.

The New York Times sees it as an Enron story, too. Its headline reads “Cheney Is Set to Battle Congress to Keep His Enron Papers Secret”.

The Wall Street Journal’s headline is “White House Resists Detailing

Cheney, Enron Discussions” (that link probably won’t work unless you subscribe to the WSJ online).

All the articles report the same news; they all use Cheney quotes from Sunday-morning talk shows. The Washington Post, though, mentions Enron only in words attributed to Cheney.

Erm, didn’t Congress start asking for this information nine months ago, when Enron was trading at $60 and was, as far as the public was aware, healthy?

So why is Cheney all of a sudden eager to link this to Enron? It seems to me that if the public thinks that Enron bigwigs were trying to get favors from the government in those meetings, they’ll be less tolerant of the information being withheld. It seems that the White House should be doing everything it can at the moment to deflect accusations of Enron cronyism; Cheney seems to be inviting them.

He would be better off using his explanation from last week (he’s been changing tune literally by the day recently), which is that if information about who was part of the task force were made public, people would be less likely to participate in similar things in the future.

However, had he done that, all the sidebar links on all the news websites would be to other stories about the energy task force issue. As is is, they’re to other Enron stories.

If the links were to other energy task force stories, it’d be easier to figure out that what Congress is seeking (at least at the moment) is not a complete transcript of the meetings, but just a list of who was at the meetings (see this story from just last week).

My guess is that those meetings dealt with something that’s potentially much, much more damaging than any temporary seeming-Enron-affiliation could possibly be — and something that’s worth the risk. We’re so used to U.S. government ‘policy’ consisting of little more than platitudes, subsidies, and favoritism toward campaign contributors that it’s easy to ignore the possibility that there’s actual work afoot here.

My suspicion is that the policy decided on by this Policy Task Force was the destruction of OPEC. This, and I think this alone, adequately explains Cheney’s actions and statments. The purpose of such a group could probably be divined from the still-secret guest list, since it would include not just CEOs of American energy companies but also officials and businessmen from other countries. And it would be of paramount importance to keep that quiet, lest OPEC discover what’s going on before it’s too late.

Posted by tino at 12:55 28.01.02
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