Joanna Coles: Gentlemen, what splendid suntans. Let me start by asking if you think that Harken is going to be the new Whitewater.
Ed Koch: The Republican attacks on the Clintons were an outrage, and that same outrage is now being perpetrated against Bush by the Democrats, but it’s far more dangerous today because we’re at war! To attack the president gives an advantage not only to bin Laden and Al Qaeda but even to our allies who are appeasers and opposed to what Bush is doing in making international terrorism the No. 1 issue.
Mark Green: Wow! A question on Harken leads to bin Laden in the answer! It’s terrible to say we shouldn’t cross-examine Bush’s history and performance because of war.
Ed: Now, listen – that’s bullshit. The fact is that the SEC examined Harken earlier – how long will we continue to gnaw at this bone?
Mark: Millions of Americans have seen their retirement savings evaporate because of corporate scandals that rival Teapot Dome! It’s legitimate to ask whether President Bush is the right person to clean up this mess, since (a) no president has raised more money from big business and (b) he didn’t oppose anything that big-business community wanted until very recently. Bin Laden has no role in it.
Ed: You can criticize President Bush on whatever you want, but I am saying Harken’s a phony issue and it’s exactly what Republicans did to Clinton. I don’t think we should do it again.
Al D’Amato: Look, it’s something that people will want to know about, but it’s been rehashed so many times already. You can say, “Well, he sold when it was $4, then it went down to $2.” But then it went up to $8!
Mark: What’s interesting is that the Harken episode created George W. Bush’s entire private wealth, which permitted him to run for high office. It was a big deal for him, and at the least, we know that he engaged in conduct – taking loans from the company, for example – that he would now like to make illegal.
J.C.: What did you make of his comment that accounting is not black-and-white?
Mark: He’s a black/white president on international issues, just not on corporate self-dealings.
Ed: Mark, all you are doing is seeking to destroy the president’s integrity. That’s exactly what the enemies of America would like to see happen –
J.C.: Let’s move on to Martha Stewart.
Ed: Ha. Well, I’m glad she’s not president.
Al: Who would think that a woman who is so smart, so conscious of her image, would do such a dumb thing? What did she save, $40,000, $50,000? Silly, silly, silly. It has cost her enormously, not only from the decline in her company’s value but in terms of her own image. It certainly hasn’t added to her marketability. This is a serious blow to her reputation.
Mark: I don’t know the facts; it’s impossible to comment.
Ed: But do you have an opinion?
Mark: Unlike you, I almost never render a verdict while someone’s still being investigated. But if we sensationalize her too much, it could weaken capitalism and then bin Laden and the terrorists will have won!
Ed: He thinks that’s funny? The question is whether she sold her stock as the result of a tip, which can be illegal. But it doesn’t look good.
J.C.: How are these corporate scandals going to play for the Republicans in the midterm elections?
Al: Mmm, it certainly isn’t helpful. But I don’t believe people are going to hold Republicans responsible. They’re going to look to their individual representatives.
Ed: I like what the secretary of the Treasury, Paul O’Neill, said. I’m paraphrasing, but he said, “Hang every CEO in America who’s been involved in criminal behavior.” I believe that, too.
Al: People are very angry, and you see it in the stock market. They are withdrawing. They are fleeing. We used to be seen as a market of great integrity.
Mark: I think this could have seismic implications for the midterms. It could change the political Zeitgeist. Remember, of course, it was Reagan and Gingrich who always pushed to deregulate and privatize. And now the Republican Party is reaping what it sowed.
Ed: I believe that it’s just too bad that we don’t have a La Guardia or someone who, like Perot – only different in his philosophy –
Mark: We do. We have a John McCain and a Russ Feingold.
Ed: Well, I like them and I know them both, but this is the time for a major citizen uprising with a third party. But America doesn’t believe in third parties. So that’s just spitting in the wind.