It’s frustrating, as I get older, to find myself having trouble coming up with the names of people I know perfectly well. My friend Melvin, who’s a few years my senior, seems to be going through the same kind of thing.
We were sitting in “Greg’s Greasy Spoon,” having some scrambled tofu and a cup of herbal tea, when I chanced to ask him what he thought about the latest Washington scandal. He turned red, puffed up, and sputtered, “It’s a damned outrage!”
Other diners glanced our way. “Could you hold it down a little bit, Melvin?” I said. “I don’t want us to get tossed out of here again.”
“That’s the trouble with this country!” he yelled a little louder. “Everybody’s afraid to speak his mind and call a spade a spade. They’re a bunch of damned crooks! They’ve defrauded investors, robbed their own employees, written national energy policy for their own benefit, and corrupted Congress. Our President has been bought and sold like a pound of baloney! He ought to be impeached, along with half his cabinet! Centralizing the investigation in the Justice Department is just a way of controlling the cover-up. We need an independent prosecutor to go after those so-and-so’s and nail their skins to the side of a barn!”
I looked around nervously. Greg was easing down the counter in our direction. “Gee, Melvin,” I said, “I’m sort of surprised. You’ve been such a strong Bush supporter.”
He glanced up at me, a look of confusion clouding his eyes. “Bush?” he said. “I don’t know how that happened. I was thinking Clinton was still President. What was I saying?”
“We were talking about the Enron scandal,” I reminded him.
“Scandal?” he scoffed. “There’s no scandal. It’s all a creation of the liberal media, trying to undermine the greatest wartime leader since Abraham Lincoln. This thing doesn’t begin to compare with Whitewater.”
“Well, I don’t know, Melvin,” I said dubiously. “You remember how the Rush Limbaughs and William Safires and Trent Lotts and Phil Gramms hammered Clinton and his wife for eight years with accusations and endless stories and fourteen million dollars worth of independent prosecutors, all over a $100,000 investment they once made.”
“And well they should have,” he said belligerently.
“But this is about looting a company of sixty billion dollars, Melvin!” I objected. “From a company that bankrolled the Bush family’s political careers since W’s father was running for office! That’s been the big money behind George W’s campaign for governor AND President! There’s no suspicion of a cover-up; Enron’s auditing firm has already admitted shredding thousands of documents the day after investigators asked for records. James Baker, the guy who was all over the news maneuvering the Florida recount—he was with Enron. Karl Rove, the other guy who was masterminding Bush’s election, owned a quarter of a million dollars worth of Enron stock. Bob Mosbacher, the Commerce Secretary, was with Enron. Bush’s top economic adviser, Lawrence Lindsey, was an Enron consultant. The list goes on and on. And it’s not a bunch of nobodies. These are Bush’s main handlers, the guys who tell him what to do and where to go and what to say.”
He looked at me shrewdly. “You know as well as I do,” he said, “that this is all just a big smear campaign orchestrated by Hilary Clinton.”
“That’s enough, you two,” said Greg at my elbow. “You’re outa here again.”
© Tony Russell, 2002