Not So Fastow

Not So Fastow

Not So Fastow

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Feb. 3 2002 4:36 AM

Not So Fastow

The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times lead with another harrowing Enron report, this one prepared by the company itself for its bankruptcy filing. A few more despicable details are brought to light. The New York Times ignores the report, at least in the early edition, going instead for the World Economic Forum at the Waldorf, where the question is how to make the world safe for capitalism again.

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The internal report from Enron names CFO Andrew Fastow as chief architect of the partnerships scheme that helped the company hide $1 billion in losses during the 12-month period ending in September, the WP reports in its lead. And Kenneth Lay? He was merely "inattentive," the report finds, though as "captain of the ship" he must shoulder "ultimate responsibility." That $1 billion is a new figure, by the way. In November, the company said they'd lost only $586 million over five years, an announcement that sent the stock tumbling. It closed at 67 cents on Friday.

So it might have been an OK day for Lay were he not facing the Senate Commerce Committee tomorrow and had the NYT and the WP not exhaustively documented his rise and fall on their front pages this morning. "A Bright Career in Dim Twilight" the Post headline reads. The paper has particular fun with Linda Lay, Ken's wife and former secretary, who announced last week that the family is on the verge of bankruptcy. The WP responds with a summary of Ken's income and assets, including hundreds of millions in stock sales and properties in Aspen worth another $15 mill. As for tomorrow,  "the man who rose from modest beginnings in the Ozarks to rub elbows with presidents will try to salvage what is left of his name, balancing allegations of greed and corruption against charges of incompetence," the Post writes.

The goings-on at the World Economic Forum make for a feisty NYT lead. "While the meals have been opulent —sushi and cocktails at the Four Seasons, followed by endless courses at Le Cirque 2000—for the chief executives and prime ministers, economists and 'media leaders' gathered at the World Economic Forum, the main dish is anxiety," the paper chirps. Terrorism is hot, but so is the "axis of evil," George W.'s State of the Union reference to Iraq, Iran, and North Korea, which has made some "fearful that a superpower on a roll [is] now looking for trouble." The dean of the Kennedy School at Harvard says, "There's a strong suspicion here that Bush is back to unilateralism, that after Afghanistan, America isn't especially interested in listening to the rest of the world."

A WP editorial backs Bush: "The president's remarks, in his State of the Union address, were quite clear and, for the most part, pushed U.S. foreign policy in the right direction. Among other virtues, what Mr. Bush said about the three countries has the advantage of being true."

The LAT fronter from the Waldorf downplays the "axis" remark in favor of the "new odd couple of the aid advocacy world": Bill Gates and Bono. At a joint news conference, the pair pressed Paul O'Neill and the administration to contribute more to global healthcare efforts. Gates, whom Bono called "the pope of software," announced that he's personally giving an additional $50 million to help fight AIDS worldwide.

All three papers have Bush budget fronters. The NYT reports that Bush will link agency funding to performance. For example, "the Department of Energy's fossil energy research and development programs were judged ineffective and duplicative and had their budget slashed to $58 million from $101 million, a 43 percent reduction." The National Weather Service's hurricane and tornado warning system scored well, on the other hand, earning a 4.2 percent increase. The LAT fronter argues that Bush's economic strategies—tax cuts, deficit spending, more money for the military, and cuts in most other programs—are rather Reagan-esque. "We have seen this movie before," says a Dem staffer, "and here we are, back to it again. I think it is hauntingly similar."

The NYT stuffs a still-bearded Al Gore as he considers another run at the presidency. The man who "used to be the next president of the United State," as he likes to say, spoke at a Democratic party dinner in Tennessee, a sign, the Times says, that he's still got Washington on the brain. His party colleagues do not share his enthusiasm. Sen. Byron Dugan of N.D. "laughed uproariously when asked about supporting Mr. Gore again." Joe Lieberman is also said to be weighing his options, though he's said he will not run against Gore.

The NYT's Supreme Court correspondent, Linda Greenhouse, writes admiringly (in the Book Review) of Lazy B, Sandra Day O'Connor's childhood memoir, written with her brother. (The title refers to the ranch they grew up on.) The justice-to-be had a rugged, calloused, scrutinizing father who made Sandra the person she is today (or so the story goes). "He called Sandra away from a Nancy Drew mystery one summer day," Greenhouse writes, "so she could watch him shoot a calf whose hindquarters had been gnawed by a coyote." Behold, the making of a compassionate conservative. O'Connor: "After all the cowboys understood that a girl could hold up her end, it was much easier for my sister, my niece and the other girls and young women who followed to be accepted in that rough-and-tumble world."

Bill O'Brien is a freelance writer living in Manhattan.