Frank Rich Compares Abramoff to Monica
Abramoff & Company pursued a “careful cultivation of relations with Bush’s political team as far back as 1997,” according to The Associated Press. One contact was J. Steven Griles, a mining industry lobbyist who, topically enough, tried to weaken mine regulation during his government tenure as No. 2 in Mr. Bush’s Interior Department. The department also handles Indian affairs, but Mr. Griles has said he does not “recall intervening on behalf of Mr. Abramoff’s clients ever” when in government.
Mr. Abramoff himself served on the Interior Department’s transition team after the 2000 election. Perhaps it’s this steady drip of revelations, including those about his White House access as a “Pioneer” delivering at least $100,000 to the Bush campaign, that has frightened the administration into suddenly speaking out about the scandal. Scott McClellan is now also using that helpful verb recall - as in the president does not “recall” ever meeting Mr. Abramoff (an artful dodge if photos surface). Mr. Bush has disingenuously explained that the lobbyist had been an “equal money dispenser” to those “in both political parties.” (To both, yes, but never equally.)
If this all sounds a little familiar, that’s because it replays the White House game plan after the Enron meltdown. Mr. Bush then suggested that he had inherited his relationship with Ken Lay from Ann Richards, his Democratic predecessor as Texas governor, and suddenly took to referring to the backer he had once nicknamed Kenny Boy as Mr. Lay. You’d never guess that Enron brass had helped pay Mr. Bush’s campaign expenses for the Florida recount, contributed $300,000 to the inaugural gala and attended four meetings of Dick Cheney’s secret energy task force.
As fate would have it, the court appearances of Mr. Lay, Mr. DeLay, Jeff Skilling, Mr. Safavian and Mr. Abramoff could all overlap on 24/7 cable in the months ahead. There will surely be much talk of God along the way. Mr. DeLay’s pastor, Mr. Buckham, and Mr. Reed were not the only prayerful players in the Abramoff casino. So were the Rev. “Lucky Louie” Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition and the right-wing Rabbi Daniel Lapin, whose Toward Tradition organization received a $25,000 check (in all innocence, we’re told) from the Abramoff client eLottery. In 2002, the good rabbi welcomed the lobbyist onto the board of his American Alliance of Jews and Christians, along with Jerry Falwell and the man who loves Israel literally to death, Pat Robertson.