The Enron scandal is chewing up hyperbole at an alarming rate.  There may not even be enough adjectives and metaphors left in the pundit arsenal to carry them into the first talk shows of February. 

Al Hunt was an early favorite in the hyperbole sweepstakes.  On the Capital Gang he’s called the scandal “humungous,” with “more legs than a centipede.”   It’s also going to “mushroom.”   Cokie Roberts on This Week merely said it was “huge.”   Mark Shields of The News Hour saw President Bush eclipsed by he enormity of it all:  “George Bush is no longer setting the national agenda, Enron is.”   Hunt, Roberts, and Shields, however, were left standing in the hyperbolic dust when Paul Krugman of The New York Times wrote these startling words:  “I predict that in the years ahead Enron, not Sept. 11, will come to be seen as the greater turning point in U.S. society.”   Does this mean we’ll have long lines to buy stock, executive profiling debates, and Federal screeners for our 401Ks?

Once something becomes bigger than September 11th and is anointed the nation’s agenda, what’s left?  Luckily, in the coming week, pundits may be able to use their stock of less grandiose terms to describe President Bush’s State of the Union address.

Enron, from the Latin  If you can’t find a word to describe the scandal, make one up!  Richard Cohen claims “Enronian Economics Has Taken Over Washington.”   Surprisingly, Senator Daschle said something similar…. Jim Hoagland warns that if President Bush doesn’t work with alternative Palestinian leadership, it will be seen as “an Enron of diplomacy.”

Celebrity Look-Alike Contest  Mark Shields asks if John Walker Lindh is our surrogate for Osama Bin Laden.  Margaret Carlson compares him to Elian Gonzalez.

Paging Susan Sarandon  Tom Friedman tells us, “Mr. Arafat is a dead man walking….”

And These Guys Are On Our Side?  Bob Novak says President Bush is dedicated to the “Texas buddy system” and that his actions regarding the United Airlines labor dispute “generated improbable nostalgia for the Clinton White House among steadfast Republicans.”   Bill Safire wrote that Colin Powell’s request to revisit the POW issue caused a “hissy fit” among high administration officials and that White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales “signs off on half-baked memos and orders.”  

Bush in China  Nicholas Kristof tell us that freshly minted MBA Bush went to China in 1975 because he wanted to date Chinese women.  “Predictably, he spent the summer striking out.”

Insights of the Week  Brit Hume:  “We’re never going to win a war if we respond to reflexive anti-Americanism.”   David Brooks:  “Politicians, particularly Republicans, need to ask themselves, “Am I pro-business or pro-competition?”

Mail Bag

Fritz S. writes:

RE: Krugman. As I read all this stuff about him, and his own comments, I'm reminded of an aphorism I learned a long time ago as a labor lawyer for a city government:

"You can't make an a**h*** feel like one."

Sullivan, et al. don't seem to understand that point, which is why they keep trying to force Krugman to admit error. Won't happen.

Will Vehrs is an economic developer in Richmond, Va.  Unable to obsess on golf, fishing, or a weed-free lawn, he chose to stalk the weekend talk show pundits and their syndicated print brethren.   His "Punditwatch" column appears in Tony Adragna's Quasipundit.