And now the most absorbing two minutes in television, the latest from the political grapevine:
To Testify or Not To Testify...
Congressional Republicans think former Clinton Treasury Secretary Bob Rubin should be called to testify about the relationship between his current firm, banking giant Citigroup, and Enron, but Democrats are balking. Rubin joined Citigroup as chairman of its executive committee three years ago, after the bank had made deals with Enron that have since been exposed as disguised loans that helped Enron conceal the extent of its debt. Citigroup was Enron's biggest creditor, and Rubin later tried to get the Treasury Department to help Enron avoid a credit downgrade. But Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate subcommittee, looking into Enron's collapse said he wouldn't call Rubin to testify and Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., chairman of the full committee, said he agreed.
Rubin himself, meanwhile, seems to be blaming the current difficulties in the U.S. economy on things that happened on his own watch. At a lunch in Singapore, the former treasury secretary warned the "imbalances that developed over the last eight years are far from having fully unwound." Rubin cited such things as rising corporate and consumer debt, low personal savings, a stock market that was high by any standard and a widening trade deficit. And Rubin warned against an overreaction by corporate reformers. He said the U.S. corporate system has served "exceedingly well for a very long time."
Blaming the Republicans
Former President Clinton says, meanwhile, that Congressional Republicans deserve blame for blocking the accounting reforms that he and his S.E.C. Chairman Arthur Levitt tried to put through. Mr. Clinton also told The New York Times that the Republicans should seek the advice of such market sages as the fabled investor Warren Buffett about restoring investor confidence. Buffett himself only yesterday in an article in The Times had some ideas of his own about who scuttled one key proposed accounting reform: treating stock options as an expense. "On May 3, 1994, the Senate, led by Sen. Joseph Lieberman, pushed the Financial Accounting Standards Board and Arthur Levitt, then chairman of the S.E.C., into backing down from mandating that options be expensed."