"It’s a terribly hard job to spend a billion dollars and get your money’s worth."
     -- George M. Humphrey, U.S. Treasury Secretary, February 23, 1954.
"According to some estimates, we cannot track $2.3 trillion in transactions."
-- Donald H. Rumsfeld, U.S. Defense Secretary, September 10, 2001.


Minding the Gaps
Posted Apr 25, 2005 | Link

When riding the "Tube"—the common name for the London Underground railway—passengers regularly hear a sober voice telling them to “mind the gap.” While regular commuters may be numb to this warning, tourists should take heed. Since many platforms are curved, and railway cars are necessarily straight, a crescent-shaped gap occurs between the train and the concrete. Busy travelers who fail to notice this small chasm may unexpectedly find themselves with a sprained ankle or bruised toes. In America, it’s more important to notice the gaps inside the beltway of Washington, D.C.—especially in the résumés of our esteemed leaders.

Sometimes these holes are so small and innocent that we hardly notice them, such as the ones in Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s biography. His bio states that from 1977 to 1985 he was the CEO and then Chairman of G.D. Searle & Co. (a large pharmaceutical company purchased by Monsanto in 1985 for $2.7 billion) and that from 1985 to 1990, “he was in private business.”

While his vacation under the guise of "private business" was well earned (the Searle acquisition made him very wealthy), his record makes no mention of his role as Special Envoy to President Reagan. In addition to giving the green light to Hussein's use of chemical weapons (which led to other atrocities), Rumsfeld also managed to pitch an Iraqi-Jordanian oil pipeline for Bechtel. That's certainly some fancy moonlighting for a corporate CEO.

Rumsfeld and potential business partner Saddam Hussein
December 20, 1983

Other times, the missing data on one’s backgrounder is a little more suspicious. Take for example Thomas Kean, the chair of the 9-11 Commission. His bio points out a wide range of accomplishments including 25 honorary degrees and the fact that he “is on the board of a number of organizations.” Ironically, it completely leaves out the fact that he is an active member on the board of the Amerada Hess Corporation, a $14 billion petroleum company. What’s also interesting is that Hess has had an agreement since at least 1998 to explore and develop the Caspian Sea region near Iraq with Saudi Arabia’s Delta Oil. Wasn't it just a little beyond the pale to chair what was perhaps the most important investigation in American history with a man who had direct business dealings with the primary suspect?

Kean isn’t the only person with oil connections. Secretary of State and former National Security Advisor Dr. Condoleezza Rice was on the board of Chevron (now ChevronTexaco) for ten years. Although her original biography does mention her membership on Chevron’s board, it heavily dilutes it in a sea of 14 other board memberships. The fact that Chevron named a 129,000-ton tanker the Condoleezza Rice should indicate her level of involvement with the company (after a public outcry, Chevron renamed the ship to Altair Voyager). Actually, Rice spent much of her time working on Central Asian pipeline deals such as those in the Tengiz oil fields in Kazakhstan. Something tells me that this experience was much more meaningful to the current administration than her diplomatic skills.

Dick Cheney’s biography is a little more interesting. It completely skips the 8-year period between January 1993, when he left his position as President George H. W. Bush’s Secretary of Defense, and January 2001, when he accepted his current position as vice president. Of course, we have all come to learn that he was the CEO of Halliburton during this time. While the $2 million in deferred salary he received since leaving the CEO post has been accounted for, and the 433,333 stock options he still held as of September, 2003 have been assigned to charity, many questions still remain as to what ties he has to Halliburton. For instance, why did Cheney lie to Tim Russert when asked if he still had any financial interest in Halliburton (unless you're purposely trying to fake someone out, how do 433,333 stock option not count as a financial interest) and why does Cheney continue to omit his tenure as Halliburton CEO from his White House bio? Most people would be proud of such a role.

Not to be left out, George W. Bush’s biography also contains a couple of gaps. First of all, Bush is the only president whose White House website sidebar omits his birthplace (Connecticut). Could it be that he'd like to de-emphasize his New England roots? Much more importantly, after graduating from Harvard in 1975, Bush’s bio simply says that he “began a career in the energy business.” Somehow, his career "beginnings" lasted approximately 14 years, until he purchased the Texas Rangers in 1989. I guess that like his mentor Cheney, Bush doesn't want people to know that he spent an awful lot of time in the oil business, surrounded by rich oil tycoons that might someday want some sort of payback for stringing him along for so many years. Of course, this is just an assumption. Something to think about when you mind the gaps.

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