When reporters asked George W. Bush yesterday about the indictment of his old friend Ken Lay, he turned and walked away from the podium -- surely irking some of his own handlers as he did, for he gave photographers the opportunity to capture an image like this. For all Bush's talk about corporate responsibility, a theme from his State of the Union address and a frequent talking point on the stump, you'd think he'd take a moment to claim a big victory for his Justice Department in finally getting an indictment of the former head of the daddy-of-all-scandal-ridden corporations. Instead, the reporters just got Bush's back.
Today, as his friend, patron and shaper of his administration's energy policy was led away in handcuffs, Bush left it up to his spokesman to suggest that he was never really that remarkably close to the man he affectionately called Kenny Boy. "He was a supporter in the past and he's someone that I would also point out has certainly supported Democrats and Republicans in the past," his spokesman Scott McClellan said, apparently with a straight face. The AP did its job and followed up McClellan's quote with some facts: "Lay clearly favored the GOP. He and his wife, Linda, donated $882,580 to federal candidates from 1989-2001, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. All but $86,470 went to Republicans." And George W. Bush was his favorite Republican of all. Why else would he lend his company's corporate jet to Bush eight times during his 2000 campaign, co-chair a gala tribute to him and, until just recently, win the title of his biggest career patron?
The Smoking Gun archives hold pages of evidence of the Bush-Lay relationship letters exchanged between the two men in happier times, including one sent from Bush to Lay on his 55th birthday: "One of the sad things about old friends," then-Gov. Bush wrote, "is that they seem to be getting older -- just like you! .. Laura and I value our friendship with you. Best wishes to Linda, your family and friends. Your younger friend."