- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 29, 2002

President Bush yesterday said congressional demands for White House records on the energy task force were an "encroachment on the executive branch's ability to conduct business."
Setting up a potential court showdown, Mr. Bush said his administration would not turn over the records to Congress' investigative arm, the General Accounting Office. He said the White House is entitled to keep private its deliberations over energy policy or other matters.
"We're not going to let the ability for us to discuss matters between ourselves to become eroded," the president said during a Rose Garden appearance with Afghan interim leader Hamid Karzai.
"It's not only important for us, for this administration," he added. "It's an important principle for future administrations."
White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said being forced to turn over all notes and records from the energy task force could have a chilling effect on experts who are invited to give their private opinions to the White House on a variety of issues.
He cited ethicists, religious leaders and health officials who gave Mr. Bush advice on stem-cell research.
"If somebody said: 'Give us those notes, share with us any e-mails, tell us everything they said,' you could easily paint another story they're hiding something even if that's not close to the case," Mr. Fleischer said.
Mr. Bush expressed incredulity that Rep. Henry A. Waxman, California Democrat, was accusing the White House of what the president called "doing favors for Enron."
"There are some on Capitol Hill who want to politicize this issue," the president said. "This is not a political issue. It is a business issue that this nation must deal with."
Mr. Bush also dismissed Mr. Waxman's claim that the White House turned its energy plan, which was made public last summer, into the company's wish list.
"Well, Enron went bust," the president said. "Shortly after the report was put out, Enron went broke."
He said the company filed for bankruptcy last month "because there was not full disclosure of finances."
"What we're talking about here is a corporate governance issue," Mr. Bush said. "This is a business problem that our country must deal with and must fix, and that is full disclosure of liabilities, full understanding of the effects of decisions on pension funds, reform of the pension system, perhaps."
In a reference to the fact that Enron gave large campaign contributions to both Democrats and Republicans, the president said: "You know, Enron had made contributions to a lot of people around Washington, D.C. And if they came to this administration looking for help, they didn't find any."
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, recently said Mr. Bush was poised to "Enronize" the budget with tax cuts that took effect last summer and that Democrats blamed for wiping out the federal surplus.
Yesterday, the president fired back by suggesting Democrats want to raise taxes.
"Sometimes there's political hyperbole here in this town," he said. "There are some still upset with the tax cut.
"But I want to remind you that we were in recession in March of last year," he said. "So the tax cuts came at the right time.
"Now there are some who believe if you raise taxes, it makes the economy stronger," he concluded. "I don't understand what textbook they're reading. I believe by reducing taxes, it makes the economy stronger."

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