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April 29, 2005



PAUL GIGOT: Winners and losers, picks and pans. Tony or Tacky, our way of calling attention to the best and worst of the week. We begin with Jason Riley, who takes note of the fact that the Bush Administration has decided to support legislation prohibiting illegal immigrants from getting drivers' licenses. Jason, tony or tacky?

JASON RILEY: Well this is a tacky on the part of the Bush administration. I'm not suggesting that people here illegally have a right to drive. But as a practical matter we have more than 10 million illegal aliens in this country, and denying them drivers' licenses is not going to cause any of them to go home, nor is it going to prevent fewer from coming here illegally. What it is going to do is give us millions of more unlicensed and uninsured drivers on the road, and I don't think that that's a good thing.

I understand what the Bush administration is trying to do here: they're trying to throw a bone of sorts to the anti-immigrant members of their own party who have sort of been pining for this sort of punitive measure for years. And Bush is hoping that in return he'll get more support on his broader immigration form, like a guest worker program. So I understand the strategy, but I don't think that this is the way to go about it.

PAUL GIGOT: I agree with you, though, Jason. It's a purely political decision and I hope it pays off in the guest worker program later down this administration. Thanks.

It looks as if federal money intended to help local governments deal with terrorism is being dispensed by Congress along the usual lines having little to do with the threat. Dan?

DAN HENNINGER: Well, that's right. A great big tacky, maybe Tacky number 5000 for Congress. After September 11th it was decided that the most vulnerable cities in this country needed better protection than they had. And so some money was raised to do that. And as soon as Congress saw the money they grabbed it, and where did they put it? One guess. Into the pork barrel, where it is now distributed out to all 50 states on some sort of arcane formula so nobody gets short-changed. Now, in other words, black top is no different than radiation bombs in Congress' view.

Just the other night in his press conference, the president said there was some fear that after September 11th the people would lack seriousness as time went on. You don't have to worry about the American people, it's the Congress of the United States that has lost seriousness about September 11th.

PAUL GIGOT: All right, thanks, Dan. And finally, Dennis Kozlowski, the former chief executive of Tyco who is accused of looting the company, testified this week he just "forgot" to report 25 million dollars on his tax return. Bret, I know you forget to do that every year. Is this tony or tacky?

BRET STEPHENS: Of course this is a tacky. Look, what I love about Kozlowski's testimony is that he's taking the decision to put himself on the stand, and he's offering this kind of regular guy defense, which basically says, well, you know, taxes are complicated. I had this onus, I forgot about it. I'm an idiot. And there's the sort of narrative strategy at work here, which is to transform criminal misbehavior into what amounts to pathetic behavior, and thereby generate a sense of pathos. And he thinks that's what's going to win the heart of at least a few of the jurors.

Now, it's not going to wash. And the reason it's not going to wash is because most of us, alas, do not have 25 million dollar bonuses, and most of us actually do our taxes and do them honestly, and most of us don't have things like six thousand dollar shower curtains. So I don't think the strategy is going to work for him, and I think it's tacky that he did it.

PAUL GIGOT: The absent-minded CEO defense. Thanks, Bret. That's it for this edition of THE JOURNAL EDITORIAL REPORT. Thank you from all of us. We'll be back next week, and we hope you'll join us then.