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Speech at the Regent Wall Street Hotel, July 9, 2002


The Annotated George W. Bush


by Tristan Trout



The text of the President's speech, as it was posted on, appears in plain text. Our reconstruction of GWB's internal monologue appears in boldface.


THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. Thank you very much for that warm welcome. I'm pleased to be back in New York City. New York City is a unique symbol of America's creativity and character and resilience. In the last 10 months, New Yorkers have shown a watching world the true spirit of your city. (And, thank God, distracted them from the fact that I wasn't really elected.) A spirit that honors the loss, remembers its heroes, and goes forward with determination and with confidence. (Fuck, I hope those Secret Service guys have the entrances covered. This city scares the shit outta me.)

People of this city are writing one of the greatest chapters in our nation's history, and all Americans are proud of New York. ("This salsa's made in New York City!" "New York City?!" Heh. I love that commercial.)

I've come to the financial capital of the world to speak of a serious challenge to our financial markets, and to the confidence on which they rest. The misdeeds now being uncovered in some quarters of corporate America are threatening the financial well-being of many workers and many investors. (Screw the workers. Daddy's friends are losin' money!) At this moment, America's greatest economic need is higher ethical standards -- standards enforced by strict laws and upheld by responsible business leaders. (Unless, of course, they're buddies with me and Daddy and Dick, in which case we'll just have to be more careful about covering it up.)

The lure of heady profits of the late 1990s spawned abuses and excesses. ( It's Clinton's fault.) With strict enforcement and higher ethical standards, we must usher in a new era of integrity in corporate America. (Also, fairies are REAL! You guys keep on pretending to believe me, and I'll keep spouting bullshit.)

I want to thank Bill for his introduction. There's nothing like being recycled. (Laughter and applause.) But thanks for having me. I'm honored to meet your family and Uncle Jack. (What a bunch of assholes.)

I appreciate very much Secretary O'Neill and Secretary Evans traveling with me today. (because I'm not allowed to cross the street by myself.) I want to thank the members of the New York delegation, Senators Schumer (asshole) and Clinton (slut), as well as Congressman Fossella and Congressman Rangel (boobies). I appreciate so very much the Mayor -- my friend, the Mayor, for being here to greet me as I came in on the chopper. (I got to ride in the chopper!) Thank you, Mr. Mayor, and thanks for the great job you're doing for New York. (You're not half the Furher Giuliani was.)

I'm honored that Cardinal Egan is here. (Try not to touch any kids while you're here, OK?) And I appreciate so very much seeing John Whitehead, the Chairman of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. And thank you all for coming, as well.

The American economy -- our economy -- is built on confidence. (Confidence. . . but, mainly, greed.) The conviction that our free enterprise system will continue to be the most powerful and most promising in the world. (Because we have the bomb.) That confidence is well-placed. (Because we have the bomb.) After all, American technology is the most advanced in the world. (Because we have the bomb.) Our universities attract the talent of the world. (Because they want to learn to build the bomb.) Our workers and ranchers and farmers can compete with anyone in the world. (Also, we have NASCAR. Yee-haw!) Our society rewards hard work and honest ambition (and having the last name "Bush"), bringing people to our shores from all around the world who share those values. (To work in our convenience stores.) The American economy is the most creative and enterprising and productive system ever devised. (Screw you, Sweden!)

We can be confident because America is taking every necessary step to fight and win the war on terror. (Just like we won the war on drugs. . . ) We are reorganizing the federal government to protect the homeland. (Ve needs der Lebenstraum!) We are hunting down the terrorists who seek to sow chaos. My commitment, and the commitment of our government, is total. We will not relent until the cold-blooded killers are found, disrupted, and defeated. (Now if they would stop hiding in caves. . .)

We can be confident because of the amazing achievements of American workers and entrepreneurs.(Who read Fark all day.) In spite of all that happened last year, from the economic slowdown to the terrorist attack, worker productivity has grown by 4.2 percent over the last four quarters. In the first quarter of 2002, the economy grew at an annual rate exceeding six percent. Though there's much work left to do, American workers have defied the pessimists and laid the foundation for a sustained recovery. (What did I just say?)

We can be confident because we're pursuing pro-growth reforms in Washington, D.C. (We call 'em "Reaganomics.") Last year we passed the biggest tax cut in a generation, which encouraged job creation and boosted consumer spending at just the right time. (And, as a result, we're broke.) For the sake of long-term growth, I'm asking Congress to make the tax reductions permanent. I'm asking Congress to join me to promote free trade, which will open new markets and create better jobs and spur innovation. (And leech jobs to third-world sweatshops.) I ask Congress to work with me to pass a terrorism insurance bill, to give companies the security they need to expand and to build. And I will insist on -- and, if need be, enforce -- discipline in federal spending, so we can meet our national priorities without undermining our economy. (Goodbye, Social Security. If you need Medicare, the terrorists have already won.)

We have much to be confident about in America. (Except our World Cup team.) Yet our economy and our country need one more kind of confidence -- confidence in the character and conduct of all of our business leaders. (Obey Giant!) The American economy today is rising, while faith in the fundamental integrity of American business leaders is being undermined. (By Corporate Motherfuckers everywhere.) Nearly every week brings better economic news, and a discovery of fraud and scandal -- problems long in the making, (like, since the late 1800s) but now coming to light.

We've learned of some business leaders obstructing justice, and misleading clients, falsifying records, business executives breaching the trust and abusing power. We've learned of CEOs earning tens of millions of dollars in bonuses just before their companies go bankrupt, leaving employees and retirees and investors to suffer. The business pages of American newspapers should not read like a scandal sheet. ('Course, they're idiots for gettin' caught!)

The vast majority of businessmen and women are honest. They do right by their employees and their shareholders. They do not cut ethical corners, and their work helps create an economy which is the envy of the world. (Also, you know the Brooklyn Bridge? Wanna buy it?)

Yet high-profile acts of deception have shaken people's trust. Too many corporations seem disconnected from the values of our country. (Darn amoral corporations!) These scandals have hurt the reputations of many good and honest companies. They have hurt the stock market. (And Dick.) And worst of all, they are hurting millions of people who depend on the integrity of businesses for their livelihood and their retirement, for their peace of mind and their financial well-being. (Because they sure as shit won't be able to depend on the government once we're done with it!)

When abuses like this begin to surface in the corporate world, it is time to reaffirm the basic principles and rules that make capitalism work: truthful books and honest people, and well-enforced laws against fraud and corruption. (But, mainly, it's about greed.) All investment is an act of faith, and faith is earned by integrity. (OK, I'm lying: It's about short-term speculation.) In the long run, there's no capitalism without conscience; there is no wealth without character. (I have no idea what I just said, but it sounded good.)

And so again today I'm calling for a new ethic of personal responsibility in the business community; an ethic that will increase investor confidence, will make employees proud of their companies, and again, regain the trust of the American people. (Obey Giant!)

Our nation's most respected business leaders -- including many gathered here today -- take this ethic very seriously. (Pshaw!) The Business Roundtable, the New York Stock Exchange, the NASDAQ have all proposed guidelines to improve corporate conduct and transparency. These include requirements that independent directors compose a majority of a company's board; that all members of audit, nominating, and compensation committees be independent; and that all stock option plans be approved by the shareholders. I call on all the stock markets to adopt these sensible reforms -- these common-sense reforms -- as soon as possible. (That's some clever shit Dick came up with!)

Self-regulation is important, but it's not enough. Government cannot remove risk from investment -- I know that -- or chance from the market. But government can do more to promote transparency and ensure that risks are honest. And government can ensure that those who breach the trust of the American people are punished. ('Course, us Skull-and-Bones guys will always know more than you rubes. You can't join the secret club, nyaaah! nyaaah!)

Bold, well-considered reforms should demand integrity, without stifling innovation and economic growth. From the antitrust laws of the 19th century to the S&L reforms of recent times, America has tackled financial problems when they appeared. (Bully!) The actions I'm proposing follow in this tradition, and should be welcomed by every honest company in America. (All both of them.)

First, we will use the full weight of the law to expose and root out corruption. My administration will do everything in our power to end the days of cooking the books, shading the truth, and breaking our laws. (Minimum get-off-the-hook donation: $500,000!)

Today, by executive order, I create a new Corporate Fraud Task Force, headed by the Deputy Attorney General, which will target major accounting fraud and other criminal activity in corporate finance. (Pikachu, I choose you!) The task force will function as a financial crimes SWAT team, overseeing the investigation of corporate abusers and bringing them to account. (They'll also have cool secret decoder rings and talking cars, like in Knight Rider!)

I'm also proposing tough new criminal penalties for corporate fraud. This legislation would double the maximum prison terms for those convicted of financial fraud from five to 10 years. (Also, we're gonna make 'em share a cell with Martha Stewart.) Defrauding investors is a serious offense, and the punishment must be as serious as the crime. (Unless you're on Dick's Christmas-card list.) I ask Congress to strengthen the ability of SEC investigators to temporarily freeze improper payments to corporate executives, and to strengthen laws that prevent the destruction of corporate documents in order to hide crimes. (Note to self: Get "Oliver North"-model shredder.)

Second, we're moving corporate accounting out of the shadows (by making them stop employing ninjas), so the investing public will have a true and fair and timely picture of assets and liabilities and income of publicly traded companies. Greater transparency will expose bad companies and, just as importantly, protect the reputations of the good ones. (Skull and Bones! Skull and Bones!)

To expose corporate corruption, I asked Congress four months ago for funding to place 100 new enforcement personnel in the SEC. And I call on Congress to act quickly on this request. Today I announce my administration is asking Congress for an additional $100 million in the coming year to give the SEC the officers and the technology it needs to enforce the law. If more scandals are hiding in corporate America, we must find and expose them now, so we can begin rebuilding the confidence of our people and the momentum of our markets. (Pork barrel for everyone!)

I've also proposed a 10-point Accountability Plan for American Business, designed to provide better information to shareholders, set clear responsibility for corporate officers, and develop a stronger, more independent auditing system. This plan is ensuring that the SEC takes aggressive and affirmative action. (I don't know what that means, but it sounds good!)

Corporate officers who benefit from false accounting statements should forfeit all money gained by their fraud. (Unless it's "wages" like those Enron guys got!) An executive whose compensation is tied to his company's performance makes more money when his company does well -- that's fine, and that's fair when the accounting is above-board. (Because they still make 500 times more than anyone else!) Yet when a company uses deception -- deception accounting to hide reality, executives should lose all their compensation -- all their compensation -- gained by the deceit. (Not, of course, that I'll ever advocate taking away some rich white guy's money. . .)

Corporate leaders who violate the public trust should never be given that trust again. The SEC should be able to punish corporate leaders who are convicted of abusing their powers by banning them from ever serving again as officers or directors of a publicly-held corporation. If an executive is guilty of outright fraud, resignation is not enough. Only a ban on serving at the top of another company will protect other shareholders and employees. (Don't worry. There's always public office.)

My accountability plan also requires CEOs to personally vouch for their firms' annual financial statements. Currently, a CEO signs a nominal certificate, and does so merely on behalf of the company. In the future, the signature of the CEO should also be his or her personal certification of the veracity and fairness of the financial disclosures. When you sign a statement, you're pledging your word, and you should stand behind it. (Of course, since corporations are "artificial persons," we can't hold them responsible, can we?)

And because the shareholders of America need confidence in financial disclosures right away, the SEC has ordered the leaders of nearly a thousand large public companies to certify that the financial information they submitted in the last year was fair and it was accurate. (Ignore it, boys!)

I've also called on the SEC to adopt new rules to ensure that auditors will be independent and not compromised by conflicts of interest. (Of course, there are only five big accounting firms. . . Skull and Bones! Skull and Bones!)

The House of Representatives has passed needed legislation to encourage transparency and accountability in American businesses. The Senate also needs to act quickly and responsibly, so I can sign a good bill into law. (It's in your hands, you Democrat bastards!)

Third, my administration will guard the interests of small investor and pension holders. More than 80 million Americans own stock, and many of them are new to the market.(All yor base are belong to us, suckers!) Buying stock gives them an opportunity to build wealth over the long-term, and this is the very kind of responsible investment we must promote in America. To encourage stock ownership, we must make sure that analysts give honest advice, and pension plans treat workers fairly. (Of course, we must never, ever suggest that the government might want to play a greater role in social welfare!)

Stock analysts should be trusted advisors, not salesmen with a hidden agenda. (Whew. Almost cracked up on that one.) We must prevent analysts from touting weak companies because they happen to be clients of their own firm for underwriting or merger advice. (Also, pigs will fly.) This is a flat-out conflict of interest, and we'll aggressively enforce new SEC rules against this practice -- rules which take effect today. (Not that we'll enforce 'em.)

And the stock markets should make sure that the advice analysts give, and the terms they use, have real meaning to investors. "Buy" should not be the only word in an analyst's vocabulary. And they should never say "hold" when they really mean "sell." (As for me, I'm gonna go with the ol' inside info. Skull and Bones! Skull and Bones!)

Small investors should also not have to have the deck stacked against them when it comes to managing their own retirement funds. My pension reform proposal would treat corporate executives the same as workers during so-called "blackout periods," when employees are prohibited from trading in their accounts. What's fair for the workers is fair for the bosses. (Next thing you know, they'll think there is no class system!)

My (Dick's) reform proposal gives workers quarterly information about their investments. It expands workers' access to sound investment advice, and allows them to diversify out of company stock. The House has passed these measures; I urge the Senate to do the same. (Fucking Democrats!)

Tougher laws and stricter requirements will help -- it will help. Yet, ultimately, the ethics of American business depend on the conscience of America's business leaders. (You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch!) We need men and women (but mainly white men) of character, who know the difference between ambition and destructive greed, between justified risk and irresponsibility, between enterprise and fraud. (Make checks out to "Republican National Party," OK?)

Our schools of business must be principled teachers of right and wrong, and not surrender to moral confusion and relativism. (Nor teach evolution.) Our leaders of business must set high and clear expectations of conduct, demonstrated by their own conduct. (No more hookers on the expense account!) Responsible business leaders do not jump ship during hard times. (Unlike other rats.) Responsible leaders do not collect huge bonus packages when the value of their company dramatically declines. (And then run for public office.) Responsible leaders do not take home tens of millions of dollars in compensation as their companies prepare to file for bankruptcy, devastating the holdings of their investors. (Sure they do! Once again, make checks out to "Republican National Party," OK?)

Everyone in a company should live up to high standards. But the burden of leadership rightly belongs to the chief executive officer. CEOs set the ethical direction for their companies. (Wow, just like the President!) They set a moral tone by the decisions they make, the respect they show their employees, and their willingness to be held accountable for their actions. (Ironically enough, while I'm a social Darwinist, I'm against the teaching of evolution.) They set a moral tone by showing their disapproval of other executives who bring discredit to the business world. (Skull and Bones! Skull and Bones!)

And one of the principal ways that CEOs set an ethical tone is through their compensation. (That means "money.") The pay package sends a clear signal whether a business leader is committed to teamwork or personal enrichment. It tells you whether his principal goal is the creation of wealth for shareholders, or the accumulation of wealth for himself. (Also, I'm a dedicated Marxist. Yeah, right!)

The SEC currently requires the annual disclosure of a CEO's compensation. But that information is often buried in long proxy statement -- proxy statements, and seldom seen -- seldom seen -- by shareholders.(Seldom seen! Like Dick's neck!) I challenge every CEO in America to describe in the company's annual report -- prominently, and in plain English -- details of his or her compensation package, including salary and bonus and benefits. (And car, and driver, and teenaged hookers, and. . . ) And the CEO, in that report, should also explain why his or her compensation package is in the best interest of the company he serves. ("Because it makes me money!")

Those who sit on corporate boards have responsibilities. I urge board members to check the quality of their company's financial statements; to ask tough questions about accounting methods; to demand that audit firms are not beholden to the CEO; and to make sure the compensation for senior executives squares with reality and common sense. And I challenge compensation committees to put an end to all company loans to corporate officers. (Also, I challenge Iron Chef Suzuki to a duel with giant tuna!)

Shareholders also need to make their voices heard. (Shut up, peons!) They should demand an attentive and active board of directors.(Vote by proxy!) They should demand truly independent directors.(And be denied!) They should demand that compensation committees reward long-term success, not failure.(Only the rich are allowed to fail!) Shareholders should demand accountability not just in bad times, but especially in boom times, when accountability frequently breaks down. Shareholders are a company's most important constituency, and they should act like it. (Just like the American people, they should be kept in the dark and fed shit.)

The 1990s was a decade of tremendous economic growth. (Because of the IntarWeb. Thank you, Al Gore.) As we're now learning, it was also a decade when the promise of rapid profits allowed the seeds of scandal to spring up. (That was poetic. I wish i had written it.) A lot of money was made, but too often standards were tossed aside. (Kinda like with me raising Jenna and Barbara.) Yet the American system of enterprise has not failed us. (Please believe me!) Some dishonest individuals have failed our system. Now comes the urgent work of enforcement and reform, driven by a new ethic of responsibility. (Please believe me!)

We will show that markets can be both dynamic and honest, that lasting wealth and prosperity are built on a foundation of integrity. (And lies!) By reasserting the best values of our country, we will reclaim the promise of our economy. (For the rich, by the rich!)

Leaders in this room help give the free enterprise system an ethical compass (of greed!), and the nation respects you for that (not!). We need that influence now more than ever. I want to thank you for helping to restore the people's trust in American business.(Well, you, and the important lessons we all learned from Dr. Goebbels!) I want to thank you for your love of the country. (Because if you don't love America, Ashcroft's gonna put your ass in jail!) And I want to thank you for giving me the chance to come and address you today. May God bless you all. (Shit! Let's get back to D.C.!)


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Posted July 14, 2002 1:54 AM






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