The same cannot be said of the press. Or Congress. The hard tactics and harder lessons of the Pete Rose and Clarence Kelley investigations should have braced Symington's critics for what followed, once Dowd was hired by the governor.

Instead, Dowd has fought the politicians and the press to a standstill, leaving only the RTC to be corralled. Symington's third front, an RTC lawsuit, is pending. However, in the absence of noisier, more effective, attention from Congress or the press, Dowd will certainly have an easier time focusing his considerable energies.

And the palace coup within the RTC that temporarily shuffled lawyers prosecuting Symington and the other savings and loan highflyers is not a hopeful sign. Even though the agency backed off from the wholesale shakeup contemplated, the reversal came too late for several key attorneys who'd already departed rather than be reassigned. While the local press headlined Symington's accusation that he was the victim of partisan politics in the House, the political infighting described by the National Law Journal remains unreported in Arizona.

Dowd has said that he was unaware of the staff shakeup within the ranks of the RTC prosecutors.

And if that is true, I confess I am grateful. If I thought one lawyer, even a blustering bully like John Dowd, could monkey-wrench Congress, the press and the RTC, I'd feel like I needed a few weeks of rest at the Oliver Stone Dude Ranch.

And that's not how I feel.
I believe the RTC charges against Fife Symington are so dead-on that only an 800-pound gorilla like John Dowd can save him.

Dowd has refused to let Symington talk for this article and will, himself, only answer questions submitted in writing.

"A bully is a person who is habitually cruel to others who are weaker," responded Dowd last week. "I am not aware of any instance in which I have been cruel to anyone."
Dowd is correct. If the press is weak-kneed that is not the same as frail.
If Dowd insists on using libel threats on the media's soft tissue the way a thug uses a sap, it's the press's job to fight intimidation.

Since the MacNeil/Lehrer show, Governor Symington has been telling Arizona audiences that he is the hero of the working class because of his recently enacted tax cut.

The press agrees.
Each taxpayer will save, on the average, $3.90, not enough to purchase four lottery tickets.

The RTC says the collapse of Southwest Savings and Loan will cost taxpayers nearly $1 billion, part of the $500 billion some folks are projecting that taxpayers will foot to put the S&L crisis right.

You work it out: $3.90 versus $1 billion.
On July 4, I drove down Camelback Road past the Esplanade and there, between Symington's office towers, an enormous American flag was suspended. Even though I'd been in Boston during the nation's bicentennial, this was the largest American flag I'd ever seen.

I pulled over, parked and looked at the spectacle of Old Glory.
In the 18th century, Samuel Johnson created a clichā when he said that patriotism was the last refuge of scoundrels. He anticipated J. Fife Symington III without ever having visited the boardroom of Southwest Savings and Loan.


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