Memo To: Mike Milken
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Born on the Fourth of July
Happy Birthday! You must be 53, as I recall you were born on July 4, 1946. Patricia and I will never forget the incredible birthday party you had at Lake Tahoe, which Steve Wynn topped off with a spectacular fireworks display over the lake that must have cost a king's ransom. I thought about you the other day when the NYTimes carried a story about the libel suit against James B. Stewart, who wrote Den of Thieves. ("Libel Wrangle Over Milken Book Drags On," June 27.) Of course, Den of Thieves is fiction from cover to cover, and I expect there will eventually be a judgement against the book's publisher. It was my theory at the time, remember, that U.S. Attorney Rudy Giuliani had put the squeeze on a genuine Wall Street crook, Ivan Boesky, and Boesky made up some lies about you in order to get a sweetheart deal from the feds. At the time, Jim Stewart was on the page-one staff of The Wall Street Journal, so Giuliani fed him the Boesky lies, which Stewart ran in a long series of stories about you that had no attribution as to source. If it ran on Page One of the WSJ, it must be true.
Alas, Mike, our national press corps has become so used to being manipulated by demonizers that it went along with the WSJ, and soon the whole country was sure you were a fiendishly clever insider trader. So you got railroaded into the federal slammer for inconsequential infractions of the security regulations. When the Political Establishment makes a mistake, it needs a scapegoat, and you were it. I think the low point in the history of Dow Jones & Co. was the day in 1991 it ran the excerpt from Stewart's book on its second front page, with a caricature of you that guaranteed that everyone would know you were evil. It also made the book an instant bestseller, which further persuaded the public that you have horns and cloven feet. Of course, I had to buy the Stewart book and read it from cover-to-cover. Do you recall the long report I wrote to my clients at the time? I fished it out this week to remind myself how evil the book was. You go to prison when you are the least likely guy I know to jaywalk, for goodness sakes, and the guy who helped put you there concocts events and quotes that can't possibly be true, to cash in on his success in running you down. I'm going to put my 1991 report into the archive of this website today, Mike, for the edification of my website fans, browsers and clients who still may think of you as a bad guy. Happy Birthday. Patricia and I send our best wishes to Lorie too! And please call to let me know what you think of Y2K. I'm in need of the opinion of a true financial genius on that topic.