Thursday, November 03, 2016

On the Outs

Thomas Frank nails one of the mostly underappreciated aspects of the Podesta e-mails that have been released in a piece that appeared on October 31st called Forget the FBI cache; the Podesta emails show how America is run:

This genre of Podesta email, in which people try to arrange jobs for themselves or their kids, points us toward the most fundamental thing we know about the people at the top of this class: their loyalty to one another and the way it overrides everything else. Of course Hillary Clinton staffed her state department with investment bankers and then did speaking engagements for investment banks as soon as she was done at the state department. Of course she appears to think that any kind of bank reform should “come from the industry itself”. And of course no elite bankers were ever prosecuted by the Obama administration. Read these emails and you understand, with a start, that the people at the top tier of American life all know each other. They are all engaged in promoting one another’s careers, constantly.

Everything blurs into everything else in this world. The state department, the banks, Silicon Valley, the nonprofits, the “Global CEO Advisory Firm” that appears to have solicited donations for the Clinton Foundation. Executives here go from foundation to government to thinktank to startup. There are honors. Venture capital. Foundation grants. Endowed chairs. Advanced degrees. For them the door revolves. The friends all succeed. They break every boundary.

But the One Big Boundary remains. Yes, it’s all supposed to be a meritocracy. But if you aren’t part of this happy, prosperous in-group – if you don’t have John Podesta’s email address – you’re out.

This is not a partisan matter. Frank is a progressive populist and the author of "What's the Matter With Kansas?" and more recently "Listen, Liberal." He's coming at this from the left, but many on the right share the same sentiments which explains, at least in part, the rise of Donald Trump.

There is a belief that whatever political positions the people in this top tier hold are less important than their shared aspirations for their careers and the careers of their children. And the Podesta e-mails provide plenty of validation for that belief.

Much was made of Colin Powell's e-mails and the comments he made about both Hillary and Trump, especially the note about Bill still "dicking bimbos at home." However, there other Powell e-mails which reveal much about how what these folks really care about:

Everything HRC touches she kind of screws up with hubris. I told you about the gig I lost at a University because she so overcharged them they came under heat and couldn't any fees for awhile. I should send her a bill.

So yeah, Hillary screws stuff up and that's bad for the country and all, but what really pissed me off is when she messed with my lucrative speaking racket.

Another golden Powell nugget:

I told her staff three times not to try that gambit. I had to throw a mini tantrum at a Hampston's party to get their attention.

Again you get the picture of the new power elite hobnobbing in the Hampton's and trying to advance each other's interests. Finally, Powell was so outraged that he had to risk breaking social decorum with his "mini tantrum" (which I'm sure he promptly apologized for afterward). A true man of the people and noble public servant he.

Yet another interesting connection in the Powell e-mails is that he serves on the corporate board for Salesforce and among the e-mails released were ones detailing the company's highly confidential acquisition plans. Being part of such boards is another way that those at the top take care of each other and provide an opportunity to wet their beaks in yet another revenue stream. It's another one of those nice gigs if you can get it that often isn't based on what you know, but who.

I do find it a bit ironic that Trump is now viewed as the answer to trying to break this cross promoting nexus between government officials, business leaders, and other power brokers as he was as deeply ingrained as anyone.

But many Americans apparently feel you need someone from the inside to change things for those on the outside. I don't think it matters who wins next week. These connections are far too powerful to give sway easily and Trump will find it much easier to make accommodation than make real change. And we already know that Hillary will continue with business as usual with her circle of influence. The rest of us will remain on the outside looking in.