Quote of the Day:
In Merced or Dayton, if an insurance agent, eager to help his wife facing indictment, barged into a restaurant where the local DA is known to lunch, he would almost certainly be told to get the hell out.
In today's must-read, Victor Davis Hanson uses T. S. Eliot poem "The Hollow Men" to get into his subject: Washington ethically hollow elites. They play by rules different from those of flyover country:
[A]mong the Washington elite, the scenario is apparently quite different. The two parties, in supposedly serendipitous fashion, just happen to touch down at the same time on the Phoenix corporate tarmac, with their private planes pulling up nose to nose. Then the attorney general of the United States and her husband, in secrecy enforced by federal security details, welcome the ex-president onto her government plane.
Afterward, and only when caught, the prosecutor and the husband of the person under investigation assure the world that they talked about everything except Hillary Clinton’s possible indictment, Loretta Lynch’s past appointment by Bill Clinton and likely judicial future, or the general quandary of 2016.
There has been a lot of talk since Brexit and the rise of Donald Trump of the corrosive power and influence of the “elite” and the “establishment.” But to quote Butch Cassidy to the Sundance Kid, “Who are those guys?”
The establishments of the past, VDH reminds us, were based land, birth, education, money, government service, and in some instances what he calls "cultural notoriety" (by which I assume he meant artists or writers who climb into the upper reaches of society). A bad old elite, some will argue. But is ours any better? What ingredients make one part of our elite? How do they get rich (and they do get rich)?
Residence, either in the Boston–Washington, D.C., or the San Francisco–Los Angeles corridor, often is a requisite. Celebrity and public exposure count — e.g., access to traditional television outlets (as opposed to hoi polloi Internet blogging). So does education — again, most often a coastal-corridor thing: Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Berkeley, Stanford, etc. Net worth, whether made or inherited, helps. But lots of billionaires, especially Midwestern sorts, are not part of the elite, in that their money does not necessarily translate into much political or cultural influence — or influence of the right sort. (Exceptions are Chicago traders who bundle millions for Hillary.)
Especially influential are the revolving-door multimillionaires, especially from big banks and Wall Street — the Tim Geithners, Jack Lews, Hank Paulsons, and Robert Rubins, but also the lesser flunkies of the Freddie/Fannie Clintonite crowd, a Franklin Raines (raking in $90 million) or a Jamie Gorelick ($26 million), all of whom came into the White House and its bureaucracies to get rich, but who always seem shocked when the public does not like their incestuous trails of bailouts, relief plans, favorable regulations, etc. Creepy too are the satellite grifters like “investment banker” Rahm Emanuel — who somehow, between the White House and the House of Representatives, made off with $16 million for his financial “expertise” — or Chelsea Clinton, who made her fortune ($15 million?) largely by being a “consultant” for a Wall Street investment group (her fluff job at NBC News was small potatoes in comparison).
The locus classicus, of course, is the Clinton power marriage itself, which invested nearly 40 years of public service in what proved to be a gargantuan pay-for-play payoff, when they parlayed Hillary’s political trajectories into a personal fortune of well over $100 million. Give them credit: From the early days, when they would write off as IRS deductions gifts of their used underwear, they ended up 30 years later getting paid $10,000 to $60,000 a minute for their Wall Street riffs.
This elite, VDH maintains, is built on the confluence of Big Government, Big Money, Big Influence, and Big Media. Its ultimate expression is the "power couple." The interesting thing, though, is that despite their vaunted expertise, these people more often than not get things wrong.
That they are willing to deceive us (Susan Rice and Josh Earnest on Benghazi), or just get things wrong that should be clear to them (John Kerry on a "stable" Iraq), or are appallingly snobbish (John Kerry saying, during wartime, that, if you don't do well in school, you'll have to join the military and "get stuck in Iray"), shows that they are unmoored from middle-class America.
I get the impression that members of the D.C. elite do not wait in line with a sick kid in the emergency room on a Saturday night, when the blood flows and the supporters of rival gangs have to be separated in the waiting room; or that they find dirty diapers, car seats, and dead dogs tossed on their lawns, or wait two hours at the DMV, or are told that their journalistic assignment was outsourced to India, or read public-school teachers’ comments on their kids’ papers that were ungrammatical and misspelled to the point of being incomprehensible. The elite seems to be ignorant that, about 1975, Bedford Falls flyover country started to become Pottersville.
. . .
Sometimes their smug isolation is the stuff of caricature. Mark Zuckerberg waxes poetically on about the illiberality of building border walls (e.g., “I hear fearful voices calling for building walls and distancing people they label as others”), but he is now simultaneously involved in three controversies involving either hyper-private security patrols or walls or both as he seeks to use his fortune to create Maginot Lines around his Palo Alto, San Francisco, and Hawaii properties to keep the wrong sort of people quite distant.
What Hanson dislikes most about this elite is not their vulgarity or sources of wealth but "the feigned outrage that they express when anyone dares suggest, by word or vote, that they are mediocrities and ethical adolescents — and really quite emotional, after all."
So many Americans are fed upwith this puffed up elite, and that explains a lot about the tenor of our political life these days.