Patrice Riemens on Thu, 3 Nov 2016 10:08:30 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Thomas Frank: Forget the FBI cache; the Podesta emails show how

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Forget the FBI cache; the Podesta emails show how America is run

WikiLeaks’ dump of messages to and from Clinton’s campaign chief
offer an unprecedented view into the workings of the elite, and how it
looks after itself

By Thomas Krank, the Guardian, Monday 31 October 2016

The emails currently roiling the US presidential campaign are part of
some unknown digital collection amassed by the troublesome Anthony
Weiner, but if your purpose is to understand the clique of people
who dominate Washington today, the emails that really matter are
the ones being slowly released by WikiLeaks from the hacked account
of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair John Podesta. They are last
week’s scandal in a year running over with scandals, but in truth
their significance goes far beyond mere scandal: they are a window
into the soul of the Democratic party and into the dreams and thoughts
of the class to whom the party answers.

The class to which I refer is not rising in angry protest; they are by
and large pretty satisfied, pretty contented. Nobody takes road trips
to exotic West Virginia to see what the members of this class looks
like or how they live; on the contrary, they are the ones for whom
such stories are written. This bunch doesn’t have to make do with a
comb-over TV mountebank for a leader; for this class, the choices are
always pretty good, and this year they happen to be excellent.

They are the comfortable and well-educated mainstay of our modern
Democratic party. They are also the grandees of our national media;
the architects of our software; the designers of our streets; the high
officials of our banking system; the authors of just about every plan
to fix social security or fine-tune the Middle East with precision
droning. They are, they think, not a class at all but rather the
enlightened ones, the people who must be answered to but who need
never explain themselves.

Let us turn the magnifying glass on them for a change, by sorting
through the hacked personal emails of John Podesta, who has been a
Washington power broker for decades. I admit that I feel uncomfortable
digging through this hoard; stealing someone’s email is a crime,
after all, and it is outrageous that people’s personal information
has been exposed, since WikiLeaks doesn’t seem to have redacted
the emails in any way. There is also the issue of authenticity to
contend with: we don’t know absolutely and for sure that these
emails were not tampered with by whoever stole them from John Podesta.
The supposed authors of the messages are refusing to confirm or deny
their authenticity, and though they seem to be real, there is a small
possibility they aren’t.

With all that taken into consideration, I think the WikiLeaks releases
furnish us with an opportunity to observe the upper reaches of the
American status hierarchy in all its righteousness and majesty.

The dramatis personae of the liberal class are all present in this
amazing body of work: financial innovators. High-achieving colleagues
attempting to get jobs for their high-achieving children. Foundation
executives doing fine and noble things. Prizes, of course, and high
academic achievement.

Certain industries loom large and virtuous here. Hillary’s
ingratiating speeches to Wall Street are well known of course, but
what is remarkable is that, in the party of Jackson and Bryan and
Roosevelt, smiling financiers now seem to stand on every corner,
constantly proffering advice about this and that. In one now-famous
email chain, for example, the reader can watch current US trade
representative Michael Froman, writing from a Citibank email address
in 2008, appear to name President Obama’s cabinet even before the
great hope-and-change election was decided (incidentally, an important
clue to understanding why that greatest of zombie banks was never put
out of its misery).

The far-sighted innovators of Silicon Valley are also here in force,
interacting all the time with the leaders of the party of the people.
We watch as Podesta appears to email Sheryl Sandberg. He makes plans
to visit Mark Zuckerberg (who, according to one missive, wants to
“learn more about next steps for his philanthropy and social
action”). Podesta exchanges emails with an entrepreneur about an
ugly race now unfolding for Silicon Valley’s seat in Congress; this
man, in turn, appears to forward to Podesta the remarks of yet another
Silicon Valley grandee, who complains that one of the Democratic
combatants in that fight was criticizing billionaires who give to
Democrats. Specifically, the miscreant Dem in question was said to be:

“… spinning (and attacking) donors who have supported Democrats.
John Arnold and Marc Leder have both given to Cory Booker, Joe
Kennedy, and others. He is also attacking every billionaire that
donates to [Congressional candidate] Ro [Khanna], many whom support
other Democrats as well.”

Attacking billionaires! In the year 2015! It was, one of the
correspondents appears to write, “madness and political malpractice
of the party to allow this to continue”.

There are wonderful things to be found in this treasure trove when
you search the gilded words “Davos” or “Tahoe”. But it is
when you search “Vineyard” on the WikiLeaks dump that you realize
these people truly inhabit a different world from the rest of us. By
“vineyard”, of course, they mean Martha’s Vineyard, the ritzy
vacation resort island off the coast of Massachusetts where presidents
Clinton and Obama spent most of their summer vacations. The Vineyard
is a place for the very, very rich to unwind, yes, but as we learn
from these emails, it is also a place of high idealism; a land of
enlightened liberal commitment far beyond anything ordinary citizens
can ever achieve.

Consider, for example, the 2015 email from a foundation executive
to a retired mortgage banker (who then seems to have forwarded the
note on to Podesta, and thus into history) expressing concern that
“Hillary’s image is being torn apart in the media and there’s
not enough effective push back”. The public eavesdrops as yet
another financier invites Podesta to a dinner featuring “food
produced exclusively by the island’s farmers and fishermen which
will be matched with specially selected wines”. We learn how a
Hillary campaign aide recommended that a policy statement appear on a
certain day so that “It wont get in the way of any other news we are
trying to make – but far enough ahead of Hamptons and Vineyard money
events”. We even read the pleadings of a man who wants to be invited
to a state dinner at the White House and who offers, as one of several
exhibits in his favor, the fact that he “joined the DSCC Majority
Trust in Martha’s Vineyard (contributing over $32,400 to Democratic
senators) in July 2014”.

(Hilariously, in another email chain, the Clinton team appears to
scheme to “hit” Bernie Sanders for attending “DSCC retreats on
Martha’s Vineyard with lobbyists”.) Advertisement

Then there is the apparent nepotism, the dozens if not hundreds of
mundane emails in which petitioners for this or that plum Washington
job or high-profile academic appointment politely appeal to Podesta
– the ward-heeler of the meritocratic elite – for a solicitous
word whispered in the ear of a powerful crony.

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.

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