September 18, 2016

TWILIGHT OF THE ELITES: Colin Powell’s Emails Provide A Window Into Why We Got Trump:

Even as Democrats have accused Republicans of “epistemic closure” in their beliefs, the bipartisan governing class may have similar problems of its own. Powell’s emails make clear that he lives a life of television appearances, lucrative paid speeches, and expensive parties at which he runs into a bipartisan assortment of colleagues. Recalling his frustration over being dragged into email controversy by Clinton’s staff, Powell writes, “I had to throw a mini tantrum at a Hamptons party to get their attention.”

Having a cozy elite that gathers in the Hamptons isn’t all bad. If political foes were mortal enemies at all times, the system would break down and peaceful transfers of power would become impossible. But one is left wondering if Powell or any of those who agree with him have any sense of the “average folks” of whom they speak. In the circles in which Powell travels, it’s taken for granted that globalism must be on the march, that bridges must supplant walls, and that better education must be the ticket to middle-class existence. Meanwhile, Trumpian ideas of building a border wall or restricting outsourcing won’t help struggling Americans because—they just won’t. So stick with the current consensus program, which will pay off any minute now.

Powell shares not just the assumptions of the establishment but also its lenience in self-assessment. In email exchanges with Condoleezza Rice about Iraq, Powell and his former colleague take comfort in blaming Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney for the primary mess-ups in Iraq, implicitly absolving themselves. When former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw emails about the release of an inquiry into the Iraq War called the Chilcot Report, he seems troubled primarily by the idea of bad publicity and calls Brexit a “silver lining” for distracting attention to it. Powell is even less troubled, writing, “Didn’t amount to anything over here.” One gets the sense their sleep is not terribly disturbed.

Life is good in Capital City. Less so in the provinces, but who cares about those rubes?

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