Thursday, October 25, 2012

Harold Ford And Rahm Emanuel On Chris Hayes' Show? Probably Not In This Lifetime


Who's ready for Sunday TV?

I'll guess most DWT readers don't sit around with bated breath hoping that John McCain, Lindsay Graham, Joe Lieberman or Harold Ford shows up on their favorite Sunday morning talking heads show. Meet the Press used to be a big deal-- thirty or forty years ago. Since then it's gone seriously downhill and that downhill trend has accelerated markedly in the last decade, Meet The Press' McCain Decade. It's completely unwatchable now and Martha Roundtree and Lawrence Spivak would probably slit their wrists if they were to see it today. Or change the channel and watch Chris Hayes' early morning MSNBC show instead. Chris has, far and away, the most interesting and thought-provoking topics and guests anywhere on TV. (I would have said Chris Hayes and Rachel Maddow but... Ed Rendell.)

I wouldn't expect trashy overexposed hacks like McCain, Lieberman, Graham, Ford or Rendell to ever be guests on Hayes' show. It's a different kind of show by a different kind of host. And no Rahm Emanuel either. In fact, some of the stuff in Chris' great new book, Twilight of the Elites might be taken personally by some of TV's most enduringly stale guests. In a discussion of the degeneration of American elites, he points out that "The 1 percent and the nation's governing class are more or less one and the same. If you are a member of the governing elite and you aren't a millionaire, you're doing something wrong. And if the divide between the 1 percent and the 99 percent really is a defining feature in our politics, how can the 99 percent trust that same wealthy, governing elite to zealously pursue its interests? [...] Societies whose upper class is marked by birth, title, and lineage do not tend to cultivate a voracious appetite for competition in the same way ours does. There is a certain security that comes from being at the top, but in a society of fractal inequality there in no top. There is always another height to which to ascend, more competitors to vanquish, more money to obtain. Which is why our elites display a destructive and combustible combination of egomania and entitlement on the one hand and insecurity on the other."

And, no, Hayes wasn't specifically explaining why Romney is running for president or what makes him tick. In fact, let's get back to why the Meet the Press type hacks are unlikely to ever show up on Hayes' TV show... or, in all likelihood, any TV show that Hayes ever hosts in the future. He has just pointed out that "more than one-third of congressional staffers turn to a career in lobbying after leaving Capitol Hill." This is one of the more egregious sources of corruption in the world's most corrupt city.
Moving from Capitol Hill to K Street isn't limited to staffers. In 2010, 37 percent of the newly out-of-office members of Congress went to work for lobbying firms or clients. After losing his run for Senate in 2006, Tennessee Democrat Harold Ford, Jr. moved to New York to take a job with Merrill Lynch with a guaranteed annual compensation of $2 million. At the time he had no experience in finance. What he was paid for was his networks: "A telegenic young lawmaker with a wide network of relationships around the country, Mr. Ford was courted by several Wall Street firms after he lost his bid for the Senate in Tennessee four years ago," noted the Times. When Peter Orszag, the forty-two-year-old director of the Office of Management and Budget for the first two years of the Obama administration, resigned his post in July 2010, he quickly announced he'd be joining Citigroup as a vice chairman for a salary that Wall Street insiders estimated was between $2 million and $3 million.

...Once a member of the elite has sufficiently monetized his or her power, that money can be traded for other kinds of power, which in turn can be invested and reap its own kinds of rewards. Harold Ford Jr.'s political and media networks made him an attractive hire for Citigroup, where he was, in turn, able to expand both his Rolodex and his earning potential. As this positive feedback loop plays out, the elite increasingly becomes an entirely distinct group, more effortlessly between public and private life, alternating between access to state power and market power.

As a snapshot of what this looks like in practice, consider the routine staffing changes in the Obama administration as it reached the midway point in its first term. Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel left his position to run for Mayor of Chicago. Emanuel got his start as a fundraiser for Mayor Daley, moved to the Clinton White House, where he lasted nearly the entire eight years, eventually becoming a senior advisor to the President. After serving in the Clinton administration, at the age of thirty-nine he left to become an investment banker, spending two and a half years at Wasserstein Perella, where he amassed a fortune of more than $18 million. He then ran for Congress, became White House Chief of Staff, and left to run successfully for mayor of Chicago.

To replace the multimillionaire Rahm Emanuel, the multimillionaire President Obama (net worth $5 million) named multimillionaire William Daley, the brother of the mayor that Emanuel was hoping to replace. Daley's résumé included stints as Commerce Secretary in the Clinton administration and as campaign manager for Al Gore's 2000 campaign, but at the time he was named chief of staff, he was Midwest chairman of JPMorgan Chase, making $8.7 million a year. His net worth was estimated at more than $50 million. When Bill Daley later left his post as chief of staff in January 2012, he was replaced by Jack Lew, who spent four years at Citigroup and received a bonus of $950,000 in 2009, even after it was disclosed that his division made high-stakes bets on the housing market.
So... if you do want to see these disreputable corrupt/corrupting characters on your TV screen, just stick with Meet The Press. Hayes' show is entirely in a different dimension.

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