December 14, 2012

Friday Morning Line: Tossing the Rice

Sam Smith - One of the interesting things about Washington creatures like Susan Rice is how someone about whom one has hardly heard a thing can suddenly become so important. As Jacob Heilbrunn correctly noted:
Her entire career has been based less on solid accomplishment than on her networking skills.... Even a cursory look at Rice’s résumé should induce some queasiness. Essentially, she was molded in Washington, D.C. She punched all the right tickets—National Cathedral School, Stanford, Rhodes Scholarship, Brookings Institution. She is a perfect creature of the Beltway. But the downside is that there is scant evidence that she ever flourished outside the cozy ecosystem of the foreign-policy establishment.
Yet at a time when you can't even get climate change into presidential debates, when no one in Washington is willing to talk about cutting military expenditures as a way to improve the budget, and when we haven't won a war since the invasion of Grenada, Susan Rice's fate has suddenly become one of the critical issues of our time. At least according to a thoroughly embedded media that can't tell the difference between a source and a fact.

My own view was that Rice's main attribute was that she wasn't John Kerry, now likely to become the first Secretary of State to bore the entire world into alienation. She also serves as a reminder that Washington remains the nation's largest private club.

Sam Smith, Shadows of Hope, 1993 - How one comes to matter in Washington politics is guided by few precise rules, although in comparison to fifty years ago the views of lobbyists and fundraisers are far more significant than the opinion, say, of the mayor of Chicago or the governor of Pennsylvania. This is a big difference;  somewhere behind the old bosses in their smoke-filled rooms were live constituents; behind the political cash lords of today there is mostly just more money and the few who control it.

Thus coming to matter has much less to do with traditional politics, especially local politics, than it once did. Today, other things count: the patronage of those who already matter, a blessing bestowed casually by one right person to another right person over lunch at the Metropolitan Club, a columnist's praise, a well-received speech before a well-placed organization, the assessment of a lobbyist as sure-eyed as a fight manager checking out new fists at the local gym.

There are still machines in American politics; they just dress and talk better.

There is another rule. The public plays no part. The public is the audience; the audience does not write or cast the play.


Anonymous said...

Susan Rice has been a known quantity for some years, especially with those following issues connected with US/African policy. Rice's detractors are not exclusive to the right-wing. Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report has long expressed his objection, the latest being:

Margaret Kimberly, too, has written of " this grotesque delusion of racial uplift":

Anonymous said...

Similarly William Franklin, Ben's son, did all the right things as a loyalist, winding up in exile in London. The tea party glimpsed such a future for today's colonial officials, but delusionally. Just as Colbert is leading the polls in South Carolina, someone not careerist should be floated in polls for State, perhaps Senator Lugar, who is as far left of Obama as D.C. gets, and doesn't owe his soul to the oligarchs.