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February 14, 2007

The Meaning of McAuliffe

By all accounts, Terry McAuliffe has written a very bad book. But it's the sort of very bad book that's generated some very good -- which is to say, funny -- reviews. Peter Baker delivers some jabs at it here, but the real demolition came from Rick Perlstein in last week's New York Times.

"I was standing there having a casual conversation with King Juan Carlos, my occasional hunting partner, when we were joined by Blair and his charming, outspoken wife, Cherie, and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi,'' Terry McAuliffe, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee and chairman of Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential campaign, writes in his memoir, ''What a Party!'' It comes somewhat after ''I sat at the president's table near Clinton, who was between Elizabeth Taylor and Sophia Loren. ... Dorothy was at another table sitting between Muhammad Ali and Jack Nicholson''; but before ''Hillary saw Dorothy'' -- McAuliffe's wife -- ''and invited the entire family down to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic to stay at Julio Iglesias's spectacular oceanfront estate.''

But don't get Terry wrong. ''I have always been oblivious to celebrity.''

And that, comparatively, is the positive portion of the review. The more telling bits deal with McAuliffe's slavish devotion to corporate executives and supportive billionaires. As Rick writes:

McAuliffe taught Democrats that to win they had to learn to play with the billionaires. But there were, as the economists say, ''opportunity costs.'' In 400 pages of blow-by-blow, one momentous event passes with barely a whisper: the 2002 elections. Some hoped that President Bush's ties to Enron would make 2002 a Democratic year. Instead, Democrats lost the Senate. As the televised face of the party, McAuliffe got in some hard punches on Enron, but Republicans replied that he himself had made an $18 million profit from a mere $100,000 investment in the controversial communications company Global Crossing...The two Democrats most at ease around rich businessmen also happened to be the party's most effective economic populists: Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson. They were so at ease, in fact, they did what today's ''business friendly'' Democrats do not: demand, in no uncertain terms and to their faces, that they cease antisocial corporate practices.

I talked a bit yesterday about the effects of peer groups and social networks on ideology yesterday, or at least alluded to it. As a subject, it's a bit large to fully explore in a blog post. But it's undeniably true that spending all your time beseeching fabulously wealthy corporate titans for large sum donations will sensitize you, quite fully, to their concerns. These are not, after all, unappealing, uncharismatic, unintelligent, or unpersuasive guys. So even as you extract money from them, their concerns and outlook seep into you. And soon enough, "class warfare" looks like a terrible idea, and skewed trade deals that open up low-wage (though not high-wage) jobs to competition seem like no-brainers, and on, and on.

If you spend your time with economic elites, you will naturally absorb the perspectives, concerns, and underlying opinions of economic elites. McAuliffe's use to the party has long been that he was better at doing this -- better at hanging with rich people and getting them to like him enough that they donated money -- than anyone else. What no one ever asked is why he was so uniquely adept at that job. And it's worth noting here that McAuliffe hasn't left politics now that his term at the DNC expired: He's chairing Hillary's campaign for president.

February 14, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

How come no one is commenting on this? Goddamnit, commity class warfare with me!

Posted by: Ezra | Feb 14, 2007 12:04:41 PM

and skewed trade deals that open up low-wage (though not high-wage) jobs to competition seem like no-brainers

Which deals would those be?

Posted by: DRR | Feb 14, 2007 12:57:33 PM

I'm with you!

I've been arguing in email of late that both McAuliffe and Mark Penn are guys who continue to take credit for Clinton's wins, when really that was a lot more about Clinton than McAuliffe or Penn.

If you subordinate liberal causes in the interest of winning elections, you better have some wins to show for it. These guys have done nothing since '94 (if even then).

Posted by: Jason | Feb 14, 2007 12:58:09 PM

Given Hilary's polling at the dkos online polls, it is pretty easy to figure out that "no one like Terry McAuliffe or any of their friends." So no disagreement makes no comments?

Also that quote about FDR and LBJ is just weird. Sure FDR was interesting in how he both stood up to the elites and was part of them, but LBJ was a complete sellout. During the Senate he was a wholly owned subsidary of Kellog Brown & Root, which we currently know as Haliburton. Things didn't get much better during the Vietnam War either.

Posted by: Tony V | Feb 14, 2007 1:42:18 PM

Terry McAuliffe. pfffft!

If you judge a candidate only by the company the keep (pay for, in one way or another), the Hillary is not a friend of economic fairness. Period.

The redness of my face when thinking about the hordes of moola that Hillary will raise from the fat cats (expecting favors at the trough - whether ambassadorships, regulatory softness, or reflected glory [am I thinking Lincoln Bedroom - you bet I am]), is either a full red flush to my face because of embarrassment for my party, or rage at the Dem. donkey being forced to dine with these pigs. You guess which.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Feb 14, 2007 3:24:16 PM

I'll be contrary (aren't I always?): I don't think there's anything wrong with befriending rich people, admiring their wealth or beings something of a starfucker; it's tacky (the starfucker part, anyway... although I think it also applies to worhipping wealth that's not your own), but understandable. I don't particularly care for McAuliffe because he makes plain an ugly fact of life that I don't like to contemplate - that money can frequently buy things whether they're the right things or not. I'd rather have a higher purpose than simply being the one with the money (which is probably why I have, in fact, succeeded at just that goal).

I don't think Hillary Clinton's value as a President is based on Terry McAuliffe and he will not be the reason she loses; voiting against her to punish McAuliffe may be even crazier than voting against her over one vote on the Iraq war. I would hope she'd have the common sense and decency not to reinstall him as the head of the DNC were she to win, but even if she did, I think he'd only be but so useful, and probably reignite the flames that pushed him out the last time.

I think McAuliffe is a good object lesson about politics - it's a distasteful business and some of the people in it are pretty awful... just like other lines of work. But he's succeeded by being good at something, and I'm sure some people take him, flaws and all, because he's good at what he's good at. Just understand he's not be going to be what he's not, and you may be able to live with it. And don't pretend that poitics - which many of us prefer to think of in terms of lofty aspirations and goals - doesn't have a seamy, unpleasant underside. Most things do.

Posted by: weboy | Feb 14, 2007 4:03:58 PM

silly post based on mistaken assumption that rich should never be given tax breaks when they are the ones who drive the economy and already pay most taxes. The top 5% pay about 40% of Federal tax bill.`

Posted by: ted | Feb 14, 2007 4:16:14 PM

Of course, that top 5% owns about 68% of American wealth, so it's not so bad a deal as it sounds.

As an aside (although related), when I was googling to be sure of that statstic, I found a great article by AEI that said something to the effect that in any free-market economy some people would produce and earn more. Of course, it neglected to say those are not, necessarily, the same people.

Posted by: Magenta | Feb 14, 2007 4:35:36 PM

Since I do think Bush and Cheney are demons but, do not think the Clintons walk on water I doubt I will buy the book. I do not want to heave while reading how fabulous Hillary is when I know she is the opposite. A DLC corporate shill. These people just about destroyed my party and if we had not had the fortune to have Dean as DNC chair we would probably be at graveside.
Besides, some of the proceeds will most likely go to Hillary's campaign and I would never vote for her let alone give her money.

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Posted by: judy | Sep 26, 2007 10:31:09 PM

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