Will the filthy rich dump Bush? March 28, 2004
By Saul Landau
"Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me.
They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them
soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful, in a way that,
unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand. They think,
deep in their hearts, that they are better than we are because we had to
discover the compensations and refuges of life for ourselves. Even when
they enter deep into our world or sink below us, they still think that they
are better than we are. They are different."
-- F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Rich Boy
Early last year, a mostly multi millionaires soiree purred with contentment
about the policies of George W. Bush.
I asked a few people about "the Iraq threat."
"Yes, well, hes quite good on taxes, you know," one smug young man replied,
referring, I assumed, to Ws design to allow the ultra rich to become ultra
I inquired of a mink-clad matron at the door about the charges that Bushs
policies amounted to an assault on the environment. Her dress looked even
more expensive than those from Nicole Kidmans wardrobe in "Cold Mountain."
"Im sure hell do the right thing," she said dismissively as her limo pulled
Recently, however, the formerly contented monied set has begun to
hand-wring over "that neer do well" in the White House. "He has
mis-directed the ship of state toward chimerical escapades and away from
reality," an allusion my eloquent, rich acquaintance used to refer to
concerns about his familys vast fortune.
Typically, the affluent havent needed formal agencies to protect and expand
their interests. They have simply counted on the U.S. government, no matter
who served as President. My conspiratorially minded friends still think of
rich people gathering at places like the Bohemian Grove, a vacation setting
for the truly posh, or in loosely knit associations, like the
Rockefeller-backed Tri-Lateral Commission in the 1970s, to plot how to
expand capitalisms hold on the worlds wealth.
A friend of mine who regularly attended "The Grove," as he called it,
extolled the place. "I make a hundred thousand in a weekend there," he
Whats your secret? I asked.
"I concentrate on playing poker while the others drink and whine about
their servant problems."
Dont you talk politics? I inquired.
"Dont be silly," he responded. "Those people dont know anything. They pay
others to think about their interests. They worry only when their
accountants and lawyers advise them to worry."
Since the invasion of Iraq did not proceed as advertised, the advisers to
the well-born have offered pessimistic counsel. Thus, the dinner-party set
has begun to drop remarks and raise the traditional eyebrow, not just over
Juniors Middle East bellicosities, but about the strange clique -- "quite a
few Jews and zealots, you know" -- with whom he has surrounded himself in
policy matters (The trusted Paul ONeill has revealed the worst, Christy
Todd Whitman has yet to blab and the loyal Powell retains his politeness to
power, so to speak).
High fee accountants have counseled the privileged that 43s mismanagement
has led to more than half a trillion dollars of deficits, which destabilize
their holdings. True, Junior didnt have to spend all that much to undo that
nasty Saddam fellow (the poor always lose a few of their own in such wars,
sigh!) and it seemed like a good idea at the time -- it was related to 9/11
in some way, wasnt it? -- to warn those awful fiends over there not to try
such antics again.
But, on reflection, those who spun and sold the Iraq affair appear to have
miscalculated. What they call security appears to have transformed itself
into anxiety. Even the filthy rich must submit to those undignified
procedures at airports ("Can you imagine, she wanded me!").
Cocktail party walla that didnt used to contain references to that vulgar
political world now ring with disturbing notions like: "the Bush lad hasnt
even retained enough troops to send to some other spot should one of the
other WOGS, (a British pejorative that referred to natives in Egypt working
on government serviceduring World War II were allowed to enter British
bases), threaten our fortunes in other remote places."
And the fabulously fortunate crowd did not take kindly to insulting the
Germans and French sacre bleu. Damaging those old and trusted ententes
(national and family) did not ring loudly for the old credibility image.
While at dinner parties, clubs and salons the pillars of assets exchanged
disparaging one-liners about the lesser Bushs performance, former Reagan
Navy Secretary James Webb let fly a more public alert.
In a USA Today opinion piece Web accused Bush of having "committed the
greatest strategic blunder in modern memory. To put it bluntly, he attacked
the wrong target. While he boasts of removing Saddam Hussein from power, he
did far more than that. He decapitated the government of a country that was
not directly threatening the United States and, in so doing, bogged down a
huge percentage of our military in a region that never has known peace. Our
military is being forced to trade away its maneuverability in the wider war
against terrorism while being placed on the defensive in a single country
that never will fully accept its presence."
Webb then resorted to the older notion of conservatism so as to distinguish
himself and his grouping from the neophytes in the White House.
"There is no historical precedent for taking such action when our country
was not being directly threatened. The reckless course that Bush and his
advisers have set will affect the economic and military energy of our
nation for decades. It is only the tactical competence of our military
that, to this point, has protected him from the harsh judgment that he
Indeed, at one DC fete, an influential dowager opined that the Bush boys
invasion of Iraq and his failure to encounter those awful WMDs did not
inspire the truly important people with confidence. And why didnt our CIA
lads know something after employing all that hi-tech seeing and listening
technology that one sees in the movies? Can the affable young man in the
White House find the proverbial pimple on his you know what?
What will happen if one of the truly dangerous WOGS actually threatens us?
This kind of chatter among the idle rich bodes well for the Democrats, who
could accuse Bush 43 of having committed the strategic bungle of the
decade. He seems to have wanted to go to war and allowed those boorish
neo-cons to, whats the term, yank his chain.
Not only has billionaire George Soros coughed up large bucks to defeat
Bush, but other former staunch Republican mainstays have also begun to
flirt with anti-Bush efforts. John Kerry, after all, has earned his
credentials in the super loaded club.
The anti-Bush sentiment that derives from that shared feeling of the
government being in the hands of people who have lost their focus
protecting the assets of the old establishment occurred during the Nixon
years as well. In 1969, Nixon brought to the White House a staff of
Californians from the advertising industry. Along with them came zealots
like Chuck Colson, who organized the "plumbers" to stop the leaks to the
media and carry out black bag jobs on Nixons enemies (breaking into the
Watergate and Daniel Ellsbergs psychiatrists office) not traditional
gentlemans ways of handling the job.
The eastern Establishment has begun to worry. They adored hundreds of
billions in their bank accounts tax plan, (finally, after almost a year of
waiting, a new yacht and private jet) but since then the Iraq and
Afghanistan situations appear out of control, high ranking military
officials seem upset over the behavior of old Rummy, once one of the elite
set, and the nation seems upset over trivial issues like gay unions (would
he rather they behaved promiscuously rather than marry?) and stem cell
The Members of this informal club have dropped the hints: those who service
them in the media have picked up the cues. The way they attacked in piranha
like formation around the National Guard scandal, well, it was almost as if
Bush had had illicit sex.
I conclude that the ruling class love fest for W. Bush is fading. Let the
electoral games begin and dont forget to count the votes this time!
Landau teaches at Cal Poly Pomona University and is a fellow of the
Institute for Policy Studies.