Oh To Be The King

With a hat tip to Ramesh Ponnuru, Noam Scheiber has this up at the New Republic Online.

Sunday’s New York Times included a truly fascinating Landon Thomas Jr. profile of Stephen Schwarzman, the (almost) billionaire private-equity fund manager who’s making a name for himself in national Republican circles. Thomas says the word in New York and Washington is that Schwarzman wants to be Treasury secretary–he’s even hired Washington macher Ken Duberstein to help him navigate the fundraising-society complex from whence cabinet secretaries tend to spring. But, despite the fact that Schwarzman apparently donated several thousand dollars to the Bush re-election effort (and raised much more than that), that he and Bush were dorm-mates at Yale, and that he was recently installed as chairman of the Kennedy Center, I have a tough time believing Schwarzman will realize his dream. Why? Because he apparently hasn’t figured out that modesty and circumspection are two of the three most important virtues in Bush-world (the third being loyalty).

What could Schwarzman have done differently had he wanted to help his cause? Well, not cooperating with Thomas would have been a good place to start. But if Schwarzman felt compelled to open his yap, he’d have been well advised to stick to platitudes like “Helping re-elect George W. Bush is reward enough for me.” Instead, the piece reads like a how-not-to manual for aspiring cabinet secretaries. Schwarzman can’t contain his glee over the turnout for a party he threw earlier this fall (“[Did you see Lesley Stahl? … Mike Bloomberg was also there–he came early”) or the congratulatory cake Laura Bush gave him after he landed the Kennedy Center gig (“It was two feet by a foot and a half … There was a black chocolate background, with the stage done in sorbet, the orchestra in peaches and the audience individual raspberries”). And he doesn’t seem to understand that paying your would-be boss a back-handed compliment is a less than reliable way of hoisting yourself onto the fast-track. (“It’s a personal connection,” he told Thomas, recalling his relationship with Bush. “I was fascinated about how that transition occurs with someone who was not achievement-oriented. He could have ended up like most guys from a privileged background.”) The piece de resistance is a joke Schwarzman cracks about his chances of becoming Treasury secretary: “I’m being announced tomorrow,” he tells Thomas. Right. This guy makes Paul O’Neill look silver-tongued.

If you are registered at TNR, go read the whole thing. It is rather humorous.

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Erick Erickson

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