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American Institutions
Wanted: A Self-Draining Swamp

Perhaps the most insidious threat facing Western democracies has been the progressive decline of elite accountability and responsibility.

Appeared in: Volume 13, Number 4 | Published on: January 1, 2018
Nils Gilman is vice president of programs at the Berggruen Institute and a monthly columnist for The American Interest.
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  • Gary Hemminger

    The elites will not take accountability on their own. It must be brought on by the public. this is the only way. Very good article Mr. Gilman. I think you are spot on!

  • Kristian Holvoet

    Interesting that the exemplars of not holding people accountable don’t include Ted Kennedy (D). If I am not mistaken, Jul 18, 1969 predates Watergate (though perhaps not all felonious actions by the Nixon team).

    • mrdoug1

      Teddy was also, incredibly, saved by Neil Armstrong & Buzz Aldrin’s first steps on the moon 2 days later.

  • Angel Martin

    How about some accountability for the “elite” media that assured their naive readers/viewers that Clinton had a 70, 80, 92, 98.9 percent chance of winning ?

    • mrdoug1

      None. We’re still supposed to take them seriously.

    • Aaron1960

      one can individually cancel cable. Today’s ‘news’ media is a lost cause. All that’s missing are appropriate team jerseys.

  • WigWag

    Pot meet kettle.

    When you reflect on the damage done by unaccountable elites, Professor Gilman, you should be looking in the mirror. Or, as the Bible instructs us, “why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?“

    After all, you spent years in a senior leadership position at Berkeley; is their a more hypocritical, unaccountable and unconscionable institution of higher education anywhere in the United States than the University of California at Berkeley?

    Hasn’t the institution that’s spent the past half century bragging about its commitment to free speech done more to shut down free speech than almost any college or university you can think of? Hasn’t the institution that you once helped lead stood quietly aside while hooligans violently attacked speakers with whom they disagree? Hasn’t your old employer made it so difficult, inconvenient and expensive for figures with even centrist points of view to speak on campus?

    Where’s the accountability for you, Professor Gilman and where is the accountability for your former colleagues in administrative and faculty positions at Berkeley?

    And now you make your living working (and I use the term “working” advisedly) at a think tank; aren’t think tanks amongst the most corrupt organizations in our country. When the IRS code was amended decades ago to allow charitable institutions to avoid paying income tax and for individuals who financially supported those institutions to take tax deductions for those contributions, do you really believe that think tanks is what they had in mind? My guess is that they were hoping to foster the work of agencies that fought hunger or disease or provided educational opportunities for youngsters. Who could have ever guessed that those IRS rules would be perverted to provide cushy jobs to high paid college professors or out of work political hacks to bide their time waiting for the political party they happen to belong to once again control the White House.

    There are few institutions that have damaged our nation more than think tanks. The “experts” that they employ could not have done more damage to our country if those experts were actual traitors instead of what they really are, nattering numb skulls.

    One of the great rackets that American elites have established to feather their own fetid nests is the revolving door that they’ve set up between government jobs and jobs in think tanks, universities and journalism. Once ensconced in that corrupt system, these “experts” can spend decades thinking up ideas about how to ruin our country while making a fine living without ever having to do any real work.

    You’re not in a position to lecture anyone about the corruption of elites, Professor Gilman. As penance, you should follow Profumo’s example. Surely there are some toilets that need cleaning at a homeless shelter near you.

    • mrdoug1

      Simply fabulous & scathing rejoinder. You nailed it. Bring it right home to him, the author. Pull back the curtain on the man from Oz. Thank you for that quite trenchant contribution.

      • Dude1394

        Agreed a very on point reply.

  • hecate9

    Wig Wag’s pathetic rant is an excellent example of the kind of Dunning Kruger inspired post-and poster- that still haunts the comment boards of TAI. He epitomizes the smugness of the cranky, ignorant know-it-all who dismisses true expertise as “nattering” at best and “traitorous” at worst. His contempt for true learning and scholarship is dwarfed only by his desire to get as low and ad-hominem as possible. His entire post virtually ignores the substance of Gilman’s essay.

    Nils Gilman’s crime evidently is that he is an expert in this field and actually knows what he’s talking about.

    • WigWag

      The problem with Gilman’s essay is that he blames everyone he can think of for their shamelessness while refusing to acknowledge that a corrupt system that he is part of and benefits from is the very swamp he’s referring to.

      There are experts who we depend on; surgeons are experts, plumbers are experts, taxidermists are experts, even professors of literature can be experts.

      The faux-experts like Gilman possess expertise in exactly one area, making a fine living while contributing little or nothing of value to society. The product produced by think tanks and much of the output produced by the faculty at the institution where Gilman once toiled is mostly drivel.

      Of course, if it was only drivel, it would be mostly harmless like harlequin novels or TV’s food channel. But when this product is taken seriously or it’s drummed into the heads of impressionable freshman, the consequences can be unfortunate. That’s the swamp that needs to be drained.

      It’s not just shameless politicians who inhabit the swamp Gilman refers to, its
      mostly the expert class and the other members of America’s clueless clerisy that have spent the past serveral decades ruining the prospects of millions of Americans.

      Gilman can pontificate all he wants, but he’s still neck deep in the muck he wishes was “self-draining.”

      Physician, heal thyself.

      • StudentZ

        So for no particular reason, you’ve decided that being a professor of history and going to school for years to receive advanced degrees in the subject is not worthwhile. A vacuous waste of space with no appreciation for anything (including the people who work under him) is running the country, but you’re upset that someone with multiple degrees is writing about a topic he’s spent years studying.

        • WigWag

          Whatever anyone may think of Donald Trump, its not the current occupant of the Oval Office who spent the last few decades ruining the prospects for millions of Americans. It was the people with advanced degrees, multiple or otherwise who did that. The knowledge class is venal, not every single member, but the class as a whole. And they benefit from a corrupt system that Gilman and his brethren take advantage of. What could be better than earning a fine living as a professional bloviator subsidized by the American taxpayer? It’s great work if you can get it.

          How nice for Professor Gilman that he’s managed to climb aboard the gravy train.

          • StudentZ

            Apart from it being very difficult to prove how expertise has been more detrimental to human affairs than ignorance, I fail to see how your view differs from that of a high-school dropout who excuses his own shortcomings by criticizing others’ successes.

          • Tom Scharf

            Why do you think the trust of the electorate is being lost? It may very well be that the cultural isolation of academia is very much working against them. All the degrees in the world do not overcome the same cognitive biases they pontificate about and can see so clearly in others.

            This isn’t an argument of meritocratic ability, it is an issue of trust that academia understands the problems of others and will work diligently towards solving these problems. The public face of academia has been a little heavy on cultural contempt and group think lately, and they need to lose that. Being the best and brightest won’t be useful if you don’t have the trust and funding to effectively lead.

            Publicly funded academia is not an entitlement, it needs to be continuously earned. It would be a disaster to defund academia, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t earning that possibility recently.

          • Boritz

            expertise vs ignorance is a false dichotomy/straw man/not being discussed.

          • StudentZ

            It’s not a straw man argument. I’m arguing that voter ignorance is a bigger problem than the mysterious wrongs academics have supposedly committed. Honestly, this entire conversation is absolute nonsense. Academics have become the unfounded scapegoats simply because no one needs to actually justify their opinions anymore.

          • Tom Scharf

            Yes, voters are too stupid to know their own needs and priorities. Perhaps many in academia are a lot more educated than wise? Academics have lost the mandate to lead because they have gone off the reservation culturally. Labeling people as ignorant isn’t a compelling strategy to rebuild that mandate.

          • Anthony

            You can’t expect analytical clarity (hecate9 intimates as much) and Adam Garfinkle put his finger on an approximate cause: cognitive gymnastics utilized to defend “ego” interests rather than processing empirical conflicting data. Moreover if looked at closely and behind some of your antagonistic responses, one may detect class resentments masked as elite/academic societal failures – you’re right to point out both spuriousness and nebulous scapegoating as methods channeling other latent motivations (but online who really knows).

    • Anthony

      “An ignorant mind is precisely not a spotless, empty vessel, but one that’s filled with the clutter of irrelevant or misleading life experiences, theories, facts, intuitions, strategies, algorithms, heuristics, metaphors, and hunches that regrettably have the look and feel of useful and accurate knowledge.” ( https://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/lessons-from-dunning-kruger/ )

      As you know, a reinforcement of general point relative to comment board haunting (as well as much, much more).

    • mrdoug1

      Baloney. Wig wag is spot on. The ivory tower which the author has inhabited & still inhabits is not only elite but also unaccountable as described by wig wag. Berkeley faculty is a perfect example. You’re all wet.

  • Tom Scharf

    How about we start with accountability with the media for all the “expert predictions” these very same authors prophesied about the coming Trumpocalypse in 2016? This author downplays the loss of trust in the media and academia but has direct evidence for why this is happening right in front of his face. Will anyone who was utterly wrong in their outlook be held accountable? Laughably no, it would be a miracle if anyone even noticed.

    Politics trump scholarship in his world. Period. The continuing hysterical over-reaction to anything Trump related (tweets!!!!!!!!) while managing to ignore minor things like the defeat of ISIS and a very healthy economy show this farce for what it is. Elites playing inside baseball against themselves to the exclusion of anything else. The author is on target with much of his criticism but just like all his brethren in elite think tanks, there isn’t a mirror to be found.

    • mrdoug1

      Bingo. Huge omission. The media probably has more power collectively than the targets of the author’s ire and he doesn’t even mention their extreme incompetence & unaccountability.

      • vendome

        The media’s 24/7 hysteria regarding Trump has made the news stations unwatchable.

        It’s like an MSM suicide pact.

        • Johnathan Swift Jr.

          The best thing is that due to Trump’s trolling they have let the mask to slip for good!

    • kevinstroup

      Funny how no mention of Fast and Furious, IRSGate, EPAGate, the various scandals at the VA, LightSquared, Siga Technologies and my favorite: Solyndra and George Kaiser, and other money laundering operations via corporate kickbacks, the powerful resurgence of ISIS, Carol Browner, Adolpho Carrion, and let us never forget all the various machinations of the dynamic duddoes: Bill and Hillary Clinton.

      • Johnathan Swift Jr.

        Hey, hey, but I thought Obama had been declared “scandal free” by the “experts.”

    • Scott1M

      Exactly. Gilman claims politics is the most visible form of the elite, but obviously the media has more visibility, more accessibility, to the average citizen. Politicians, after all, aren’t in our very homes every single day. The media are.

    • Scott1M

      Additionally, Gilman also fails to mention academia. How are professors at our elite institutions of higher learning not part of the problem? Indeed, political correctness was born on campus.

  • Anthony

    “Perhaps the most insidious threat facing Western democracies has been the progressive decline of elite accountability and responsibility – In the end, any complex society only performs as well as its elites; put another way, meritocracy only works if coupled to elite accountability.” (Nils Gilman)

    Nils Gilman thinks it is past time for civil accountability at all social levels. Who reading essay disagrees!

  • Psalms13626

    And not a single mention of Obama’s politicizing the DoJ, using IRS to silence his opponents or anything else the Lightbringer might have done. Perhaps Nils Gilman should look in the mirror if he wants to see why nobody trusts the so-called elites anymore.

    • tommy ex thom w ex tomw

      Jamie Gorelick.
      “Absolutely no appearance of collusion between national and international government spy organizations. A wall.” result: 9/11

      Quote:”Gorelick, who left the Clinton Justice Department in 1997 to work for
      Fannie Mae CEO Franklin Raines, was paid $26,466,834 in salary, bonuses,
      performance pay and stock options from 1998 to 2003″

      Franklin Raines … paid millions also while running Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac into the ground pre-2008 meltdown.

      Good job, Franky & Jamime… might as well have been W signing the check, no?

      • Johnathan Swift Jr.

        Jamie Gorelick, “The Mistress of Disaster.” Grubby fingers in one fiasco after another. Don’t forget WACO. She was the real A.J. under Clinton. Managed to help create 9/11 and then serves on the commission.

    • Aaron1960

      The Libyan debacle…not just Benghazi but the human cost there and the revitalized slavery market that is a result of Obama’s/Clinton interference.

  • ltlee1

    Who can hold the president, the elite among all other elites, accountable and responsible? As the head of the government and the commander in chief of the military, he has all the hard power. A nation needs to develop its SOFT POWER TRADITION before accountable and responsible elites can hold the president accountable and responsible in a more or less unified voice.

    Religious tradition will work. But then religion has its own set of problems.

    • Johnathan Swift Jr.

      Presidents are elected, so they are accountable, unless the media covers for them of course, as it did for Obama. They can also be impeached. It is the permanent bureaucracy that is the real problem. They are not accountable and are virtually impossible to fire. James Burnham began writing about the unelected and unaccountable bureaucracy in the 1940s. Angelo Codvilla has written a lot at Claremont review about the coast elite in recent years.

      • ltlee1

        To be sure, presidents have to appear to be accountable and responsible before they could be elected. Once elected, they became less accountable and responsible especially during the second term when they had no hope to get a third term. Most could get off scot free with various improprieties and untruth in addition to unfulfilled campaign promises. Of course, some offenses were more serious than another. And in rare occasions they were impeached. However, Reagan was not impeached for the Iran-Contra affair, Clinton was not impeached for his Lewinsky affair. How about Bush Jr for invading Iraq under false pretense?

        Anyway, I am not talking about clearly illegal activities which have to be dealt with hard legal power but lessor offenses. If the nation as a whole cannot confront a president such as Trump and hold him accountable and responsible based on SOFT POWER, other elites are likely to find ways to be unaccountable and irresponsible.

        The decline begins from the top and spread downward. And the swamp would become bigger and bigger over time. If previous presidents had been accountable and responsible and people were happy about the direction of the country, there won’t be Tea Party movement. Without the Tea party movement, Trump was unlikely to be elected.

        • Johnathan Swift Jr.

          I can’t even really understand what you’re trying to get at here. What type of ‘SOFT POWER” is there that holds any official, whether Civil Service or elected to account. It’s a buzz word. Presidents have limited power based on the Constitution, they control and run the executive branch of the government. There is no such SOFT POWER that takes away any of their powers, nor should there be. Congress holds the purse springs and writes the laws, but the executive enforces them. If you don’t like the way that a President is enforcing the law or in Obama’s case failing to faithfully enforce the laws he swore to uphold you can go to the courts and the law or impeach him. Neither of those are exercises in something I would think of as “Soft Power.” Or of course, Congress can pass a new law and if the President vetoes it, the veto can be overridden if the President is unpopular enough or has clearly overstepped.

          I get the fact that many of you don’t like the man with the tweeting, raccoon eyes, the strange hair, the orange tan and the gold plated bathroom fixtures, but he has not come close to overstepping his Constitutional bounds. In fact, for the first time in many years a modern President is not adding to his fiefdom and powers. He is insisting that Congress does its job rather than using a “Pen and a Phone” to go around Congress and the Constitution. The President who overstepped his powers again and again? That was Obama, not Trumpie. Obama simply failed to enforce laws he didn’t like, which was clearly wrong. He was slapped down 9-0 more than any President in history. That’s someone who needed to be corralled, not Trumpie.

          Targeting political enemies with the IRS from the White House down? That was Obama, not Nixon, not Trump. Smuggling 2,000 high powered weapons to the drug cartels – the most violent criminals on earth – where they were used to kill hundreds of Mexican citizens? That was Obama, not Trump. Destroying Libya, smuggling guns to Syria, arming the “moderates” that became ISIS, allowing the Russians back into the Middle East, aiding Iran, the most violent terrorist nation on earth while giving them billions of dollars in cash in the dead of night, that was Obama, not Trump. Recognizing the slave state of Cuba and getting nothing in return, that was Obama, not Trump. Allowing Mrs. Clinton to use the State Department as an arm of the Clinton Foundation while collecting hundreds of millions from the most noxious regimes on earth in violation of her oath and her promise to him? That was Obama, not Trumpie.

          The problem with Trump is that he is exercising the powers he was given and that bothers you because you don’t like the law. Don’t want the President being able to say which refugees get to come in the country? Repeal the Constitution or amend it Bucko because that power belongs to the President alone and this is as it should be as each state can’t have its own foreign policy. Obama ignored the humanitarian crisis that was happening in the Middle East as ancient Christian communities were wiped out and instead brought in all sorts of lovely Sharia-complaint Muslims instead, but he was the one who had that power just as Trump has the power to keep those same folks out now.

          Don’t like the fact that Trump is deporting people, starting with the real dirtbags? Then you have to change the laws to an official “open borders” policy rather than a President like Obama simply ignoring his oath and duties, creating a status for illegals that does not exist in any law. Presidents don’t get to write the law, but Obama was the one who didn’t like that and tried to do one end around after another. Its the same with a police chief. A chief can be against marijuana laws but he is compelled to enforce them because he is an executive not a legislator. A President takes an oath to enforce the laws faithfully, so it was Obama who failed his oath, not Trumpie.

          • ltlee1

            Thank you for a long response.

            I think it is necessary to distinguish Trumpism from Trump fails to follow the decorum of a seemingly accountable and responsible. The inability and/or unwillingness to make the distinction is a part of the swamp problem raised by the article.

            To be sure, one can also criticize following such decorum as merely “political correctness”.

  • Man_in_PA

    You could have mentioned the overseers of the biggest political bribe-collection agency ever, the Clinton Foundation.

    • mrdoug1

      Nah, that was just “extreme carelessness.” So not really worth mentioning in this context, not much of a story at all. (That omission alone clearly signals the author’s political “leanings.”)

  • Dude1394

    I wish we could hold you accountable. Betsy Davos for example has been working on education for decades, you mistakenly mistake working in the swamp with expertise. All the while arguing that the elites working in the swamp are unaccountable.

    Trump is doing just fine and of course you only focus on politicians and not on the effect your own industry has had in the dishonesty. Typical.

  • damianmcglynn

    until lois lerner is brought to justice, there can be no returning to trusting the elites.. It is shocking that the author did not cite such a recent and horrifying example of elite privelage. We are an extraordinary country because, among other things, we voluntarily pay taxes and trust that the government does not punish nor reward through the system. Nixon was castigated for suggesting doing so and, thankfully, the head of the IRS refused. No such moral standard exists today. The author, I’m willing to bet, never did a column on Ms. Lerner. She is on his side.

    • Johnathan Swift Jr.

      That was indeed the worst of the Obama scandals. God only knows how long this has been going on.

  • Pelosicat Dolls

    How in the hell can you write an article about elite accountability without mentioning Hillary? Still got hopes for 2020?

  • rosignol

    In other words, it’s not so much the failure to perform that costs
    institutions credibility as it is the failure to hold leaders
    accountable when their institutions fail.

    The article would be stronger if it included some reference to Janet Reno, who ‘took responsibility’ for the catastrophe at Waco, but did not resign. It may not be ‘the’ inflection point where an institutional culture shifted, but it is certainly a large signpost along that road, and it is right in the late-80s-early-90s era the author focuses on as the transition period.

  • A Smith

    Which is why I couldn’t vote for Hillary Clinton. Every person reading this would have been fired–at the least–if we had done the same careless/criminal email activities. Why should someone that would be fired from a middle management position be elected to the presidency?

  • HA

    The most insidious threat to Western democracies is the pathological hatred of Western Civilization of leftists. They are consciously, systematically and remorselessly destroying our civilization with the same zeal as any jihadist but with greater effect.

    • Terenc Blakely

      I’ve maintained for decades that leftists are nihilists at their core. Look at the contempt that hardcore environmentalists have for humanity.

    • Johnathan Swift Jr.

      In the end, that is what this is all about. I wrote above about Mrs. Clinton and her “qualifications.” I am convinced that the entire
      “Green Revolution” was designed to swamp Europe with angry fundamentalist Muslims and to thus doom the West. That is in the end the thread that connects all of this and why Trump is a threat. Open borders and anti-Western refugees is the key.

  • G Joubert

    Nixon IS NOT the poster child for escaping accountability. That’s the Clintons.

    • Terenc Blakely

      The fact that the author fingers Nixon rather than the far more egregious Obama and Clintons is evidence of a lack of critical thinking while parroting leftist talking points. I bet the author also thinks that Hitler was a bigger villain than Stalin.

    • Johnathan Swift Jr.

      No, he was swept out of office and his party with him. He was no unaccountable but pardoned. He would have been impeached and convicted, had he not resigned. That is the definition of accountability.

      • G Joubert

        And lived the rest of his life shamed and humbled, all for doing 1/10 of 1% of what the Clintons did, and they skated away foot loose and fancy free and made hundreds of millions of dollars for it to boot. But thanks for your comments.

        • Johnathan Swift Jr.

          Yes, Nixon was an awful example. Teddy Kennedy sexually assaulted women and murdered one and he only price he paid was not becoming President.

  • ajwpip

    There needs to be a shared culture and sense of values for elites to hold themselves accountable. The left has dismantled this intentionally. Look at the Profumo scandal. Without bourgeois sexual mores would the baron have resigned? Then we have the left’s tendency to criminalize political differences. So rather than claiming that republicans are incorrect or have different emphasis on certain values they are seen as evil and therefor it should be criminalized. Hence politically motivated prosecutions. In the case of former senator Steven of Alaska false prosecution was used as a political tool. The right has its creeps and criminals – but it isn’t equal as the left often sees vice as a virtue. If Bill Ayers is lauded or other criminals or terrorists the right will play by these new rules. One side of the political divide argues against anything like an objective moral schema. All is power dynamics and narrative. How is accountability even possible under this view? And the source of this kind of thinking is our universities and media. The author looks at the effects of his own institutions efforts and says, “but we didn’t mean for this or that to also fall when we hollowed out the foundations of our society! We intended to make a utopia!”

    • Terenc Blakely

      Every group has it’s thugs and creeps. What differentiates the right from the left is that the right is under continuous scrutiny by the media for missteps, real and imagined while the left is coddled and protected by the media. The thugs and creeps on the right are weeded out while the thugs and creeps on the left thrive.

      • ajwpip

        It goes beyond that though. The left doesn’t believe in an objective morality. In the end they are deeply pragmatic in a philosophical sense. Therefor every transgression is forgivable if it can be justified as necessary for moving their cause forward. The right has now started moving down this road too.

        It is a symptom of the rot our society is dealing with that this article spends it time looking to politics and looking to politics in a partisan manner. Morals, ethics and character come before politics but our elites don’t have any philosophical superstructure beyond politics. Cultural Marxism has a nihilistic relativism at its core that makes politics their highest sphere of life. Government and politics is everything to the left. They are motivated by the idea that this world is all there is and that humanity is socially constructed and therefor if we have the correct policies we can create a utopia. The idea of personal integrity and individual character is fundamentally at odds with things like identity politics. The left’s philosophy is at odds with the vision of human nature that allows for personal accountability and responsibility. And if one half of society won’t accept such things the right will follow down that road.

        Just looking at this issue and thinking that the cause is to be found in certain politicians shows a level of blindness that is part of the problem.

        • Johnathan Swift Jr.

          On the left, the problem with having standards is that no one can fully live up to them. So, the answer to many is throwing them out or better yet, only enforcing standards when they can be used to further your political goals. There are also different standards for the in group and the out group. Thus, if anyone in the Trump campaign ever spoke or met with a Russian its evidence of an ill-defined non-crime called “collusion.”

          Meanwhile Mrs. Clinton and her family foundation can accept hundreds of millions of dollars from Russian and Putin-aligned banks and businesses while she headed the State Department (donations that were bundled and hidden for years), something she promised her President she would not do, her husband can collect $500K personally for a “speech” at a Putin-aligned bank and she can pay Kremlin sources for salacious fabrications and that is not “collusion.”

  • Terenc Blakely

    “Today’s elite is more talented and open but lacks a self-conscious leadership code.”

    More talented according to whom and by what metric? A lack of accountability while very serious isn’t the only problem. There is a lack of competence which to me is even more serious. Society can tolerate feckless elites if they get the job done. What they can’t tolerate is a group of incompetent hacks that pat each other on the back while sneering at the norms.

  • Cornfed

    A nice article, but avoids the underlying problem implied by the Chapman quote at top. Lousy leaders are a symptom of the larger society’s decline. As they say, politics is downstream of culture. Notice how in the hyperpartisan atmosphere we have now, a poltician, no matter how sleazy, can count on unconditional support of the base if there’s any chance it could affect the balance of power. We get the government we deserve.

  • Uncle Max

    You lost me at it all started with Nixon. Good grief. Agree with other commenters about the credibility of the press and their partisanship… ( which goes … hmmm… right back to Watergate.. )

  • Sabo Jeff

    Well sir, it appears the commenters are holding you to account. Rubbing your nose in it I see. Indeed where is it that you in your position have held to account those elites? Calling out Trump’s first year with all of the slings and arrows launched at his administration is laughable considering all thas been accomplished in such a short time.

  • Perhaps the most insidious threat facing Western democracies has been the progressive decline of elite personal accountability and responsibility.

    A decline encouraged by our elite, in their soft bigotry of low expectations and desire to “help” us … even though they CAN’T know us as individuals. Ordinary people are expected to simply live out our lives, going to school or work day after day, expecting that elite to solve our problems – at all levels, ranging from the national right down to the individual – FOR us.

    For over seventy years, our society has adopted a set of assumptions that replace respect for and reliance upon individual insight, diligence, compassion, and initiative – in my view the secret sauce of all human advancement, short of Divine intervention – in favor of outsourcing the exercise of those attributes to an elite few whose credentials, positions, popularity, and/or presentation skills give them the appearance of being smarter and wiser than the rest of us.

    And that has left millions of us comfortably numb to our vulnerability to the errors, greed, mendacity, and delusion of those “experts” and “leaders” we have put so much trust in, who tell us that everything is all right, and that personal prudence is not necessary because these notables have our backs.

    THIS is the most insidious threat facing Western civilization. The actions of our elite are just a subset of the greater threat.

    Meet the enemy … he is us.

  • Johnathan Swift Jr.

    Credentialism can be described as the concept that someone’s educational or experiential qualifications prove that their views are correct and that their prescriptions should be followed. This board is already full of peans to credentialism, the idea that because someone is university qualified – especially elite university qualified – they are deserving or respect that that their qualifications make them an “expert.” The problem is that academics, academically qualified think-tankers and behind-the-scenes advisors are rarely held accountable for the results. In fields like sports and business their are metrics and one can easily see whether a CEO or a coach is successful. Academics on the other hand, many of whom still live in a Jurassic Park of Marxism are not accountable for results in any way, shape or form.

    The ultimate example of credentialism may have been last year’s Democratic Party candidate, Hillary Rodham Clinton. Just a year ago we were assured that she was “the most qualified person” to ever be a candidate for President. The idea was that because she had been a Yale trained attorney, the unelected and unaccountable First Lady of Arkansas and the First Lady of the United States, then a New York Senator and then Secretary of State, she was eminently qualified to be President of the United States. Never mind the fact that even on paper their were countless former candidates with much more impressive resumes, Mrs. Clinton was an unmitigated disaster in every role save the Senate, where she was a backbencher, one of the Senate’s mediocracies.

    In Arkansas she played fast and loose with one shaky deal after another, deals that saw a number of her former friends and associates imprisoned. One could argue that it was only the disappearance and destruction of evidence that kept her from the same fate. At the least, she skated on the edge of legality time after time and her excuses – for what appeared to be a $100,000 pay-off in the form of the cattle trades – never met the smell test. She stood by and watched her husband turn the Arkansas Highway Patrol into a pimping and cover-up service. So thoroughly corrupted was this agency that he floated the idea of having them protect him in Washington D.C. as they Clinton’s felt they would be more amenable to his sexual hijinks. In the campaign she participated in the trashing and degradation of her husband’s former lovers, sex partners and victims.

    Once in Washington her first act was the Travel Office caper, where she worked to ruin the lives and reputations of well-liked people in order to replace them with her cronies. This was an expensive and miserable to use the levers of the state to ruin decent people. failure Her next scheme was her attempted takeover of health care which was an unmitigated disaster for her husband and the Democrats as they lost the House by a good margin for the first time in about sixty years. Mrs. Clinton was a disaster as First Lady, seen as overstepping her position which was not being President but being married to one.

    Mrs. Clinton’s Senate career – as one of 100 – was not embarrassing but largely forgettable. Their family foundation rarely id anything of note, especially when one considers the billions of dollars that ran through its “books.” It was seen as a way to keep her failed political campaign from 2008 alive until 2016 and donations were seen as a downpayment on what donors and “experts” saw as her inevitable Presidency. Donations were a way to curry favor with the old and new “First Family.” The Global Initiative was nothing more than a mass circle jerk of the back slapping global elite and yet another way to soak corporations anxious to curry favor with the Clintons and the Clintonistas.

    Their involvement in Haiti – one of the few things that the foundation did where results could have been shown – descended into ineptitude and corruption. No mainstream news organization has yet done a deep dive into the Clinton Foundation’s Haiti fiasco were there massive home building scheme never built any homes. Vice Television did a short documentary that makes bracing viewing and of course the Haitians themselves got not publicity for their protests during the 2016 campaign. Charles Ortel – a very thorough investigator who has exposed Wall Street corruption – has documented the sham operation that the Clinton Foundation is and exposed all of the hidden donations that required re-filing of years of IRS returns. Donations were hidden in order to disguise their sources, many of which were Putin allies and people with business before the State Department.

    As Secretary of State Mrs. Clinton was once again a disaster, but this time for the world, not just her own country. She schemed to overthrow the Libyan dictatorship which was not threatening anyone and which had given up its weapons of mass destruction. The same woman who backed the Iraq War but criticized Bush for not being prepared for the aftermath had no plan at all for Libya post-dictatorship – unless the chaos, bloodshed and civil war that followed was the plan. There are tens of thousands of people dead at the bottom of the Mediterranean because of the Libya debacle and she can pat herself on the bat that there are now slave markets in Libya selling African slaves. Thats progressive progress. She and her cohorts then cooked up some sort of crazy arms trading scheme in order to put the Syrian War on full boil using the Turks as jobbers. This scheme got her Ambassador Chris Stevens killed along with several other Americans. In Libya the schemes she participated in widened the war, helped form and unleash ISIS, the most ruthless terrorists yet seen who them took over much of Iraq which meant tens of thousands dead and billions and billions more to fight them too.

    The Clinton-Obama Green Revolution then unleashed a refugee crisis which has swamped the feckless Europeans with millions of angry young men that no one has jobs, housing or girlfriends for. She can take some satisfaction that while there is no “rape crisis” on American university campuses, Islamic immigration has created one in Sweden and other nations. While she wasn’t blowing up the world, Mrs. Clinton was refusing to even meet with people who wanted an audience with Madame Secretary unless they were donors and she was taking in millions to get her favor. She simply spent four years prostituting her office for the sake of donations to the family slush fund, much of it funded by the worst regimes on earth with tens of millions from Putin allies. Real corruption and collusion. And then to add insult to injury she chartered a secret bootleg server to capture her and her aides entire digital output during her four years as Secretary in contravention of countless rules and laws. There was simply no way to legally smuggle the very data and communications that she needed to do her job off of the secure DOS system and out of secure housing units onto her backdoor server, the security breach was massive.

    One could go on for weeks about all of Mrs. Clinton’s antics, but she is a perfect example of credentialism, the idea that one’s resume and job experience make a person worthy of respect and high office. She helped blow up the Middle East, worked to make Iran – the worst terror regime on earth – the hegemonic power in the Middle East, helped create a vacuum that brought Putin and the Russians back into the Middle East for the first time since Soviet days, unmade the gains made in Iraq and unleashed a massive humanitarian crisis and this made her “the most qualified Presidential candidate ever.” One someone has their resume and are part of the “elite” there seems to be no accountability.

    • Control Freak

      That’s quite a rant, but then again the subject richly merits it. You are spot on that the rot starts with credentialism: one of the rallying cries of the Leave campaign for the referendum about the UK’s membership of the EU was “We’ve had enough of experts”. Taken literally, this makes no sense, but as political soundbite, it is understandable – “We’ve had enough of the credentialed” doesn’t exactly hit the right note for a stump speech. The nub of the problem is that the credentialed are not necessarily expert, especially on the big questions of the day like economic policy, and increasingly work for the interests of their own clerisy – one of the better points made in the article is that noblesse oblige died with John Profumo.

      • Johnathan Swift Jr.

        The funny thing about U.K. politics is that the O.E. and Oxbridge folks made a comeback with that neuter David Cameron. What I have come to believe is that the vast majority today’s “educated” elite are simply too effete and domesticated to do their jobs properly. They are raised like veal by parents who drive their precious little ones to school and pick them up. Everyone gets a trophy. Most of the people who think they have been anointed to rule us can’t even change a f_cking tire. Many people from this class have never even held a job until their are out of university. Their view of human nature has been warped by the left and they see everything from a therapeutic perspective. Everything can be solved through “dialogue.” They are ignorant of human nature and this leads to the bizarre perspective of an Obama who always thinks the worst of his own nation and people and the best of our opponents, the worst people on earth. Imagine thinking that the Mullahs in Iran is someone you can deal with. It was like the appeasers in the 1930s. There is no dealing with Hamas, the Mullahs or Hexbollah, the only way forward is to crush them.

        • Control Freak

          Yes, it’s what I call Sofitel Syndrome – Minister from Western country arrives in corrupt third world hellhole, but finds that all works agreeably well in his luxury hotel, that his interlocutor from the governing regime went to the LSE/Sciences Po and he thus assumes “we can do business with these people”. He can’t grasp that the interests and outlook of the country he is dealing with do not correspond to the homogenised safe space he is cocooned in.

  • Victor Curiel

    Congress and the Executive branch need to set up a method for keeping Federal judges accountable. It’s their creation and they need to keep them in check even if it means mass impeachments.

  • MIlwaukee

    Did the slur against Michael Brown get in this article, in an attempt to broaden who is getting blasted? The Democrat Governor and Democrat Mayor did a great deal to create the Katrina mess in New Orleans. They failed before hand to check the safety of the levees, to prepare for a hurricane in general, to evacuate in a timely fashion, and to ask for Federal intervention once the disaster hit. I suspect you have what is known as a “knowledge deficit” on this matter. Please take steps to remedy your deficit, or find another whipping boy to piss on.

    • Rick Caird

      Yep, there are a number of reasons Gilmore should be held accountable and fired for taking a topic that is well considered and then destroying it with examples he has not bothered to ponder. It turns out Gilmore had this good idea, but failed on the implementation. Grade “C”.

    • Aaron1960

      The city and regional managers of New Orleans & Louisiana squandered federal funds marked for levee maintenance into slush funds for politics. Nature and the levees simply retaliated with a proper lesson in physics.

  • MIlwaukee

    How about FDR dying in Little Rock while with a mistress? Or Woodrow Wilson, the segregationist, getting us into World War I? The British ambassador had to leave because he told the joke that when Wilson proposed marriage to his mistress, she was so shocked she fell out of bed. While both funny and true, inappropriate for a private party at the time.

  • billyhollis

    “Today’s elite is more talented and open but lacks a self-conscious leadership code.”

    Only someone as clueless and vacuous as David Brooks could write the first part of that sentence.

    They may be more credentialed. They may have more framed stuff on their walls. But talented? No. They are living exemplars of the Dunning Kruger effect.

  • Goaty McCheese

    The author is clueless. He does not understand that Trump was elected to punish the elites. That punishment will be suffered. We don’t care if you’ve learned your lesson – you must feel pain, until we are satisfied. If you try to stop us, you force us to resort to revolution, Then, you will pay in blood.

    By losing in 2016, you dodged a huge bullet. Wise up and leave well enough alone.

    • ✯☭ The Wickerman ☭✯

      Hollywood Donny Trump is an “elite”, he always has been. Go stick your tongue back up Trump’s anus, you slobbering, rich-boy loving dunce.

  • That Brooks quote shows why Brooks is such an imbecile these days. It is the opposite of the succinct and correct Chapman quote at the head of the article. Separating virtue and meritocracy in the minds of educated Americans IS the problem. “Virtue signaling” is not virtue. And “success” is not meritorious if that success is UNmerited!

  • Ed Minchau

    This column should have been written 8 years ago. The press didn’t hold Obama accountable for any of his (many) failures. They didn’t bother. Thus, Trump.

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